DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers thought they might finally have a chance to beat the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
Instead, an old friend ruined their chances.
Rajai Davis made a sprinting, juggling catch of Miguel Cabrera’s line drive into the right-center field gap in the ninth inning, then doubled Cameron Maybin off first for a game-ending double play in Cleveland’s 7-4 win over Detroit.
If Davis hadn’t held on, the Tigers would have pulled within 7-6 with Cabrera on second and Victor Martinez coming up with one out.
“That was a heck of a catch, because it is a long way out there in right-center,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We had Raj here for a couple years, and everyone likes him, but I wish he had missed that.”
The AL Central-leading Indians are now 7-0 against the Tigers this season.
“I don’t think there’s any simple reason for it,” said Jason Kipnis, who had two of Cleveland’s four triples. “That’s a really good team, but we’re just clicking every time we face them.”
Cleveland led 7-3 going into the ninth, but Andrew Romine reached on a one-out strikeout when catcher Chris Gimenez hit him in the back with a throw. Ian Kinsler and Maybin singled off Cody Allen, with Romine scoring.
Cabrera hit a liner to deep right-center, but Davis made his catch and fired to the infield for the double play.
“That was just a weird inning, starting with the strikeout, because the home-plate umpire called him out for being in the baseline, and then the first-base ump overruled him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Then you’ve got Miggy, who is the worst guy in the world to come up as the tying run. When he hit it, I was just hoping it would stay in the park. I didn’t have any idea Rajai could run it down.”
The ball bounced out of Davis’ glove and rolled up his arm, but he was able to grab it on the second try. By the time he fired the ball into the infield, Kinsler had crossed the plate, Maybin was at third and Cabrera was rounding second, so the double play was easy.
Detroit had won 16 of 20 at home and was coming off a four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners.
Danny Salazar (9-3) struggled with his command, walking five in 5 2/3 innings, but held the Tigers to three runs on four hits.
“Detroit is always a good hitting team, but they really pick it up when they smell blood,” Francona said. “And he was able to hang in there.”
Jordan Zimmermann (9-5) allowed seven runs on nine hits in a season-worst 3 2/3 innings. After posting a 1.50 ERA in his first seven starts, Zimmermann has allowed at least six runs in four of his last seven.
“I was really bad tonight,” he said. “My location was terrible on every pitch I had.”
Salazar walked three batters in the first two innings, but pitched around it. Cleveland then took the lead in the third, putting together three hits, including a two-run triple down the right-field line by Kipnis.
Cleveland hit three more triples in the fourth. Jose Ramirez hit the first with one out, then after Zimmermann hit Juan Uribe with a pitch, Lonnie Chisenhall hit a line drive to right-center that eluded Steven Moya’s awkward lunge and rolled to the wall.
Gimenez followed with a single through the drawn-in infield to give the Indians a 5-0 lead. Carlos Santana added an RBI double later in the inning before Kipnis chased Zimmermann with his second triple.
The Tigers came back with three runs in the fifth, but Cabrera’s bid for a two-run homer game died on the warning track and Salazar escaped the jam. Cabrera also grounded into two double plays.
“I can’t even say we left Salazar off the hook, because we were hitting the ball hard,” Ausmus said. “We weren’t getting hits, but a batter’s job is to barrel up the ball, and we did that a lot.”
Tigers: RHP Warwick Saupold (groin) began a rehab assignment Thursday night with Triple-A Toledo, allowing a run on two hits and two walks in two innings. Saupold has been sidelined since June 1.
PELFREY GOES LONG IN RELIEF
Mike Pelfrey, who had his scheduled Saturday start moved back to Tuesday in order to work on his mechanics, will probably be bumped back again. With the Tigers bullpen shorthanded, Pelfrey replaced Zimmermann in the fourth and threw 48 pitches in 4 1/3 shutout innings.
He said after the game that he thought he could still start Tuesday, but Ausmus said the Tigers would also consider starting Daniel Norris on regular rest.
The teams continue their three-game series Saturday with Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.26) facing Anibal Sanchez (4-7, 5.97). Sanchez will be making his first start since May 31, having pitched out of the bullpen in his last six outings. He went 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in the first extended stint as a reliever in his career.