CLEVELAND – If the Indians had played like this before the All-Star break, they wouldn’t be in last place in the Central Division and staring up at pretty much every team in the American League with a 35-54 record.
Getting quality starting pitching, plenty of offense and another strong performance from its bullpen Friday night, Cleveland opened the second half with a resounding 8-2 victory in the series opener with Detroit.
The Tigers have something to play for, entering the night one game behind first-place Chicago in the division standings, while the Indians are playing for nothing but the future.
It was tough to tell.
“It was a good win for us coming back in the second half,” said Indians starting pitcher Jake Westbrook, who improved to 6-5 with a 4.67 ERA, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out five over 5 2/3 innings. “You can’t erase the first half but you almost tell yourself to have a good second half, and this is where it starts.
“We wanted to get off on a good note, and we did. The offense was great and the bullpen came in and shut it down.”
Westbrook labored early, tossing 32 pitches in a one-run first inning for Detroit, which took the lead on a long single off the left-field wall from Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera, a notorious Indians killer, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 20-games. Since joining Detroit in 2008, the first baseman is batting .341 (61-for-179) with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 45 games against Cleveland.
The wealth of pitches in the opening inning kept Westbrook from lasting longer, but Indians manager Manny Acta felt the right-hander put his club in position to win.
“It was a nice job by Jake,” Acta said. “If you want to have any chance to beat these guys, you have to control the traffic on the bases. They have some guys that can hurt you. Jake did that.”
“I would’ve liked to have (pitched longer),” Westbrook said. “I didn’t feel like I pitched that bad in the first inning. I just ended up throwing too many pitches.
“All in all, I felt like I threw the ball pretty well.”
The Indians scored enough early to get Westbrook the win anyway, plating two runs apiece in the second and fourth innings to lead 4-2 off Tigers starter Max Scherzer.
An RBI triple from Trevor Crowe on a bad bounce off the side wall in left highlighted the second, while Andy Marte’s third homer of the season scored both runs in the fourth.
The Indians got a big game from Crowe, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two of his team’s five extra-base hits. The left fielder reached base in all four trips to the plate despite striking out in the fifth and advancing to first on a wild pitch.
“That’s when you know things are going well for you, when you get punched out and still reach base,” said Crowe, who is batting .308 (12-for-39) over his last 11 games. “Four days off (for the All-Star break) are good. You get away from the game and recharge.”
With Scherzer in the dugout, Cleveland broke the game open off Tigers relievers Robbie Weinhardt and Brad Thomas, scoring four times in the sixth. A sacrifice fly from Carlos Santana and a base hit from Travis Hafner scored the first two runs, while Austin Kearns’ two-run shot off Thomas put the game away.
While the Tigers’ bullpen unraveled, the Indians’ relief corps stayed stingy.
A trio of relievers – Tony Sipp, Frank Herrmann and Rafael Perez – shut out the Tigers on two hits over the final three innings. The Indians owned a tenuous two-run lead in the sixth when Sipp came on to strike out Brennan Boesch to end the inning with runners on first and third.
Herrmann struck out Cabrera looking with runners on first and second to end the eighth.
“Our bullpen came in and did a nice job,” said Acta of his relief corps, which entered the night posting a 2.27 ERA over its last 39 2/3 innings.
Thanks to a postgame fireworks display, the Indians drew one of their largest crowds of the season (22,295 fans). A walk-up contingent of 4,764 fans was the largest of the year.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.