Indians Complete the Sweep on a Walk-Off Balk

We don’t normally do series recaps here at CleSportsTalk, but after this 3-game set with the Tigers, we thought it would be fitting.

The series started on Monday in a game that was nationally televised on ESPN. The Indians had been coming off of a three game series in which they looked absolutely dreadful against the Athletics, resulting in a sweep for Oakland. Meanwhile, the Tigers were coming off of a dominating series sweep against the Red Sox in Fenway Park and were riding a six-game winning streak. The two teams could not have been in more different positions.

So, when the two AL Central foes faced off on Monday night, many Cleveland fans were just hoping to get avoid embarrassment on the national stage. Instead, they were treated with a nice surprise.

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While the Tribe offense was not at it’s best throughout the game, the Indians managed to pull together a few runs to head to the bottom of the 9th with a 4-3 lead over the MLB’s best team. Cody Allen let up a home run to J.D. Martinez, who ended up torching Indians pitching all series, to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings. Michael Brantley delivered on a full count, 2-out pitch and sent one into the right field bullpen to pick up the spirits of a struggling offense and all-around ball club.

 

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The Indians would carry the momentum into Tuesday night, which saw Trevor Bauer make his first start as a full-time member of the Tribe pitching rotation. As a reward, he was pitted against longtime Indians-killer Justin Verlander. Bauer responded well, and so did the Indians offense. The 23 year-old starter went 6.0 IP, allowing 2 ER, striking out 5, and giving up 3 walks. At the plate, the Tribe bats tagged Verlander for 5 ER on 11 H, securing a 6-2 victory for the Tribe.

 

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In the matinee on Wednesday, 19,228 fans saw one of the craziest, longest and all-around best games of the MLB season. Right out of the starting gates, the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the top of the first, looking determined not to let up a sweep to their division rivals. But just and inning and a half later, the Indians found themselves in the driver’s seat with a 6-4 lead after key RBI hits from Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley, David Murphy and Nick Swisher.

The teams traded runs in the next few innings and, after Lonnie Chisenhall’s first home run of 2014, Cleveland jumped out to a 7-5 lead that held until the 5th. The Tigers managed to scrap their way back into a tie game and then later took the lead in the 8th inning on a Victor Martinez RBI fielder’s choice and a J.D. Martinez RBI single.

Continuing to tear up the Tigers this series, Michael Brantley got the rally going in the bottom of the ninth with Joe Nathan on the mound and then let David Murphy handle the rest. Murphy sent a shot to the seats in right-center to dramatically send the game into extras, a fitting end to a wild series. The game went all the way to 13th inning, where the Tigers took the lead on an Alex Avila home run. The Indians were forced to battle from behind yet again, and (guess who?) Michael Brantley responded yet again with an RBI single.

A walk to Yan Gomes brought Ryan Raburn to the plate with the bases loaded, 2 outs in the bottom of the 13th inning. In crazy end to a crazy game, Al Albequerque, the same reliever who gave up Monday’s walk-off to Brantley, balks, giving  Asdrubal Cabrera  a free pass to home plate and a series sweep for the Tribe.

After winning just 4 games against Detroit all of last year, the Indians have already replicated that number, winning 4 out of their first 5 meeting with the Tigers. As the fans saw firsthand last season, beating Detroit is essential in the division race, and this series was a stellar way  for the Tribe to assert themselves in the race for an AL Central crown.

 

Top Performers

Michael Brantley:   7-15 (.467), HR, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 3 R, 2 SB

David Murphy (2 games):   3-9 (.333), HR, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 2 R

Trevor Bauer (1 start): 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, W

 

Looking Ahead

Following their three-game sweep of Detroit, the Indians will head straight for Baltimore to take on the Orioles in a 4-game set starting Thursday night at 7 ET.

Due to the many bullpen pitchers used, including Josh Tomlin who was previously scheduled to start Thursday’s game, the Indians will need to make an announcement soon regarding who will start in place of Tomlin.

The pitching match-ups for the rest of the series are: Masterson (2-3) vs. Norris (2-4), Kluber (4-3) vs. Jimenez (2-5), Bauer (1-1) vs. Gonzalez (2-3).

 

By Jay Cannon

 

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