By: Brian Endicott
In most any other game a player hitting tie-breaking home runs in consecutive late innings would dominate the next day’s headlines – and it would be deserved. Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley did just that – hitting a solo-home run in the bottom of the 7th inning to break a 3-3 tie then a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 8th to break a 5-5 tie. The latter homer proved to be the difference as the Tribe defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-5 in Progressive Field.
They were the 14th and 15th home runs on the season for Brantley, who is second in the American League in hitting with a .319 batting average. He is now tied with Carlos Santana for the team lead in round-trippers.
In this game, the spectacular defense of Lonnie Chisenhall earned him a share of the headline. Chisenhall, who transitioned from third base to right field after being recalled from AAA-Columbus on June 29th, had 3 assists in the game including 2 outs at home plate. He also recorded an out and an assist in an incredible 9-3-6-4-9-2 inning-ending double play in the 2nd.
The double play was one of the oddest – yet defensively sound – plays. It began with Tigers centerfielder Anthony Gose’s single to right with Brian McCann on 2nd and Andrew Romine on 1st. Chisenhall fielded the ball and threw the ball into home, but the throw was cutoff by first baseman Santana. Seeing the throw going toward home, Gose attempted to advance to 2nd but ended up caught in a rundown. Santana threw to shortstop Francisco Lindor who threw to second baseman Jason Kipnis. At this point in the play, 2nd base would have been uncovered except Chisenhall abandoned right field and accepted the throw from Kipnis to retire Gose. By this time, Romine was trying to score. Chisenhall fired a bullet to Yan Gomes to down Romine at the plate.
Chisenhall’s evening for the highlight reel wasn’t over. He added a spectacular catch in the 4th off the bat of Victor Martinez then in the 7th made a second assist putout at home plate. This time it was Gose attempting to score from 2nd base on a single to right by Ian Kinsler. Chisenhall came up throwing and fired a strike to Gomes.
Both of Chisnehall’s assist outs at home plate were initially ruled safe and overturned by replay. Chisenhall’s game totaled 6 outs, 3 assists (including the two at home), a single, a stolen base, and a run scored.
To say that Chisenhall has transitioned well to right field would be an understatement. Indians manager Terry Francona gives him much higher credit, “I think he’s turned himself into probably one of the better right fielders in the game,” voiced Francona.
That excellent defense set up the go-ahead home runs in back-to-back innings by Brantley. Brantely’s solo homer lead off the 7th inning off of Tigers starter Alfredo Simon who had been 4-0 against the Indians this season. The second homer came off reliever Blane Hardy (L, 4-3).
Danny Salazar started the game for the Indians and earned a quality start by allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits over 6.1 innings pitched. There’s no doubt that the defense helped Salazar greatly.
With the Indians leading 5-4 with 1 out in the 8th, the Tigers had runners on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. Francona went to closer Cody Allen (W, 2-4) to attempt a 5-out save. The Tigers would score a run and tie the game on an RBI single by Romine, giving Allen his 4th blown save (in 34 save opportunities) this season. Allen worked a 1-2-3 9th for the win after Brantley’s 8th inning heroics.
With a Texas Rangers loss in Seattle, the Indians pulled to 4 games back in the chase for the American League Wild Card.
The Indians, who have struggled most of the season at home, have now won 6 straight games in Progressive Field and 8 of their last 10. They’ve also won the first game in 10 consecutive series, leading them to win 6 of their previous 9 series, including 2 sweeps.
Sitting one game below .500, the Indians can improve to an even record by defeating the Tigers and Justin Verlander (3-7, 3.43) tonight. They haven’t held an even record since losing to this same Detroit team in game 4 of the season. Verlander will be making his 3rd start of the season against the Indians; he is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings pitched.
The Indians will send rookie Cody Anderson (3-3, 3.72) to the mound. Anderson started last week in Detroit, tossing 7 innings of 2-hit shutout baseball.
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE
ESPN is reporting that Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus has been fired, effective at the conclusion of this season. The Tigers were expected to be competitive for the AL Central division title this season, but instead sit in last place with a 64-75 record. Ausmus is 154-147 over two seasons leading the Tigers. The Tigers also terminated General Manager Dave Dombrowski on August 4th. This is a developing story.