On April 7 the Indians completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox and climbed into a tie for first place in the AL Central. They were able to retain at least a share of the lead for 68 days, but the Tribe’s run at the top is over, care of Justin Verlander and the new first-place squad — the Detroit Tigers.
Verlander (8-3, 2.66 ERA) did not give up a hit until one out in the eighth, when Orlando Cabrera singled to center, and Detroit cruised right into first with a 4-0 win over the shockingly punchless Tribe, who ended up with two singles. Moral victory to have at least gotten a hit? Yes, I guess that could be said. Being no-hit on the night you drop out of first place would have been the ultimate definition of a "bad night".
Detroit scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the third, helped in large part by some shoddy defense. Austin Jackson singled leading off, and Don Kelly reached on a misplayed pop-up by Orlando Cabrera. Brennan Boesch singled to load the bases with nobody out, and Miguel Cabrera drove in the game’s first run with a sac fly, with Kelly moving to third. Ex-Indian Victor Martinez walked, loading the bases again, and Andy Dirks made it 2-0 with a single, scoring Kelly. The third and final run of the inning scored on another sacrifice fly, this one off the bat of Alex Avila.
Justin Masterson, as we have said so often since his last win on April 26, deserved better. Masterson (5-5, 3.16 ERA) went 6.1 innings and surrendered just two earned runs on seven hits. Masterson did walk five and fan only four, but was able to keep the game within reach by minimizing the damage except for in that decisive third frame.
Rafael Perez relieved in the seventh with two aboard and immediately let the Tigers’ fourth run score when Dirks picked up his second RBI of the night with a single, scoring Cabrera on a close play at the plate, before Raffy got Avila to hit into a twin-killing to end the inning.
Joe Smith came on in the bottom of the eighth after Comerica Park deflated a bit, with the end of Verlander’s no-hit bid. Smith gave up three hits, but thanks to Casper Wells being thrown out at third trying to advance from first on a single to short, Smith escaped unscathed.
Detroit garnered 11 hits, and truly, not many of those were hard-hit. But when you take over first place, those are the kinds of things that happen.
You know, like it used to be (in April and May) for the Tribe.
By the way, you know how when a no-no is broken in the late innings, a pitcher will suddenly give up a ton of baserunners, once the drama and adrenaline are drained? After Orlando Cabrera broke up the no-hitter, Verlander merely retired four in a row before Carlos Santana singled with two down in the ninth.
That, folks, is how an ace does it. May the Indians end up having about three Verlanders eventually.