Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game of the Day (6/21/14)

Tigers 5, Indians 4 (10). Detroit's Justin Verlander, normally an outstanding pitcher but struggling this year, faced Cleveland's Trevor Bauer, who was expected to be an outstanding pitcher but has struggled for his whole career so far.

Both starters were perfect in the first. Victor Martinez led off the second with a homer, putting the Tigers in front; the next two hitters singled, but Bauer recovered to leave them on, and Cleveland recovered to tie the score on a Lonnie Chisenhall double and an Ian Kinsler error. The pitchers allowed one baserunner in each of the next four half-innings, but the only one that made a difference was Carlos Santana in the bottom of the fourth, who homered to put the Indians in front.

Bauer issued a leadoff walk to Rajai Davis in the fifth, but he was caught stealing and nobody else reached. Cleveland squandered a David Murphy walk and an Asdrubal Cabrera single in the bottom of the inning, and the Tigers tied the game in the top of the sixth when Miguel Cabrera doubled and Martinez singled him home. After a perfect sixth from Verlander, back-to-back homers from Davis and Kinsler in the seventh put Detroit back in the lead and chased Bauer from the mound. Scott Atchison worked through the next two Tigers with alacrity, and Verlander set the Indians down in order in the bottom of the inning.

Atchison was spotless in the eighth, and Verlander was pulled for Al Alburquerque, who hit Michael Bourn and allowed an RBI double to Asdrubal Cabrera. Blaine Hardy was quickly summoned in relief and induced three consecutive groundouts to keep Detroit in front. Kyle Crockett and Vinnie Pestano conspired on a flawless ninth, and Joe Nathan struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the inning. However, Murphy singled on a full count, and Yan Gomes did the same, putting the tying run at third. Bourn followed with a game-tying RBI single, also with two strikes.

Cody Allen stepped to the mound in the tenth, and promptly allowed a single to Kinsler; one out later, Miguel Cabrera doubled to put the Tigers back in front. Phil Coke allowed a Santana single in the bottom of the inning, but struck out the other three Indians he faced, finishing off the game.

The Tigers won this game, largely thanks to the excellence of their outstanding 3-4 lineup combination of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and extended their division lead. But the most notable feature of the contest is the continuing Joe Nathan disaster for the AL Central's best team. Nathan has an ERA north of 6 so far this season, and has blown 5 saves in 20 chances; he hasn't exactly filled the long-standing ninth-inning weakness for the Tigers, and when you consider that they traded Doug Fister (who's pitched very well for Washington) in part to make room for his salary... well, things could be going better on that front.

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