Detroit Tigers Sweep Cleveland, Lead is 4.5 Games
After winning the first two games of their 3-game series with the Cleveland Indians, the Tigers might have thought this was going to be easy. Detroit had a 7-0 lead after just 3 innings in this afternoon's game, and Tiger pitcher Rick Porcello was getting the Indian hitters to ground out with regularity. When Cleveland scored five runs in the 4th and chased Porcello, this one had all the markings of a disaster in the making.
The Tigers would add on an 8th run to make it 8-5, but Cleveland kept chipping away and made it 8-7. The Tigers used just about everybody in their bullpen today, and after Benoit got the Indians out in the 8th it was Jose Valverde time in the 9th. Coming into today's game, the Tigers were 60-0 when leading after 8 innings. Valverde managed to raise the blood pressure of every living Tiger fan when he walked the weak-hitting Kosuke Fukudome to lead off the inning. After taking Indian hitter Jason Donald to an 0-2 count, Valverde had one get away from him and plunked Donald square in the back to put runners on first and second with nobody out. A sacrafice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. I really thought that Lloyd McClendon (Leyland's replacement after being ejected in the 6th inning) might intentionally walk pinch-hitter Matt LaPorta to load the bases and hope for a game-ending double play. Instead, the Tigers opted to pitch to LaPorta with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Valverde got LaPorta to hit a shallow fly ball to centerfielder Austin Jackson. Jackson caught the ball for the second out of the inning an had a running start toward the infield when he unleashed a laser to catcher Alex Avila. Fukudome attempted to score on the play, but Avila caught Jackson's throw on the fly and was waiting to put the tag on Fukudome to end the game on a double play. Valverde got his 37th save in 37 attempts, and the Tigers sweep the Indians three straight at Comerica Park to take a 4 and a half game lead in the American League Central. The Tigers improve to 68-58, and find themselves 10 games above .500 for the first time this season. The Tigers will hit the road for 7 games, 4 in Tampa Bay then 3 in Minnesota. Justin Verlander will go for win number 19 tomorrow night in Tampa against the Ray's Jeff Niemann, who is 8-5. 7:10 first pitch.