Tribe miscue costly in loss to Tigers
Peralta's error leads to three runs in decisive fifth inning
DETROIT -- A pitcher is normally doing his job when he induces ground balls from opposing hitters. But every now and then, those ground balls can be just as damaging as line drives.
For most of his outing Friday afternoon, Cleveland starter David Huff was getting easy outs. But the ground balls became unlucky for Huff in the fifth inning, when Detroit scored four runs on its way to a 5-2 victory over the Indians. The game was played before the second-largest crowd in Comerica Park history.
Detroit scored its fifth-inning runs on four singles and a costly error. Three of the singles were routine grounders that found the hole, and the fourth hit of the inning -- by Austin Jackson -- drove in Detroit's first run without leaving the infield. Huff then proceeded to saw off Johnny Damon with a pop out, bringing Magglio Ordonez to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
There Huff did his job again, getting Ordonez to hit a sharp grounder to third. But Jhonny Peralta had trouble gripping the ball and he fired a one-hopper that eluded Andy Marte at first. Three unearned runs came home on the two-base error, and suddenly the Indians were down, 4-2.
"I might have rushed the throw," Peralta said. "I knew that I didn't have time to [get the force out] at second."
Cleveland threatened in the seventh inning, when Austin Kearns and Luis Valbuena led off with walks. However, Detroit's Joel Zumaya replaced Phil Coke, and the hard-throwing righty got Marte to fly out. He then induced catcher Mike Redmond to hit into a double play.
Travis Hafner hit his first home run of the year, a towering 396-foot drive into right-center field leading off the second inning. Hafner has been swinging the bat well all spring and appears to be as healthy as he has been in the last two years.
"[Hafner] is driving the ball well right now," said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. "He just missed a couple of pitches [the previous series] in Chicago, but he seems to be locked in pretty good right now."
Redmond appeared to get accidentally clipped by Ordonez's bat on the top of his throwing hand while behind the plate in the Detroit fourth. It took Redmond a few seconds to shake it off, but it felt much better a half-inning later, when he drove an outside fastball past a diving Miguel Cabrera at first base, scoring Marte for Cleveland's second run and a short-lived 2-0 lead.
"It wouldn't have felt so bad if it was 55 or 60 degrees out," Redmond deadpanned afterward of his bruised knuckle. "But when it's 37 degrees, it takes a moment or two to feel better."
Huff felt good the entire time he was on the mound. Acta praised his lefty for being in command and getting through the first four innings in just 40 pitches. It was an encouraging performance given how he struggled on the road in 2009, when he went 6-4 with a 6.18 ERA away from Progressive Field. This spring, he was 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA, giving up 27 hits in 23 2/3 innings.
It was particularly telling how well Huff was throwing the ball when he allowed the first two Detroit batters to reach in the sixth inning and Acta elected to leave him in the game. Huff rewarded his manager by retiring Gerald Laird, Scott Sizemore and Adam Everett to end the threat.
"I was making good pitches all day, so I wasn't surprised [Acta] left me in the game," Huff said. "My pitch count was pretty low. I had a game plan going in and I tried to stay inside on [Detroit's hitters], because they tend to have big swings."
Acta agreed, saying that Huff didn't give up a hard hit until Brandon Inge's sixth-inning double.
"There was no reason to take him out," Acta said.
Rick Porcello (1-0) picked up the victory, giving up two runs in five innings. He had his sharp sinker working most of the game, Redmond said.
"He had good movement on his fastball," Redmond said. "He does a nice job pitching to his defense."
Leadoff hitter Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore both had a pair of hits for the Indians. Sizemore tripled with one out in the eighth inning but was left stranded 90 feet away from home.
Huff hopes that the next time on the mound, more of those ground balls won't find the infield holes.
"You can execute well and it doesn't always work out," Huff said. "Tonight, we didn't get the breaks."
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.