The Detroit Tigers have lost some bizarre games, but perhaps none more strange this season than their 3-2 defeat against the Cleveland Indians which featured a maddening first two innings which proved to be Detroit's downfall.
Anibal Sanchez, who had enjoyed a sparkling 4-1 career record against the Indians, started slowly, walking the first three batters of the game. While only one run came in to score, the pitcher's erratic tone had been set. Detroit quickly tied the game after a double by Ian Kinsler and a groundout by Miguel Cabrera, but the square score wouldn't last for long.
The next inning, Cabrera made a critical error, bobbling a ball at first base. After a walk to Daniel Murphy, Yan Gomes hammered a triple to right center field, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead. Sanchez, astonishingly, settled down after that, rebounding to finish his night with eight strikeouts.
Detroit's offense continued to scuffle. Alex Avila stifled a mini-rally in the fourth inning after solid at-bats from Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson. Though the bullpen, led by Evan Reed, Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain did their jobs, the Tigers weren't able to cut into the lead at all through the middle innings.
Finally in the eighth, Detroit found a tiny bit of offensive life when Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis both reached base with no outs. A botched sacrifice bunt by Torii Hunter, however, netted two huge outs for the Indians. Cabrera singled to cut the lead to 3-2, but Jackson struck out ending the threat.
In the ninth, the Tigers didn't go quietly against John Axford, getting a triple from Avila. Don Kelly pinch hit and quickly struck out, and Davis grounded out to end the game. Axford slightly managed to wiggle off the hook, preserving Zach McAllister's impressive one run, six inning gem.
Top Tiger: Miguel Cabrera. It wasn't a fantastic statistical night for Cabrera by his own standards, but the Tigers' slugger did collect both of Detroit's RBI's and had a hit late in the game on a good swing. Perhaps the late hit can get Cabrera turned around and back to his usual form.
Bungling Bengal: Alex Avila. Despite a ninth inning triple which infused some life into a listless offense and another hit, Avila still had a rough night with one strikeout, which came in a clutch situation. Detroit's catcher is only hitting .192, which is a troubling margin early in the season from a man who needs to contribute much more offensively.
The Turning Point: Torii Hunter's failed bunt attempt in the eighth inning. With two runners on, the Tigers looked poised to have something going, but Hunter could not get a bunt down and grounded into a weak double play. The gaffe proved huge, especially considering Detroit got two more runners to the plate and scored a run in the inning. The move to bunt Hunter, with only four sacrifice bunts in the last two years, was questionable.
Stat Of The Game: 4, the number of walks Anibal Sanchez surrendered to the Indians tonight, three coming in the first inning and one in the second. Career, Sanchez had only surrendered nine walks to Cleveland total entering the game.
What's Next: The Tigers take on the Indians tomorrow afternoon in the shortened series finale at Comerica Park. Justin Verlander will take the mound against Danny Salazar
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