Rick Porcello gave the Tigers six strong innings, Victor and JD provided enough offense, and Joe Nathan capped off a second straight successful ninth inning appearance as the Tigers took the series opener in Cleveland, 5-4.
If you watched the game, you probably had a heart attack in the bottom of the eighth inning, but overall, the Tigers pitched and played well. Porcello was sharp, and didn’t allow much solid contact at all, as Cleveland’s hitters were unable to generate many hard hit balls. None of the six hits he gave up went for extra bases.
Porcello seemed to lose it a little bit in the sixth, but got through it, and then Everyday Al™ came on to pitch the seventh. Alburquerque, who hasn’t pitched much as of late, was especially sharp, retiring the Indians in order and racking up two strikeouts. He was then followed by Ian Krol and… well, the less said about Krol’s outing, the better.
After Krol, who allowed two homers and all four runs Cleveland would end up scoring, Joe Nathan came in for the save. Nathan retired the first two batters of the ninth before Michael Brantley pinch hit for Mike Aviles. Brantley, who had been held out of the starting lineup due to a mild concussion, singled to shallow center to bring up Michael Bourn as the potential tying run. Brantley took second on defensive indifference, but it was all for naught as Bourn struck out to end the game.
As for the offensive side of things, five of the Tigers’ six runs were driven in by two men, Victor and JD Martinez. Victor homered in the fourth inning of Corey Kluber to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. In the eighth inning, after Austin Jackson was forced on a Miguel Cabrera ground ball to second base, Cabrera took second on a wild pitch. Terry Francona then signaled for his reliever to intentionally walk Victor to bring up JD. Although righties hit Axford far better than lefties—Victor, a switch hitter, would have batted from the left side against Axford—walking him to face JD is a defensible and logical move. Unfortunately for the Indians, JD hit a no-doubter to right field to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead.
After the Indians scored four in the bottom of the eighth, Rajai Davis pinch hit for Don Kelly and led off the ninth with a double. After Bryan Holaday flied out on a bunt to the catcher and Eugenio Suárez struck out swinging, Ian Kinsler doubled to deep right center to drive in Davis and pad the Tigers’ lead to 6-4.
Nathan then came on and shut the door, helping the Tigers to their 38th win of the season.
With the Tigers’ 6-4 win and Kansas City’s 7-5 loss to Seattle, the Tigers are back in first by half a game.
Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.98) goes for the Tigers tomorrow, while Trevor Bauer (2-3, 4.20 ERA) starts for Cleveland.