December 20, 2014

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Fizzling out: Tigers 6, Indians 4

Fireworks missing this July 4

DETROIT — Last July 4, the Indians produced their own fireworks display with plenty of bottle rockets and Roman Candles in a memorable 19-1 thrashing of the New York Yankees at Jacobs Field.
This time around, Cleveland’s Independence Day arsenal included sparklers and crawling snakes.
A night after producing a dramatic 11-inning victory in the series opener, the Indians shot off duds Wednesday in a 6-4 loss to the Tigers in front of another sellout crowd at Comerica Park.
“We weren’t able to catch any breaks,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge. “They made some tremendous plays in the field. They really stepped up defensively against us. Because of that, we weren’t able to take advantage of opportunities.”
Detroit snapped Cleveland’s winning streak at six games, beating the Indians for just the third time in nine games to trim its Central Division deficit to two games.
Jake Westbrook’s problems against the Tigers continued.
The right-hander, who made his name and won his job in the rotation with two sparkling efforts against Detroit in 2004, allowed five runs on 10 hits through six innings.
Since the two quality outings in ’04, Westbrook is 3-6 with an 8.72 ERA in 10 starts against the Tigers, allowing 52 earned runs and 78 hits over 532/3 innings.
Westbrook allowed hits in five of the six innings he worked, leaving with Cleveland down 5-2.
“I was making decent pitches,” Westbrook said. “They’re a good hitting team. I was a little frustrated in how many two-out hits they got. It’s something I have to do a better job of.
“You can’t make mistakes. They make you work. You can’t let up, ‘cause if you do, you’ve got a 3-spot.”
The Tigers produced four two-out hits off Westbrook, with three of them driving in runs.
Westbrook (1-4, 6.27) is without a win in three starts since leaving the disabled list but has pitched relatively well, posting a 4.05 ERA over the span.
“I’ve been very pleased with the way he’s been throwing the ball,” Wedge said. “It means a lot to me when you’ve got a guy that’s not at his best but battles through it and gives you a chance to win the ballgame.”
The breaks were prevalent for Detroit, which got two of them in the fourth inning.
The first came with one out and Travis Hafner on first following a walk. Jason Michaels hit a tailing drive to left that was headed for extra-bases before Marcus Thames dove to make a catch down the line. Ryan Garko followed with a ground-rule double that would have scored Hafner had it not hopped over the wall in right-center.
Ben Francisco had second base stolen with one out in the seventh before sliding past the bag and being tagged out by second baseman Placido Polanco.
Mix in more fielding gems from shortstop Carlos Guillen and third baseman Brandon Inge, and that was enough for Detroit starter Kenny Rogers to get another win.
Rogers wasn’t as effective as he was in his first two starts off the injured list, but he was good enough, allowing just one earned run on seven hits through 5 1/3 innings.
The veteran left-hander allowed just an unearned run on three hits through the first four innings, surrendering his first hit with two outs in the third.
Trailing by three, the Indians climbed to within a run in the seventh inning on Hafner’s 14th homer – a two-run shot off Macay McBride.
But the Tigers came right back in the bottom half, adding a run on consecutive triples from Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez off reliever Edward Mujica.
Detroit closer Todd Jones needed the minimum in the ninth to record his 200th save as a Tigers.
Jones had to plow through the heart of Cleveland’s order, retiring Victor Martinez on a fly ball to center before striking out Hafner. He ended the game by getting Francisco to ground to third.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

TODAY
WHO: Cleveland at Detroit
TIME: 1:05
WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit
PITCHERS: Sabathia (12-2, 3.20 ERA) vs. Verlander (9-3, 3.18)
TV/RADIO: STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM