Tigers sweep Indians, win 12th straight
It was a series that featured a lot of drama and lead changes, particularly in the 14-inning game 3, which was capped off by one of the Tigers most important hitters going into the playoff race, Prince Fielder. The All-Star first baseman’s two-run double gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead in the 14th while the Indians could only muster one run off closer Joaquin Benoit in the bottom of the inning.
The Tigers had trailed 3-2 in the game before a big 2-run home run by Miguel Cabrera in the 8th. Cleveland came back with a run right after, then the teams went scoreless until Fielder’s big 14th inning double.
Fielder is currently on pace for one of the worst seasons of his career. His .259 batting average is 2 points under his lowest season-ending clip and well under both his 2012 average (.313) and career average (.284). It’s also looking like a good possibility that he’ll fail to reach the 30-homer plateau, a number he hasn’t been held below since his first full MLB season in 2006. The struggles are all the more striking with the dominance of Cabrera, who hits right in front of Fielder. Yet all in all, if Fielder can turn things around in the closing months of the season and for a potential World Series run, Tigers fans will probably forgive him for some disappointing season numbers.
One of the keys to Detroit’s current winning streak has been the bullpen work, something that was quite possibly the team’s biggest concern going into this season. The team has found a solid young arm in lefty Drew Smyly, who has posted a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings this season and newly acquired reliever Jose Veras has filled into his set-up role perfectly. In 4.1 innings with the Tigers so far, Veras has only allowed one hitter to reach base. Meanwhile, Benoit has remained perfect in save situations on the year, now 14 for 14.
The bullpen consistency and the performance of Fielder could be the two biggest factors in determining how far the Tigers will go in 2013.
For the Indians, only about a month and a half remains in the season and while making up a 7-game deficit isn’t impossible, the wild-card race is the more easily attainable goal. The East and West divisions are currently in the midst of power struggles at the top, but the 62-53 Indians are just about right there record-wise with the Rays (2nd in the East at 66-47) and Rangers (2nd in the West at 65-50). So if they can rebound well from these disappointing four days, there’s undoubtedly still hope for some extra baseball in Cleveland this year.