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July 9, 2013

What You Need to Know

Tigers Back on Top

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaway
Two days before their scheduled return home to welcome the Tigers, the Indians earned a 6-5, series-opening victory over the Royals to move into first place in the American League Central, a perch they had not held since May 23. The Tribe snuck up on a scuffling Tigers squad that had lost six of seven, bouncing all the way back from its own eight-game skid in early June.

Over the last four days, though, Jim Leyland’s club has reasserted its strength, ensuring that the Indians’ stay atop the standings would be a short one. The Tigers won the first two games of the four-game set at Progressive Field, running the home team’s losing streak to four contests and their own winning streak to five. A 9-6 victory on Sunday gave the Indians a chance to salvage a series split on Monday night, which would have left them just 1 ½ games behind first-place Detroit.

To notch the split, however, the Indians needed to get past Max Scherzer, the first-half Cy Young Award favorite whose record was a flawless 13-0, and behind whom the Tigers had not lost since May 31. Fortunately, the three-man crew of Scott Kazmir, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen kept pace with Scherzer for seven innings, the duration of the right-hander’s outing, and a two-out, two-run single by Lonnie Chisenhall in the bottom of the second proved sufficient to keep the game tied going into extras.

Allen and Joe Smith traded zeroes with Bruce Rondon in the eighth. Chris Perez put the pressure on Drew Smyly, but the young lefty matched his goose egg in the ninth. And in the 10th inning, after Matt Albers unraveled, Joaquin Benoit held firm.

A two-out, two-run double by Victor Martinez, which plated Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder—who were both issued two-out walks—proved to be the deciding blow. The Indians put two men on base with two away in the bottom of the 10th on singles by Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley, but Mike Aviles struck out swinging to end the game.

Come October, this 4-2 Tigers victory may seem inconsequential, just one game in a 162-game season. But Monday’s win provided the favorites with a bit more cushion, padding their already-excellent odds of winning the division and setting the Indians back in their quest to return to the playoffs in the first year of Francona’s tenure.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (07/09)
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