CLEVELAND — The Indians were three outs away from celebrating a hard-fought victory over three-time defending Central Division champion Detroit on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Unfortunately for the hometown team, those three outs didn’t arrive until after J.D. Martinez clouted a three-run home run off closer Cody Allen that left Cleveland on the end of a heartbreaking 4-2 defeat.
The Indians led by a run in a low-scoring affair that saw both teams go scoreless for six straight innings before the Tigers struck gold off Allen in the ninth.
The first two batters of the inning reached base against Allen, with Torii Hunter walking and Miguel Cabrera lining a single up the middle. Allen got the dangerous Victor Martinez to fly out to center, but J.D. Martinez proved he was equally as threatening, connecting on a 1-0 pitch from the right-hander and driving a fastball over the center-field wall.
“He was having a real tough time commanding his breaking ball,” manager Terry Francona said of Allen. “It allowed them to maybe fight off some fastballs or take some fastballs that he normally gets by guys. He was throwing pretty hard. He just didn’t have a feel for his breaking ball.
“I love when Cody’s pitching, don’t get me wrong, but when you see who’s coming up, it’s difficult to navigate through because they’re so dangerous.”
It was the second straight blown save for Allen, who has converted 18 of his 21 opportunities.
“I was just overthrowing it,” he said. “I didn’t make the pitches where I had to, fell behind, had to throw to good hitters and threw hittable pitches. They didn’t miss them.
“It’s tough regardless. They had multiple chances. They left a lot of guys out there. Scott (Atchison), (Carlos Carrasco), (Bryan) Shaw made a lot of good pitches out there to get out of jams. Just one pitch and J.D. Martinez got extended on a fastball and hit it real hard.”
Carrasco walked the tightrope to keep the Indians in the game throughout his 5⅓ innings of work. He allowed just a run on 10 hits, while striking out a career-high 10 batters.
Detroit loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, but Carrasco only allowed a run on a walk to catcher Alex Avila. The Tigers had runners on second and third and just one out in the fourth before Carrasco struck out Ian Kinsler and Hunter to end the threat. The next inning, the Tigers had runners on first and third with no outs, and Carrasco struck out three straight.
“He really dug deep. That was really something,” Francona said of Carrasco’s effort. “He pitched out of so many binds and executed some unbelievable pitches. It flew past encouraging. They made him work really hard and they got him out of there a little bit earlier.
“That’s a difficult lineup, and until we got nicked up in the ninth, we did a really good job. They stranded a lot of runners.”
The Indians scored their only runs of the game on a two-run homer from Carlos Santana in the opening inning.
Detroit starter Kyle Lobstein allowed the two runs on five hits, while striking out 10 over 5⅓ innings.
“I thought early on we had him on the ropes a little bit and then he found his breaking ball, and it really helped,” Francona said of Lobstein. “It got him where they needed to and they could manager their bullpen, because it looked early on like he was having a difficult time.”
Despite the Indians still well within a playoff spot to start the night — 4½ games behind Central Division-leading Kansas City and four off the pace in the wild-card race — the loss came in front of just 9,990 fans. It was the seventh time the Indians have drawn fewer than 10,000 fans.