After a taxing Saturday, the weary Detroit Tigers desperately needed to establish some momentum for their next road trip. By virtue of an impressive 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians, they created some needed separation in the standings and may have found a boost of confidence in the process.
In need of instant offense, the Tigers wasted no time getting off to a much better start than they had enjoyed the past two games. Austin Jackson's double and Ian Kinsler's single staked Detroit to a 1-0 lead. Victor Martinez scored Kinsler with a sacrifice fly, and the advantage was a quick two.
With Drew Smyly dealing through four innings keeping Cleveland off the bases, the Tigers' offense went to work again in the bottom of the inning. J.D. Martinez snapped out of an 0-11 slump with a single, and then Torii Hunter homered deep to left, providing Detroit a 4-0 spread to work with.
Smyly surrendered a double to Yan Gomes in the fifth, breaking up a shortened no-hit bid. In the sixth, Smyly pitched around early trouble thanks to two singles to start the inning, getting the Indians in order after the hits. Gomes did more damage to him in the seventh, cranking a solo home run for Cleveland's first runs of the game and finally getting the Indians on the board.
That hit wouldn't matter in the end. Detroit kicked away a few chances to extend their lead with the bases loaded, but added insurance in the eighth after a Nick Castellanos double. Pitching stole the show on this day, however. Joba Chamberlain pitched through the eighth and Joe Nathan, a day after his messy night, finished off the win in the ninth.
Top Tiger: Drew Smyly. With a stressed out bullpen, Smyly delivered keeping the Indians hitless for five innings and off the scoreboard for six. He pitched seven strong, and was the story according to Brad Ausmus. "I think Smyly's performance probably stands out, this kind of game that's really what we needed, going seven innings playing three games the last two days, holding them to one run." Not only that, Smyly's pitching was crafty throughout. "He really threw all his pitches for strikes," Ausmus said, explaining the success.
Bungling Bengal: Miguel Cabrera. The Indians kept Cabrera, utilized as the designated hitter today, off balance, getting him to swing and miss twice in the midst of another 0-4 affair. Not often does that happen, but it puts a capper on a rough three days for the Tigers' biggest bopper. Cabrera couldn't come up clutch with runners in scoring position, either. Perhaps his injury is feeling a bit bulky after all the baseball.
The Turning Point: Torii Hunter's two-run home run. Needing more wiggle room on the scoreboard, Hunter blasted off after J.D. Martinez reached on a single, giving the Tigers plenty of breathing room. Hunter continues to impress after a tough month of June, and is looking healthier and more confident at the plate coming up with clutch hits.
Stat Of The Game: 3, the number of times Drew Smyly has gone seven innings for the Tigers in his career. The last time he did so was June 18 against Kansas City. Today, the team needed him to do it badly and he delivered, getting Detroit into the later innings with a quality start. As an added bonus, he kept runs off the board and allowed the Tigers to keep their early lead intact.
Quote To Note: "I don't think it hurt he got back out there today. I wouldn't say it was a mandate." –Brad Ausmus. Joe Nathan had another rough night, but Ausmus still turned to him in the ninth inning with a four run lead, and said he planned to get him in the game all along if the situation arose. It did, and Nathan pitched much better. Ausmus admitted his mechanics were crisp on this day unlike Saturday night.
What's Next: The Tigers now hit the road for seven games, starting with a trip to Arizona. Justin Verlander (8-8) will take the ball against Vidal Nuno (0-1). The game will begin at 9:40 p.m EST.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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Tags: Baseball, Brad Ausmus, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Drew Smyly, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Joba Chamberlain, Joe Nathan, Miguel Cabrera, MLB, Torii Hunter, Yan Gomes