Could you say that the Indians struck out 17 times? Yes, you could say that. In fact, three separate Indians struck out three times apiece.
Could you say that Alex White, making his big-league debut for the Tribe, looked truly impressive, and that he hung tough even after the Tigers blasted two home runs off of him in the fourth inning, and that he then gutted his way through six innings and 109 pitches and should be given at least another start? Yes, you could say that too.
Could you say that the Cleveland bullpen was literally brilliant tonight, with seven scoreless innings pitched by five different relievers, in which only five hits and a walk were allowed? Oh yes, you could say that, and it would be the single most important thing to say about this game, because without that kind of bullpen work, the Indians aren’t batting in the bottom of the 13th.
Could you even say that a tip of the cap is due to the Detroit bullpen as well? Yes, that bullpen deserves plaudits, and especially Al Alburquerque, who pitched three perfect innings and struck out six.
But all that matters, when all is said and done, is the bottom of the 13th.
After 12 1/2 innings in which the only runs in the game were scored on solo home runs — one each for Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Raburn, and one each for Cleveland’s Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley (Brantley’s first of the season) — the Indians found a way to win without needing a ball to leave the yard.
In the decisive half-inning, Brantley singled to right, and then took second on an errant pickoff attempt from Tigers’ reliever Brayan Villarreal. Asdrubal Cabrera then laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Brantley to third, and Jim Leyland went back to the strategy that eventually backfired on him last night: Leyland intentionally walked the bases full. Last night he pulled the strategy and got an out, before Carlos Santana hit his game-ending grand slam.
Tonight, after the Tigers walked Shin-Soo Choo and Santana, Orlando Cabrera, needing only a sac fly or a slow roller somewhere in the infield — even a walk would do — blasted a long single to center (as a single was the only possible hit in that situation besides a homer), and the Indians had won again at home, to continue a run at Progressive Field that began on April 3, in the first series of the season.
The winning pitcher, with two innings of scoreless relief, was Tony Sipp (1-0, 2.08 ERA). But Sipp was only the last of a string of bullpen aces tonight.
After starter White was pulled after six, Joe Smith pitched a perfect seventh, fanning two. Vinnie Pestano came on in the eighth and gave up a hit and an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera (who was walked three times tonight, in a great show of gamesmanship by Manny Acta despite Cabrera’s solo homer), but Pestano escaped unscathed.
The Chris Perez came on and — as he did last night — pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two.
Rafael Perez followed and went two innings, giving up just two hits and also fanning two, to keep his ERA at 0.00 for the year and setting the stage for Sipp to close it out.
Villarreal (1-1, 4.50) takes the loss for Detroit, which has lost five in a row.
Meanwhile, for the Indians, who have won five in a row overall and who remain 4 1/2 games ahead of second-place Kansas City. White struck out four and allowed only six hits in his six innings of work, including the two Detroit homers. White walked four, but two of those were intentional walks to Miguel Cabrera.
What can you say about the Tribe’s win tonight?
You can say that the dream keeps getting better and better.
Tomorrow at 1:05, Justin Masterson will try to go 6-0 on the season and give Cleveland its second straight sweep on this homestand.
Until then, we can all dream well tonight.