Fill-in closer melts down in Indians’ loss

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was feeling pretty lucky after this

victory.

Carlos Guillen scored the winning run on fill-in closer Chris

Perez’s wild pitch, capping a three-run ninth inning and giving

Detroit a 9-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

The Tigers became just the second team since 1986 to win a

nine-inning game while stranding at least 18 runners. Detroit’s 18

runners left on base matched its most since 1920.

“This is not a game we should have won, but we did,” Leyland

said. “We play nine innings, and we hung in there today and got

some great breaks.”

Guillen hit a one-out RBI double in the ninth to get the

Tigers within one and put runners on second and third. After

Brandon Inge grounded out, Perez (0-1) issued consecutive walks to

Ramon Santiago and pinch-hitter Johnny Damon to force in the tying

run.

“I can’t walk Santiago in that situation,” Perez said. “He’s

a bench player, and I’ve got to make him hit the ball with two out,

but everything was leaking away from me, and I just couldn’t make

the right adjustment. The same thing happened with Damon.”

His first pitch to Scott Sizemore bounced past Lou Marson,

allowing Guillen to scamper home.

Phil Coke (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the Tigers, who

trailed 7-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.

“That was a heck of a comeback,” said Sizemore, who had

three hits in a nice finish to his first week in the majors. “I’m

glad that I was able to get a few knocks and help us pull that

out.”

Perez is serving as Cleveland’s closer while Kerry Wood is on

the disabled list with a strained muscle below his right shoulder.

The Indians also were without outfielder Grady Sizemore, who was

scratched with a stiff back.

Without Sizemore and facing Tigers ace Justin Verlander,

Cleveland still got off to a fast start.

The Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the first and

Travis Hafner followed with a sacrifice fly. After Jhonny Peralta

struck out, Matt LaPorta walked and Luis Valbuena lifted a 1-2

pitch just inside the right-field foul pole for his first grand

slam.

“The Indians have a great team, and you have to make good

pitches to get them out,” said Verlander, who has allowed 10 runs

over 10 innings in his first two starts. “I didn’t do that today.”

Verlander settled down after the 43-pitch first, yielding six

runs and five hits in five-plus innings, but his early struggles

made the loss even tougher for Cleveland.

“That’s why this game is such a waste,” Indians manager

Manny Acta said. “Who knows when we will ever score six runs off

Justin Verlander again, if ever? You have to win games when you do

something like that.”

Jake Westbrook pitched 5 2-3 innings for Cleveland, yielding

three runs and nine hits. He struck out seven and walked three.

He got some help from his defense in the third when right

fielder Shin-Soo Choo threw out Don Kelly at the plate to end the

inning.

Peralta and Choo homered for the Indians, and Valbuena

finished with two hits.

Magglio Ordonez had two hits and two RBIs and Miguel Cabrera

went 3 for 3 for Detroit, which finished with 18 hits.

“That’s why you can’t expect to walk eight or nine guys and

beat anyone,” Acta said. “We kept rolling their lineup over, and

it seemed like Ordonez and Cabrera were coming up in every

inning.”

The Tigers cut it to 8-6 in the eighth on Inge’s RBI single

and a run-scoring double play.

NOTES: The Seattle Mariners left 18 runners on

base in a 5-2 win over San Diego on June 27, 2008. … Detroit

stranded 18 runners in a 10-1 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics in

1926 and again in a 12-2 loss to the Athletics in 1931. … Acta

said that he expects Sizemore to play in Monday’s home opener

against Texas. … Detroit’s Gerald Laird, who had been booed by

the crowd of 26,081 throughout the game, received a standing

ovation when he singled in the eighth inning, snapping a 0-for-17

start to the season. … Cleveland’s three homers gave them four

for the season – it came into the game last in the American

League.