The Detroit Tigers continue to struggle against the American League’s lesser teams — a problem that may wind up costing them the Central Division in the long run. On Monday afternoon at Comerica Park, it was the reeling Indians and mediocre pitcher Corey Kluber who shut down Detroit, 3-2.
The Tigers had pulled into a first-place tie on Sunday night by finishing off a sweep of the Chicago White Sox, but Monday’s loss dropped them back a half-game, pending Chicago’s night game with Minnesota.
Detroit trailed by one heading to the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a 3-5-2 double play started by Prince Fielder in the top half of the inning. Fielder then gave Detroit life in its final at-bat by leading off with a double against Indians fill-in closer Vinnie Pestano (normal closer Chris Perez, who blew a three-run lead last time Cleveland came to Detroit, was on paternity leave for the game).
Fielder never moved past second, though. Delmon Young tapped out to the catcher, then after Brennan Boesch was hit by a pitch, Jhonny Peralta struck out — on a 3-2 pitch that was well inside — and Alex Avila grounded to second. Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis made a terrific play to end the game, ranging onto the outfield grass to field Avila’s grounder.
Young and Peralta drove in Detroit’s runs earlier in the game. Darin Downs took the loss after allowing Cleveland’s game-winning run in the seventh inning. Downs retired the first batter he faced, then allowed two singles and a walk before giving way to Brayan Villarreal.
Tigers’ MVP: Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez was not particularly sharp, allowing nine runners to reach in six innings of work, but he was victimized by some poor defense by Avila behind the plate. Cleveland’s first run, in the first inning, came on a two-out passed ball charged to Avila; its second scored only after an Avila throwing error allowed Shin-Soo Choo to go first-to-third on a steal attempt. Sanchez was far from dominant, but on a day when he was matched up with Kluber (1-3 with an ERA over 5 heading into the game), he should have gotten a win.
Tigers’ Goat: Avila. In addition to making the final out and committing two costly mistakes on defense, Avila took a pair of called third strikes and essentially killed a fourth-inning Detroit rally by grounding into an easy double play with runners on first and second and nobody out. The Indians finished the game 4-for-4 on steal attempts with Avila behind the plate.
What’s Next?: Unless they want to lose all of the momentum they gained by sweeping the White Sox, the Tigers face a virtual must-win on Tuesday night against these same Indians. Rick Porcello will try to turn in another strong start, with Justin Masterson set to oppose him.