Much goes into Indians win over Verlander, Tigers
MAY 12, 2013 12:30a ET
DETROIT -- Some wins are easily defined.
Not Saturday night.
Much went into the Indians 7-6 victory over the Tigers and Justin Verlander. From starting pitching to hustle plays to scrapping against (another) Cy Young winner to getting the final out against the defending American League MVP, the Indians earned this win.
Cleveland took an early 6-1 lead, forced Verlander out of the game after five and then barely hung on as the bullpen struggled. The game ended with Miguel Cabrera grounding weakly to third with two on.
Trying to catch up on all the things that mattered requires a scattershot approach:
--Jason Kipnis was involved in two key plays in the game, one that got the Indians going early, the other that helped save the win.
The game-saver happened in the bottom of the ninth when Detroit had runners on first and second with one out. Austin Jackson hit a hard ground ball just to the right of second base. Kipnis backhanded the ball as he was running toward second, then when he was almost behind the base flipped it behind his back to second, where Asdrubal Cabrera was waiting for a vital forceout.
“After I got my chew out of my throat …” manager Terry Francona said. “That was an unbelievable play.”
“Awesome,” Perez said.
Nick Swisher, whose error set up the two-on situation, had another succinct description: “Badass, bro.”
Kipnis said it was pure reaction, and purely spontaneous.
“I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do when I got to it, if I got to it,” Kipnis said. “It’s one of those split-second decisions that you either go with or you don’t.”
“That’s what it ended up taking to win this game,” manager Terry Francona said. “Things like that.”
--Kipnis also got the Indians going early when he scored from first in the second inning on Cabrera’s two-out double. Kipnis flew around the bases, got the go-ahead from third base coach Brad Mills to try to score and dove headfirst to touch the back side of the plate just before the tag.
“That was just a great baseball play,” Francona said.
As Verlander put his hands on his head in disbelief, Kipnis got up and punched the air, his knee raised as he did it.
“Why wouldn’t I be (excited)?” Kipnis said. “Always nice to score runs, score from first, two-out runs, another run off Verlander. I mean, it was a big play. You always want to score as many runs as you can off him so I loved it.”
Yes, Swisher had the same description for the slide.
“He’s such a scrappy player,” Swisher said. “He’s one of those dirt-ball guys. …. Anytime you have a hustle play like that, it definitely fires you up. Gets your blood boiling.”
--The Indians were able to chip away at Verlander, one of the league’s best, by scoring two in the first, one in the second and one in the fifth. More important, they made him extend himself to get through five, when he gave up six hits and walked five.
He left the game with 110 pitches in five innings.
“To our credit, we made him work for everything,” Francona said.
--On the flip side, Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez gave up just one run and three hits in six innings.
In his last three starts, Jimenez is 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA (18 2/3 innings, 10 hits, three earned runs). It’s the first time he’s won three consecutive starts since July of 2011, when he was in Colorado.
The bullpen’s struggles gave some of the runs back, but Jimenez admitted he was done after six.
“I didn’t feel that good,” he said. “After that inning I was a little bit tired. It’s a cold day (43 degrees as the game went on). I had a couple long innings I had to wait for a long time. It was getting kind of hard to get your arm loose.”
“When they don’t put up a fight, it’s time to go to the bullpen,” Francona said
The fact that Nick Hagadone and Cory Allen struggled did not mean the decision was wrong.
--The Indians have 19 wins this season -- six against former Cy Young winners.
“We’ve faced enough of them,” Francona said.
The Indians also have beaten Verlander three of the last four times they’ve faced him.
--Chris Perez got the save in the ninth, though he had to get the final out against Cabrera (.376, seven home runs, 40 RBI).
Perez got two quick strikes and thought Cabrera was looking for a slider, so he threw a fastball where he wanted it but didn’t get the call.
The next pitch was a slider in the dirt that Cabrera didn’t chase.
“Two-two, try to do it again,” Perez said. “Three-two, fastball away. It came back a little bit. He chopped it.”
--What’s it all mean?
It means the Indians bounced back from a downer of the first game in the three-game series and built on the momentum they brought to Detroit.
“(Friday) obviously didn’t go the way we wanted, but to bounce back like this, especially against their ace, is always a good sign,” Kipnis said.
But not a defining sign.
“Obviously you want to put your best foot forward and see where you stack up against these guys,” Perez said. “But at the same time there’s a lot of games left. Not gonna get too high, not gonna get too low. We did that last year, feeling ourselves a little too much after sweeping the Tigers at home and then not taking care of the rest of the season.”