Behind Pavano, Indians tame Tigers
Timely hitting, defense support starter's eighth victory
DETROIT -- Carl Pavano is apparently the Indians' answer against the Tigers. He survived a shaky second inning to go eight innings, giving up two runs while striking out six to defeat the Tigers, 5-4, on Saturday night at Comerica Park.
The defense came through with some big plays to help Pavano (8-7) hold the lead. It was Pavano's second win against the Tigers this season and ended Cleveland's six-game losing streak to Detroit. Pavano is the only Indians pitcher to beat the Tigers in 2009.
Indians manager Eric Wedge called it "one of our best all-around played games all year."
"Carl was outstanding," Wedge added. "He got into a little trouble early, but he got better as the game went on."
"I was able to locate my fastball, keep it down, be aggressive and make my pitches," said Pavano, who threw 101 pitches, 72 of them for strikes.
Pavano was helped by some early offense. The Indians got to Tigers starter Armando Galarraga in the first. Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore opened the game with singles to right. Cabrera was running on the pitch and got to third on Sizemore's hit. Victor Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Cabrera for the game's first run.
The Tigers struck back with a couple of runs off Pavano in the second. Clete Thomas, whom Tigers manager Jim Leyland plays only against right-handers to spark the offense, hit a one-out single to left. Ryan Raburn then followed with a blast to deep left-center, just out of the reach of Sizemore. Raburn ended up with a triple and Thomas scored to tie the game at 1. All-Star Brandon Inge then followed Raburn with an RBI single to right to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. That would be it for Detroit until the ninth.
The Indians came right back in the third, with two out and nobody on. Sizemore smashed a triple off the wall in right, one of six extra-base hits on the night for the Indians. Martinez and Shin-Soo Choo then walked to load the bases for Travis Hafner. The Indians designated hitter hit a sinking line drive to left. Raburn dove but couldn't handle it. Two runs scored to put the Tribe up, 3-2, a lead it would never relinquish.
"[Galarraga] pitched to Sizemore like he was Babe Ruth," Leyland said. "He pitched Martinez like Babe Ruth and Shoo like Babe Ruth. Then Hafner burned him. You can't do that."
The Indians added key runs in the seventh and eighth. After Luis Valbuena led off the seventh with a double off the wall in right, Ben Francisco beat out a bunt to put runners at first and third with nobody out. This set up a clutch at-bat by Cabrera. He fouled off pitch after pitch before grounding one barely through the infield in right for a single, scoring Valbuena.
"Asdrubal didn't give in. He had an outstanding at-bat," Wedge said.
In the eighth, the Indians tacked on another run, which turned out to be huge. Choo led off with a double off the wall in right-center and advanced to third on a fly out by Hafner. Jhonny Peralta doubled off the wall in right-center, scoring Choo to put the Indians up, 5-2.
The Tigers made things interesting in the ninth. With a sellout crowd of 41,782 on its feet, Indians closer Kerry Wood walked Placido Polanco on four pitches to start the inning. Wood then fell behind cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera, and the big slugger drove one into the seats in right for his 18th homer of the season, making it 5-4. Wood, however, settled down and got the next three batters to end the game.
Along with timely hitting, the defense stood out for Cleveland.
"We played our tails off defensively," Wedge said.
The Indians turned three double plays in the first four innings. The first two came on slick 6-4-3 turns by Cabrera and Valbuena.
In the first, with Curtis Granderson on first, Polanco hit a slow chopper to short. Cabrera fielded it and quickly threw to Valbuena, who threw to first for the double play. It was close at both bases.
"I didn't think there was any way they were going to turn it," Wedge said. "Cabrera and Valbuena keep getting better and better."
In the fourth, the Indians pulled off a play which killed any momentum the Tigers were building. Detroit had Marcus Thames at third and Thomas at first with one out. On a 3-2 pitch, Raburn struck out swinging, while Thomas ran from first. Martinez threw to second, but Thomas stopped in the baseline as Thames broke for home. Valbuena threw back to Martinez to get Thames in a rundown for the third out.
"The strike 'em out throw 'em out was huge," Pavano said. "I was able to be more aggressive after that. That really put the momentum on our side. Any time you throw one pitch and get two outs, that's a pitcher's best friend."
Said Wedge: "Victor did an outstanding job. [We played] some good baseball out there tonight."
With one out in the eighth, Adam Everett tried to bunt his way on. Peralta charged and bare-handed it to throw him out at first.
The Tigers had two defensive gems of their own. In the third, with runners on first and third with two outs, Peralta hit a sharp grounder to third. Inge dove to his left and grabbed it, jumped to his feet and threw to second to force Hafner.
The other Tigers defensive highlight came in the fourth, when Valbuena hammered one off the wall in right-center. Thomas threw to Polanco, who relayed to Inge at third for the out. Replays showed Inge might've missed Valbuena with the tag.
With this outing, there's little doubt contending teams around the league may call about Pavano's availability leading up to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"I'd be lying to you if the thought hadn't crossed my mind," he said.
However, Pavano doesn't want to make it sound like every outing is an audition for another team.
"This is the uniform I'm wearing now," he said. "I still have to get ready to pitch every fifth day. They made a commitment to me, and I'm committed to them."
Matt Wentworth is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.