The way the three games with the Detroit Tigers played out this weekend, a couple of things became apparent.
One is that the Indians have some moxie. In all three games against the Tigers, the Indians trailed, and in all three, were able to come back and win. It is one thing to win easily, as the Tribe did against Kansas City earlier this week; it is quite another to win the close games, and to win them consistently.
The second thing that became apparent is that — no matter their record right now — Detroit is going to have to be taken seriously, regardless of the weekend just past.
Today, at Progressive Field, the Indians swept their fifth series of the season, won their 13th straight home game, and stretched their winning streak to six by coming from behind in the eighth inning with three runs, then surviving a Tigers’ rally in the ninth to win 5-4.
Once again, as they did on Friday, Detroit struck for two runs in their first at-bat. After Will Rhymes led off the game with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice, Don Kelly delivered a double to left, and just like that, the Tigers led 1-0.
After Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked, Kelly moved to third on a fielder’s choice grounder and scored on a passed ball, giving Detroit a pair of runs off of Justin Masterson before the Indians came to bat.
It remained 2-0 until the bottom of the second. In that frame, after the first two were retired, Orlando Cabrera and Michael Brantley singled, and Matt LaPorta came through with a double, driving both runners home and tying the game.
It remained that way until the eighth, although both teams had chances in the five scoreless innings that ensued. In the bottom of the seventh the Tribe got a runner to third with one out and could not score.
In the eighth, Detroit regained the lead.
Masterson — trying to move to 6-0 — was still in the game and saw Kelly single leading off, then hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch, putting two on and with nobody out.
Rafael Perez came on, ending Masterson’s day after 121 pitches. Perez struck out Brennan Boesch, but Ryan Raburn singled, loading the bases, and Alex Avila delivered the go-ahead run with a sac fly, giving Detroit a 3-2 lead.
Chad Durbin came on and got one big out, striking out Brandon Inge, and we moved to the bottom of the eighth.
Joaquin Benoit — the loser on Friday night — came on for the Tigers and immediately got into trouble when Shin-Soo Choo singled to shallow right. After Carlos Santana — Friday’s hero against Benoit — flied out, Shelley Duncan was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second.
Then Orlando Cabrera came through with a base-hit, scoring Choo to tie the game and sending Duncan to second.
That brought Michael Brantley to the plate, and Brantley delivered a go-ahead single, scoring Duncan, with Cabrera going to third on the throw to the plate. And finally, LaPorta delivered a huge insurance run with a sacrifice fly, giving the Indians a 5-3 lead heading to the ninth.
On came Chris Perez, and things got interesting.
Austin Jackson led off with an infield single, but was unable to advance when Rhymes filed out deep to center. But Ramon Santiago got the job done and then some, drawing a walk to put two aboard with one out.
After Kelly popped out for the second out, Miguel Cabrera came through (as he seemed to all series) with an RBI single, making it 5-4 Cleveland and sending Santiago to third.
But finally, Chris Perez was able to close the deal, getting Boesch to fly out to center to end it and send the Indians into their day off before another road trip at eleven games above .500, at 19-8, and still 4 1/2 games up on Kansas City.
Chad Durbin gets the win to move to 1-1, and Chris Perez earned his seventh save of the year, while — for the second time in three days — Benoit took the loss, dropping to 0-2.
Justin Masterson, although he did not get the victory, kept the Indians in the game after falling behind early.
Masterson surrendered three runs, but only two earned, in seven innings, allowing seven hits, walking two and striking out seven.
The Indians will now head to the West Coast to take on Oakland for three games beginning Tuesday night, before continuing on to Anaheim for their second road series against the Los Angeles Angels in 2011.