On a day when staff ace Corey Kluber was placed on the Disabled List for the first time in four years, Carlos Carrasco was a stabilizing force.
The Tigers jumped on both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the first two games of the series, essentially winning those games before the sun had set. This time, though, Carrasco made sure that it would be the Indians to jump out to a lead first.
The first three innings were rather quiet, with both starters (Carrasco and Detroit’s Matt Boyd) cruising. Francisco Lindor led off the fourth by beating out an infield single, then Michael Brantley singled himself to give the Indians their first opportunity of the game. Matt Boyd disposed of Edwin Encarncion by using a couple breaking pitches (changeup and slider) away to set up a high inside fastball, but left a fastball out over the plate to Jose Ramirez, who scalded it into the right-center field gap (just out of the reach of a diving Tyler Collins), giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. Jason Kipnis hit the very next pitch to Collins, and that gave the Indians a 3-0 advantage.
Other than that outburst, the Indians couldn’t do anything against Boyd, who used his changeup to great advantage. In many cases he pitched backwards, throwing an offspeed pitch while behind in the count, and surprising a hitter with a fastball when he was ahead. He would go 7.2 innings, which is a big deal considering how much the Detroit bullpen has struggled in the early going.
The Tigers were the beneficiary of a bad defensive play by Jose Ramirez in the bottom of the fourth, who at first muffed a bouncing ball down the third base line, then compounded things by still trying to throw to first (this was Miguel Cabrera). The ball ended up in the first base dugout, and so Cabrera was able to go to second. But the Indians were bailed out by an base running blunder by Cabrera, who broke for third after Francisco Lindor fielded a Victor Martinez grounder and threw to first. Carlos Santana double-clutched after catching the throw, seemingly shocked that Cabrera would try such a thing, and still was able to make the the throw across the diamond in time.
The Tigers would score runs in the fifth* and sixth off Carrasco, but even so, the Tribe right-hander didn’t really labor. In fact, I thought Terry Francona might leave him in for the seventh inning with the bottom of the Detroit order coming up, but he decided that he wasn’t going to mess around, sending in Andrew Miller to start the seventh inning. The move would actually pay dividends in the ninth inning, as Tigers manager would pull both Alex Avila and Tyler Collins for pinch-hitters in that seventh inning, so neither would be available to face Cody Allen with the game on the line.
Miller was his usual outstanding self, striking out four of the six batters he faced, and making a really nice - I have no choice to but to describe it as athletic - defensive play while covering first base. Carlos Santana bobbled a grounder, then chucked the ball, hand-grenade style, towards Miller, who somehow short-hopped the ball while managing to touch the base while in motion. And I should also mention his battle with Miguel Cabrera to end the eighth, which was as captivating as you’d expect from a matchup of that caliber. It ended happily, with Cabrera watching a Miller slider nail the inside corner of the plate.
That left the ninth for Cody Allen, who had just been named the AL Reliever of the Month for his dominating April. But for most of the ninth inning, Allen couldn’t find the strike zone, particularly with his fastball. He walked Victor Martinez on four pitches, and after he struck out Justin Upton on a split curve out of the strike zone, he walked James McCann to push the tying run into scoring position. He would induce a fly ball from James Mahtook (who was batting instead of Tyler Collins), then faced Jim Adduci with runners on first and third. He fell behind 2-1, then Adduci fouled a fastball off, then took a fastball on the inside corner to end the game. I believe that final pitch was the only fastball Allen threw in the ninth that was a called strike. Allen walked more batters in his eleventh inning of work than in his first ten innings, but the result was still a good one.
*Had Abe Almonte steered clear of Michael Brantley, I think Brantley may have gotten Tyler Collins at second base, but perhaps Collins only went after seeing the two outfielders go for the ball. This was Almonte’s first start in center field this year, and that play was the only one which presented any challenge for him.