video thumbnail

CLE@DET: Sanchez tosses six strong innings vs. Tribe

DETROIT -- The euphoria of the Tigers' return to the American League Central lead came and went about as quickly as the Indians on the basepaths. But they weren't calling their 3-2 loss a Labor Day trap.

They knew they were going to have a quick turnaround from Sunday night's finale against the White Sox to Monday afternoon's opener against the Tribe, no matter how quickly Justin Verlander tried to get them out of there on Sunday.

They knew the fourth-place Indians were trouble the last time the Tigers swept Chicago to change the picture of the division race. Cleveland was struggling then, and Detroit's visit at the end of July was arguably the last sign of life for the Tribe before they lost 29 of their next 35. The Indians had won one road game since July 19.

The Tigers knew they came into the White Sox series coming off a sweep in Kansas City, a scenario catcher Gerald Laird suggested might have included them looking too far ahead.

They knew it would be difficult to duplicate the intensity of a playoff atmosphere, no matter the mood in the stands at Comerica Park.

They saw the scenario for a trap.

"We have to take it one series at a time, one game at a time and not overlook anybody," catcher Gerald Laird said after Sunday's game, "because anybody can beat us at any time."

Come Monday, Corey Kluber (1-3) beat them for his first Major League win in seven starts, with a little help from Asdrubal Cabrera. Neither trap nor letdown nor fatigue were keywords in the Tigers clubhouse.

"I'm sure people are going to say that. I disagree with that, totally," manager Jim Leyland said. "And the reason I disagree with that totally is, we came out the first inning and loaded the bases. Quintin Berry started the game with a base hit. So what's not ready?

"We came out in the first inning and loaded the bases with one out for a guy who hit a 422-foot line drive home run last night. So I don't buy that, no."

That scenario, though, was familiar, because they had chances like that in Kansas City. Four of their first five hitters reached base safely on Kluber -- two ground-ball singles, a Miguel Cabrera walk and a Prince Fielder hit-by-pitch. Delmon Young's single drove in Berry to tie the game.

They still had the bases loaded for Brennan Boesch, who hit the aforementioned home run on Sunday night. Kluber escaped with a double play and settled in.

"I think that all sounds good," Leyland continued. "Well, maybe could you have been a little tired? Everybody's tired a little bit, but that had nothing to do with it. I didn't see any of that. Who's not ready? Everybody's ready. We just didn't break it open early when we had a shot, and we didn't get the big hit late when we had a shot."

They had their chances in between. Half of the six hits off Kluber came in a three-batter stretch to begin the fourth inning. Young's double to start it was their only extra-base hit off of Kluber. Jhonny Peralta's single off the left-field fence was their last hit of any sort of against Kluber before he retired the final eight batters he faced, starting with a double play from struggling Alex Avila.

Avila didn't play on Sunday night, so his turnaround wasn't quite the same. Still, he saw the question coming.

"There's no letdown or anything like that," said Avila, whose 0-for-15 slump included the game-ending groundout with the potential winning run on base. "I mean, there's definitely a challenge because of the lack of sleep and everything like that. But at the same time, you've done it before. You just have to be able to find a way to win. There's been times we've been able to win a game like that, and today we weren't able to."

The fourth-inning rally got Anibal Sanchez off the hook after two unearned runs in the first three innings, both set up by Avila miscues, but it couldn't get them ahead. Once the Indians loaded the bases with one out off lefty Darin Downs (1-1) in the seventh, the Tigers had to hope for a strikeout or a double play.

In the choice of strikeout specialists, Leyland opted for rookie Brayan Villarreal over just-recalled Al Alburquerque. Villarreal tuned up his fastball to 99 mph to put Asdrubal Cabrera in a 1-2 count, but Cabrera fouled off another heater before lifting another deep enough to center to allow Lou Marson to score easily.

"You're hoping to get a strikeout or a pop-up, so you bring in the harder thrower to try to get one of those accomplished," Leyland said. "He almost got him, but he saw a couple more pitches after he fouled one off for the second strike. When you know you're pretty much going to get fastball, eventually you can keep charging it and you'll probably put it in play. That's what he did, to his credit. He's a good hitter."

The Indians looked like the team with more energy, perception or otherwise. Their long at-bats used up 100 pitches from Sanchez by the time he got an out in the sixth. They went 4-for-4 on stolen bases, some on throws from Avila, some on long deliveries from Tigers pitchers.

"I'll tell you what, we don't have time to be thinking about spoilers," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "We had such a rough August, we're just trying to win as many ballgames as we can and finish strong. The last thing on our mind is being spoilers."

It wasn't the last thing on the Tigers' mind, but it didn't help.

MLB.com Comments