CLEVELAND — Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer took care of the Indians’ winning streak Tuesday night.
And if there was a lingering doubt he wouldn’t, which there wasn’t, Miguel Cabrera made sure. Which is pretty much what a reigning MVP who is off to an incredible start does.
Cleveland’s 5-1 loss came down to Scherzer being nearly unhittable. After giving up two hits, a hard-hit sacrifice fly and a run in the first inning, he went the next seven perfectly. As in no hits, no walks, no errors.
And his last pitch in the eighth was his 118th, to Drew Stubbs. It struck him out. And went 98 miles per hour.
“That was a dominant performance,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
It was one of those nights when a pitcher was just too good.
“He has some nasty stuff, first of all,” said center fielder Michael Bourn. “We were looking for mistakes, and he didn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Scherzer was near perfect, as the numbers show. He improved to 6-0 by setting down the last 22 Indians he faced.
“I tip my hat to him,” Bourn said. “A good pitcher can shut you down any given night.”
Though Scherzer made it nearly moot, one choice by Francona affected the outcome. Sort of.
In some ways it’s the classic second guess. because Francona had good reason for doing what he did. But it showed how a decision in a game can be magnified by the fact that the other pitcher is nearly unhittable.
In the sixth, the game was tied 1-1 when Torii Hunter double to the base of the wall. Corey Kluber had thrown well for five innings, but Andy Dirks led off the sixth with a home run on a 3-1 pitch to tie the game and Hunter followed with his double.
That brought Cabrera to the plate.
The option to walk him was there.
The argument for: Kluber was facing baseball’s best hitter who is off to a .384, 12 home run and 49 RBI start. Prince Fielder was on deck, but with runners on first and second the possibility for a double-play would have been present.
The argument against: Fielder can hit too, and putting a runner on with no outs is risky. Too, Kluber had gotten Cabrera the first two times he faced him.
Francona said he didn’t think long about it.
“Nobody out, you’re asking for trouble,” Francona said.
The only reason the question was asked was Kluber put a pitch where he didn’t want it, and Cabrera hit it to dead center for the go-ahead two-run home run.
“Obviously we don’t want a home run, but even when all was said and done they got two (on the home run),” Francona said. “You walk him, you have first and second nobody out, you’re asking for trouble. You’re putting your pitcher in a tough spot.”
Later in the game, the Indians did walk Cabrera with runners on second and third, and Fielder drove in a run with a single to right.
“If we do that with nobody out, we’re looking at a crooked number,” Francona said.
Cabrera is so good it looked like he hit a pitch more than 400 feet that was low and away. On replay, it didn’t look like a bad pitch.
“I didn’t see it that way,” Francona said.
“We were trying to go in, so it was still a mistake,” Kluber said. “I missed my spot with it. Probably put it right where he wanted it.”
Cabrera can crush a mistake like few others. Kluber lamented making three mistakes, and he paid for all as Dirks and Cabrera homered around Hunter’s double.
Which means instead of winning 18 of their last 22, the Indians have won 18 of 23.
And are 0-1 when Chris Perez does not have a Twitter account.