Indians ace Corey Kluber locked horns with Tigers ace David Price on Saturday afternoon, but neither Cy Young Award winner factored into the decision. Detroit's breakthrough against Cleveland closer Cody Allen in the ninth inning proved to be the difference in a 9-6 victory over the Tribe at Progressive Field that stretched the Tigers' perfect start to 5-0.
"That was a hard-fought game," said Ian Kinsler, who went 4-for-5 with two RBIs, "and those are the types of games that bring out the character of a team. And it was a very good game for us tonight." More >
Kinsler came through with an RBI single and Yoenis Cespedes added a two-run double off Allen in the ninth to seal a series win for the Tigers. Detroit's four-run showing against Cleveland's bullpen spoiled a solid start from Kluber and some unexpected heroics from Tribe right fielder Jerry Sands (two doubles, four RBIs).
"It's always disappointing," Allen said. "When you've got a tight ballgame like that and your guys are playing well and the offense claws back into it, it's always disappointing to give it up right there and not really give your team a chance."
Kluber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner struck out 10, scattered seven hits and gave up two runs (both in the first) in his 6 1/3 innings for the Tribe. In 5 2/3 innings, Price was charged with three runs (none earned) on four hits, ending with six strikeouts and three walks in a no-decision.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Try again: Kluber began his outing with a 91-mph sinker for a strike toAnthony Gose. The Indians ace came back with another sinker (92 mph) for his second pitch and Detroit's leadoff hitter made him pay with a homer to right field. It marked the first leadoff shot allowed by Kluber since Aug. 2, 2012, when he gave up his first career home run.
"The first inning, everything kept wandering over the middle," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then he picked it up and turned right back into Kluber against a lineup that not only is a good lineup, but they're a hot lineup, and he did a really good job."
Romine rallies:Andrew Romine got his first start of the season at shortstop as Brad Ausmus rested hot-hitting Jose Iglesias. Not only did Romine fill in capably, he picked up Iglesias' role as a spark plug at the bottom of the order. His seventh-inning walk moved James McCann into scoring position and set up three consecutive RBI singles to erase the Tigers' first deficit of the season. After Cleveland tied it again in the eighth, Romine led off the ninth with a walk and stole second, his second swipe of the game, ahead of Kinsler's go-ahead single. Romine reached base four times on the day.
"Confidence comes into play, but there's a lot of work behind it," said Romine, who said he spent Spring Training trying to quiet his swing and track pitches better. "I did a lot of testing stuff out during Spring Training and tried to pick up where I left off from last year, because I had a good last month or two. I'm trying to get things going back that way and just see more pitches and not get as jumpy." More >
Enter Sands, man: Playing in his first game in a Cleveland uniform, Sands was quickly embraced by the Tribe faithful. In the sixth inning, Sands stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and was greeted with loud chants of "JER-RY! JER-RY!" The outfielder answered by slashing a pitch from Price into the right-center-field gap for a two-run double that pushed the Indians to a 3-2 lead. In the eighth, as the crowd chanted his name again, Sands doubled home two more runs to pull the game into a 5-5 tie.
"It was fun," Sands said. "The last two days, we haven't had a real good showing, but it seems that the fanbase is awesome here. It was just one of those days, but it was definitely a good atmosphere out there." More >
No relief: Relievers Marc Rzepczynski (one hit, one walk, no outs) andBryan Shaw combined to allow three runs in the seventh, helping the Tigers grab a 5-3 lead and sending Kluber to a no-decision. Kinsler, Miguel Cabreraand Victor Martinez each delivered RBI singles with two outs against Shaw. Allen fared no better in the ninth, when consecutive walks to open the frame set the stage for Detroit's win.
"I don't think any of us have any wavering faith in them," Kluber said of the Tribe relievers. "They've been too good for too long to read too much into a handful of games." More >
David pays the Price: Though all three sixth-inning runs were unearned, the damage off Price was largely self-inflicted. After a leadoff walk to Mike Aviles, Price seemed to fall into the quick motion out of the stretch that he worked to correct near the end of Spring Training. After another walk to Carlos Santana, Price got a comebacker from Yan Gomes that seemed tailor-made for an inning double play, but he rushed a throw in the dirt to second base, loading the bases for Ryan Raburn's sacrifice fly ahead of Sands.
"He can get a little quick sometimes out of the stretch," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and he has to be reminded to slow down. He's very quick to the plate. It's extremely hard to steal on him. But the downside is sometimes he rushes too much, and he has to be reminded."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Kluber set a single-season franchise record last year with seven games of at least 10 strikeouts and no more than one walk. He notched his first such start of this season on Saturday.
The Tigers' 5-0 start is their best since 2006, the year they rallied from division cellar-dwellers to American League champions. The only player still left from that team, Justin Verlander, is currently on the disabled list. More >
INJURY WATCH • Martinez was hobbling after a swing-and-miss against Shaw during the Tigers' seventh-inning rally, but stayed in to line the next pitch into center field for an insurance RBI single. He promptly left for a pinch-runner. Martinez felt a pinch in the back of his left leg, the Tigers later announced, but he was feeling better soon afterward.
"I think he'll be fine," Ausmus said. "As a matter of fact, I'd be surprised if he doesn't play [Sunday]."
• In the ninth inning, Gomes was set up with his right foot on the plate on a throw home by Santana on a grounder by J.D. Martinez. The catcher held on to the ball for an out, but Rajai Davis slid hard into his leg on the play. Gomes, who sprained his right knee -- he'll have an MRI on Sunday -- had to be helped off the field by two trainers and was replaced by catcher Roberto Perez.
"It's always tough to see a teammate carried off or injured or anything, especially Yan," Allen said. "He's such a leader and a captain on this team. He's such a vital part of what we're doing here, not only on the field, but in the clubhouse. We hope he's OK." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Kyle Lobstein, who filled in admirably for Anibal Sanchez down the stretch last year, gets his turn filling in for Justin Verlander on Sunday as the Tigers wrap up their series against the Tribe. Lobstein helped the Tigers pick up a comeback win in Cleveland last Sept. 2, striking out 10 Indians over 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball before J.D. Martinez homered in the ninth.
Indians: The Indians will hand the ball to lefty TJ House for the finale of the divisional clash with the Tigers. House won a job in the rotation this past spring after a solid rookie debut last season. The lefty went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA overall, including a 4-1 record and 2.25 ERA in the final two months.