By: Brian Endicott
A rainy weekend in Cleveland has shaken up the Indians schedule. The Tribe and Detroit Tigers watched rain delays turn to rain-outs both Friday and Saturday evening, forcing a doubleheader yesterday. The final game of the season series with the Tigers is tentatively cancelled, unless needed to determine a playoff position.
Game 1 of the doubleheader featured a repeat match-up from 7 days prior in Detroit: Tigers veteran ace Justin Verlander against Tribe rookie Cody Anderson. For the second consecutive Sunday, it was the Indians mid-season call-up who outperformed the 7-time All Star.
Anderson (W, 4-3) needed to wiggle around a lot of trouble in the early innings. Anthony Gose lead off the game for Detroit with a double and Ian Kinsler followed with an RBI single to quickly put the Tigers ahead 1-0. But Anderson would dissolve the threat by getting Miguel Cabrera (who leads for the American League batting crown) to ground into a double play. Anderson would work around situations with runners in scoring position in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings without allowing an additional run before settling down.
The Indians couldn’t get to Verlander (L, 3-8) until the 5th. Four consecutive batters reached for Cleveland to start the 5th, including Chris Johnson’s game tying RBI single. The Indians looked to be in business with the bases loaded and nobody out – except Verlander induced back-to-back infield fly rule outs to Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis to retire the next two batters. Indians rookie sensation Francisco Lindor broke the tie with a 2-run single up the middle and the Indians took the lead 3-1.
The 3-run 5th was the first of 4 consecutive innings the Indians put runs on the board, adding 1 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, and 1 in the 8th. The Indians take game 1 by a final score of 7-2.
The win moved the Indians to an even .500 record for the first time since the 4th game of the season.
For game 2, the Tigers sent 39-year-old Randy Wolf to the mound against Indians 11-game winner Trevor Bauer. Wolf, who had spent most of the season with AAA-Toledo, entered the game 0-3 with an ERA above 6.50, so the Indians smelled Tiger blood.
The Indians forced Wolf to throw 50 first-inning pitches and somehow let him survive. After getting the first out, Wolf gave up 3 consecutive singles to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Jerry Sands followed with a 12-pitch at bat drawing a walk to load the bases. Giovanny Urshela nearly duplicated that effort by earning a 10-pitch bases-loaded walk giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Tribe, that was it for offense in game 2.
Trevor Bauer (L, 11-12) came out pitching well in the 1st and 2nd, but it started going downhill in the Tigers 3rd. Trouble seemed to be lurking for Bauer as he loaded the bases in the 3rd with only 1 out and Cabrera coming to bat. Bauer magnificently got Cabrera to strike out swinging, giving him an opportunity to get out of the inning with J.D. Martinez coming to bat. Martinez, though, singled on a line drive to right, scoring two runs to tie the game.
Bauer then allowed the first 5 batters to reach in Detroit’s 4th, allowing a total of 3 additional runs and his game was over. In total, Bauer pitched only 3-plus innings, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits. It has been two different seasons for Bauer. He was 8-5 with a 3.76 ERA prior to the All Star break and is 3-7 with a 6.32ERA after. Bauer has failed to pitch 4 innings in 4 of his last 7 starts.
Drew VerHagen (W, 1-0) worked the 4th and 5th innings for Detroit to pick up his first major league win. The 9-2 loss to the Tigers dropped the Indians back to 1 game below even. The loss also ended a 7-game home winning streak; the Indians have now won 12 of their last 15 in Progressive Field
By splitting the double-header, the Indians sit 4.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the 2nd American League Wild Card slot. They also trail the Los Angeles Angels (-1.5 games) and the Minnesota Twins (-3.5 games) with only 3 weeks remaining in the regular season. The bright spot is the Indians have been playing significantly better baseball; they’ve won 5 of their last 6 series and 12 of their last 17 games. The Indians are 20-11 dating back to August 8th.
Cleveland now has 21 games remaining (which includes the tentatively-cancelled final game with Detroit) to catch up. 14 of those 21 games are against the Twins and the American League’s best team this season, the Kansas City Royals. That begins tonight as the Royals visit Progressive Field for a 4-game series. The Indians will start Carlos Carrasco (12-10, 3.70) against Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.49) in game 1.
The Indians will need help to make the playoffs. If you’re scoreboard watching, the Rangers begin a 4-game home series against the Houston Astros with first place (and perhaps a wild card lead) on the line. The Twins have a 3-game series at home against the Twins and the Angels have a 3-game series in Seattle before those two teams meet in Minneapolis next weekend for 4-game set.