Indians can’t close out Tigers, lose 4-2

Chris Perez didn’t bother sticking around.

After blowing what would have been the Indians’ biggest win this
season, Cleveland’s closer bolted before answering any
questions.

He ducked out.

He didn’t finish anything well Monday night.

Perez gave up Alex Avila’s three-run homer in the ninth inning
as the Detroit Tigers rallied for a 4-2 win over the Indians to
increase their lead in the AL Central to four games over
Cleveland.

Perez (4-2), who became a distraction earlier this season when
he was arrested on misdemeanor drug charges, was brought in to
protect a 2-0 lead. But the right-hander, pitching his in his third
straight game, didn’t retire a batter and walked dejectedly to
Cleveland’s dugout in the ninth after giving up Avila’s shot as
Indians fans booed him mercilessly.

Perez quickly dressed after the game and left his teammates to
answer what went wrong.

”We gotta win those games, that’s how I see it,” said center
fielder Michael Bourn, who made one of four excellent defensive
plays by the Indians. ”That’s a tough team over there, granted.
But that’s a swing game. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not
the end of the season, but we want those games.”

On the same day a year ago in Detroit, Perez, who had recorded
11 straight saves since coming off the disabled list, gave up five
runs in the 10th inning as the Indians lost 10-8 to the Tigers.
That loss came in an 11-game losing streak and during a month in
which the Indians went 5-24 and fell from contention.

Manager Terry Francona believes the team can bounce back after a
demoralizing defeat.

”It hurt, but we’ll show up tomorrow,” Francona said. ”We
certainly need to be resilient and we’ve shown that before. If we
allow it to get in the way then we’re not the team I thought we
were.”

Detroit was three outs away from having its lead in the AL
Central cut to two games by the second-place Indians before the
comeback, which eased a difficult day in which the Tigers learned
they would be without All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta for his
involvement in the Biogenesis drug case.

”It feels good after all the stuff that happened before the
game,” center fielder Torii Hunter said. ”We went out there and
battled. We kept our focus and were professionals about it. We did
what we’re capable of doing.”

After Victor Martinez’s RBI single made it 2-1, Perez walked
Andy Dirks before Avila drove a 1-0 pitch over the wall in
left-center for his ninth homer, stunning a Cleveland crowd ready
to celebrate the team’s biggest win this season.

The Indians fell to 3-10 against the Tigers, who have beaten
them in nine of the last 10 matchups. Cleveland also had its home
winning streak snapped at 11.

”We can’t depend on whoever it is out there to knock them out
first and think we’re going to win the division,” Bourn said.
”We’ve got to do it ourselves. That’s the only way you can do it.
It’s not an easy task, but it can be done, but you’ve got to be
able to knock them out.”

Al Alburquerque (2-2) got one in the eighth and Joaquin Benoit
worked the ninth for his 13th save.

Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez struck out 11 in 7 2-3 innings,
and was in line to take a tough loss before the Tigers stormed back
for their 13th win in 14 games.

Cleveland’s Corey Kluber had blanked Detroit’s big bats for 7
1-3 innings and set the tone in a crucial four-game series before
the Indians’ problematic bullpen blew it.

”Kluber was filthy,” Hunter said. ”That guy is nasty. We were
scratching our heads like, `What can we do to get this guy?”’

Detroit’s comeback also spoiled a great defensive effort by the
Indians, who got excellent plays from Bourn, left fielder Michael
Brantley and All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis.

”Up until the ninth, we had played such a good game,” Francona
said.

Kluber limited the Tigers to six singles and got some excellent
defense, but the Indians couldn’t close out a game that was within
their grasp. The right-hander settled in after a somewhat shaky
start and held the AL’s top hitting team in check.

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, back in the lineup after missing a few
games with hip and abdominal problems, went 1 for 4 – he was walked
intentionally in the ninth – and labored noticeably any time he
tried to run.

The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Carlos Santana’s
RBI double, a shot off the right-field wall that just missed being
a two-run homer.

Jason Giambi’s RBI single gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the
second, when Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson robbed Lonnie
Chisenhall of a possible homer.

Brantley singled with one out and stole second. With two down,
Giambi, closing in on 2,000 career hits, delivered his run-scoring
single to center. Chisenhall followed with a drive to center that
Jackson snared with a leaping grab at the wall in front of the
Indians’ bullpen.

NOTES: Brantley recorded his AL-leading 10th assist in the first
when he gunned down Hunter at second trying to stretch a single.
… Santana is batting .335 with runners in scoring position. …
Indians ace Justin Masterson (13-7) will face Justin Verlander
(11-8) in Tuesday’s game. … Cleveland’s rotation has a 2.09 ERA
in the last 24 games.