DETROIT -- Brad Penny had to figure he was living right early in his outing Wednesday night. He watched Carlos Santana's drive to right field go foul in the first inning, saw Asrubal Cabrera's drive to left field die in the wind and fall to Brennan Boesch at the fence in the second, then watched Jack Hannahan's drive to left do the same four batters later.
When he saw Orlando Cabrera chop a ball over third baseman Don Kelly's head in the fourth inning, his immediate reaction was a lot different, and it wasn't particularly quotable.
Though long reliever Charlie Furbush ended up with the decision in the Tigers' 6-4 loss to the Indians on Wednesday, Penny was the one with the damage from the blown three-run lead. None of it came on any particularly crushing blow. His outs, in many cases, were hit harder than the hits he allowed.
"It was a tough day," Penny said. "Tonight, ground balls just got through, for whatever reason."
The impact on the standings is the same. One night after Justin Verlander nearly no-hit the Indians to put Detroit alone atop the American League Central, Cleveland's struggling offense awakened from its June swoon to put it back in a tie. The Indians, with one fewer win and one fewer loss, technically have the lead by percentage points. But whoever wins Thursday's series finale will leave town with the division lead.
Only once in Penny's 12-year career had he given up eight hits in less than four innings. Half of those hits were for extra bases. On Wednesday, none of the hits off Penny were. The only extra-base hit for Cleveland was the one that put the Tribe ahead for good, a double by Orlando Cabrera down the left-field line to score Shin-Soo Choo in the fifth.
"It wasn't a good pitch by me," Furbush said." I left the slider up the zone. I'd expect anyone to hit that pitch."
It was easier for him to take than the damage off Penny that led up to it.
The only other time the Tigers blew a three-run lead in a loss this season, Carlos Santana was admiring his walk-off grand slam on April 29 at Progressive Field. Detroit built an early lead in that one but left a lot of runners on base with chances to put the game away.
Same teams, different venue, more runners stranded for Detroit, including the bases loaded in the third inning as mercurial Indians sinkerballer Fausto Carmona struggled to locate. Former Indian Jhonny Peralta, 3-for-6 with the bases loaded going into the night, flew out to right to end the third inning after his ground ball to third stranded two runners in the first.
As it stood, Brennan Boesch's ninth home run of the year, and fifth in his last 13 games, along with Alex Avila's two-run single, stood as all the runs in a 33-pitch opening inning for Carmona.
Unlike April, though, there was no crushing blow for the Indians. More like death from smaller cuts.
"The momentum is pitching," manager Jim Leyland said. "Last night we pitched better than they did, and tonight they pitched better than we did. We had Carmona on the ropes. We just didn't do anything with the bullpen."
Maybe on a warmer, calmer night, Hannahan's second-inning drive would've carried for a three-run homer, but it died this time, helping Penny strand two runners before escaping more damage in the third. Once the heart of the Indians came up in the fourth, though, Penny never got back around to the top.
Four straight Indians reached base safely, the first three of them with two strikes. All of them hit singles on the ground, though Orlando Cabrera's chopper spent far more time in the air.
The curveball I threw to [Asdrubal Cabrera] wasn't a bad pitch," Penny said. "It was down. Alex was going down to block it in the dirt, and he hit it up the middle for a hit."
Matt LaPorta hit a hanging changeup for a single to drive him in. Orlando Cabrera's chopper, however, seemed to change the course of the inning.
"The one that really stunk was Cabrera," Penny said. "I'm trying to get a double play, and he bounces it over the third baseman's head."
Kelly knew the feeling. He's 6-foot-4, but the ball bounced so high that all he could do was watch. It was the kind of hit the Tigers thought they'd left behind when the Twins moved out of the Metrodome and its hard artificial surface.
"Nothing you can do," Kelly said. "It just took off."
Once Hannahan's sacrifice bunt set up Lou Marson's RBI single, the game was tied, and Penny was gone. Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly on an 0-2 pitch from Furbush put the Indians ahead briefly before Ramon Santiago singled, broke up a potential double play that ended up with both runners being safe and scored to tie it up again.
Carmona (4-8) gave up four runs on eight hits over five innings, yet survived for the win.
"He gave them a chance to win," Avila said. "There were chances we could've blown it open a little bit and gotten a little bit bigger lead, but he did his job and held us to the three runs there and gave them a chance."