CLEVELAND — The Indians have put up a fight over the first two games of the series against three-time defending Central Division champion Detroit, but they’ve lost both bouts to the American League heavyweight.
After a late rally fell short in the series opener Friday night, Cleveland was back on the losing end of a 5-4 decision in 10 innings Saturday — this one coming in front of the second sellout crowd of the season (40,712 fans).
The loss, the third-place Indians’ third in the last four games, dropped them to four games behind the division-leading Tigers, who have won three straight after losing three consecutive games.
Cleveland trailed 4-2 after Detroit hit back-to-back home runs — Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler — off right-hander Trevor Bauer in the seventh inning. But the Indians rallied to tie it with runs in the eighth and ninth innings, only to watch Miguel Cabrera beat them with a one-out double in the 10th off closer Cody Allen.
“We’re tough like that,” said Bauer, who allowed four runs on eight hits (three homers) and struck out five over 6⅓ innings. “We don’t give in. We battle throughout the game. Even when we don’t come back and tie games up late, we usually make it close.
“I was pretty confident we were gonna at least get some guys on and make it tough. We did a really good job going down two late and coming back and giving ourselves a chance to win it.”
“We had some really good at-bats late in the game,” manager Terry Francona said.
Francona discussed the risk of pitching to the middle of Detroit’s lineup prior to the series and the proof was provided again as Cabrera, the No. 3 hitter, and cleanup man Victor Martinez, combined to drive in three of the Tigers’ runs while accounting for four of their 10 hits.
Martinez, who has tortured the Indians since being traded in 2009, hit a solo homer off Bauer to start the second, while Cabrera had a pair of doubles — the last one in the 10th proving to be the most fatal for Cleveland.
“It seemed like every time we came through (Detroit’s middle), we got nicked up,” Francona said. “The one guy, if you’re going to take a shot, is Cody with his stuff, and he just misfired. He was trying to go up and in and it was right down the middle. He missed his spot by a lot. That’s what Cabrera does with it.”
Detroit’s starting pitcher, right-hander Justin Verlander, returned to his Cy Young form — and that was bad news for the Indians, who had touched him up for five runs over six innings the last time he faced them on May 20.
Verlander allowed two runs — one earned — on two hits and a walk, while striking out eight over seven innings.
Bauer kept pace through six innings, but a couple of poor pitches in the seventh cost him. He had Davis down in the count before hanging a breaking ball.
“I thought he made some mistakes and he paid for them,” Francona said. “He had trouble throwing strike one, so he had to work from behind a lot. Saying that, he was into the sixth inning and he had Rajai Davis 1-2.”
“I felt good all night,” Bauer said. “I felt like I maintained my stuff all night. It wasn’t a lack of stuff. It was a lack of execution.”
The game had a playoff feel, with a packed house that included a healthy contingent of Detroit fans.
“It was awesome,” Bauer said of the crowd. “Obviously, the atmosphere and the feel around the ballpark, there was just energy you kind of sensed throughout the whole game. It’s definitely fun. Hopefully that continues to happen more as the season goes along.”
Cleveland, which went 4-15 against Detroit last year, is 4-3 against the Tigers this season.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Detroit
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Tomlin (4-4, 3.86 ERA) vs. Scherzer (8-3, 3.84)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM