Tribe takes a meeting but only one game against Tigers
CLEVELAND — After being trampled in the first two games of their four-game series with Detroit, the Cleveland Indians held a 6-1 lead going into the seventh inning July 7. It took the Tigers only two innings to erase the deficit and give the visiting, very vocal Detroit fans reasons to cheer.
And it took one swing from Indians outfielder Michael Brantley to hush the out-of-state fans.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brantley hit a two-run homer — his second round-tripper of the game — to give the Indians an 8-6 lead. The Tribe pushed across another run in the inning, and Chris Perez closed the door in the ninth to give the team a 9-6 victory.
Brantley batted in a career-high five runs in the game. His first two RBIs came in the first inning, when he doubled home Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher, who both walked with two outs. Carlos Santana finished the scoring in the inning with a two-run homer.
“We extended an inning,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “When we’re going good, that’s what we do.”
Before Sunday’s win, you’d have to go back before Independence Day to find the Indians in anything like a groove. After their 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals July 2, the Tribe dropped four games in a row, looking nothing like the team that had spent part of the week in first place.
After loss No. 4, a 9-4 shellacking by the Tigers, a players-only team meeting was held.
“I’m not a major fan of team meetings, but when Big G calls one, we’ll be there,” said Swisher.
The “Big G” is Jason Giambi, the veteran designated hitter who also serves as an unofficial coach for the Tribe. According to Francona, the 42-year-old slugger doesn’t just have the players’ ear.
“Not only do they listen to him, I listen to him,” said Francona. “He’s got that kind of presence about him.”
If you’re looking for reasons why this season might be different, why the Indians might still be an active concern when it’s time for the school buses to roll, it’s the presence of players like Giambi and Swisher. They’ve played late-season games that matter, and their influence might help the Indians avoid their annual midseason implosion.
As a bonus, the veterans can watch the development of budding stars like Brantley and Kipnis.
“I’m getting to see these guys grow up right before my eyes,” said Swisher. “And to be here and to have as much fun as we’re having … whether winning causes fun or fun causes winning, you’ve got to have both of them, and today was a great example of that.”
Other examples have recently been in short supply. The Tribe lost the series finale, falling to the Tigers 4-2 in 10 innings July 8.
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