Maroth starts strong, Tigers hold on
Ordonez's home run turns out to be deciding blow
CLEVELAND -- The Tigers don't always own Jake, the pitcher. But Mike Maroth still seems to own Jake, the ballpark.
Maroth ended a skid of seven losses in nine starts Tuesday by earning his fourth win in five starts at Jacobs Field. He scattered a run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, allowing Magglio Ordonez's two-run homer off Jake Westbrook to stand as the difference in a 3-2 Tigers win that ended a four-game losing streak.
"We just did enough," Trammell said. "I'd still like to get things going, but I'm not complaining. A win is most important."
The Indians rolled into Tuesday's game coming off a doubleheader sweep of the Tigers in which they scored 15 runs. They'd hit .297 with 39 homers over their last 29 games, and had scored 27 runs over five July contests. With Travis Hafner getting a much-deserved day off following three homers Monday, however, Maroth used breaking balls to keep Cleveland's offense grounded.
Fourteen of the 20 outs Maroth (6-9) earned came on ground balls. Seventeen of the 20 balls put in play off him came on the ground, including every ball hit following Aaron Boone's third-inning solo homer.
"I say it every time: When I have a good game, I'm able to use all my pitches and keep them off-balance," Maroth said. "And I did a good job. I had a good sinker going early, got a lot of ground balls. I kept it down in the zone and they were pounding it into the ground.
"Later in the game, I don't think it had quite as good a sink, so I started being a little more creative and mixing in some other pitches, just try to give them different looks. When a team's swinging the bat like they are, they're seeing the ball well. You just try to keep them off-balance. That's the way to get hitters out, whether you throw 99 [mph] or, like me, 84 or whatever."
As happy as manager Alan Trammell was to see Ordonez slug a game-winning homer, nothing could top Maroth's performance. "You've got to give Mike Maroth credit," Trammell said. "We know we need to score but Mike, in light of what he's been through for us, he would be my No. 1 star."
Maroth has had outings like this one end in defeat thanks in part to Detroit's struggling offense, which had been held to two runs or less in all seven of his losses over his previous nine outings. The No. 2 starter made sure Maroth had enough run support.
Detroit's offense, which had scored in three of its last 38 innings entering the night and was held to three runs in 18 innings of Monday's doubleheader sweep, took care of its run production at the top of the order in the third. Placido Polanco singled and Carlos Guillen, batting first and second in Trammell's revamped lineup, doubled leading off the inning.
Chris Shelton, batting third for the third consecutive game, grounded out to drive in Polanco before Ordonez poked an opposite-field shot over the right-field fence. It ended up being Ordonez's first game-winning homer as a Tiger.
"It feels good," he said, "because we're struggling."
It wasn't the kind of beating the Tigers had given Westbrook twice in April. Detroit had just one more hit (seven) than it did in each game of the doubleheader losses (six). Six of them came from the first four spots in the order, including a combined four from Guillen and Ordonez.
"He picked us up," Trammell said of Ordonez. "Guillen and Maggs were really the difference."
Westbrook (6-10), who didn't get out of the third inning in either of those April starts against the Tigers but had notable success against them in 2004, retired the final eight batters he faced following Ordonez's homer. He gave up five hits in as many innings and struck out six.
Maroth left following Jose Hernandez's two-out single in the seventh. The Tigers bullpen worked with the potential tying run either on base or at the plate in each of the final three innings, only to escape each time.
Franklyn German quickly erased Maroth's baserunner in the seventh with a fielder's choice grounder from Aaron Boone. Kyle Farnsworth, relying heavily on fastballs, gave up a single and a walk with one out in the eighth before going to his breaking stuff. He struck out Ben Broussard swinging at a slider in the dirt, then threw three consecutive sliders past Ronnie Belliard.
"He threw some good ones to Belliard, no question about it," Trammell said.
Trammell had lefty Jamie Walker warming up in the eighth in case the Indians brought up Hafner in the eighth. After Jhonny Peralta surprised closer Troy Percival by swinging at a 2-0 fastball for a home run leading off the bottom of the ninth, Hafner came into play.
Even representing the tying run with two outs, the Tigers wanted no part of it, telling Percival to walk him. "I would've just as soon faced him," Percival said, "but that wasn't the way they wanted to go."
Percival compromised by earning an "unintentional intentional walk," throwing four hard pitches out of the strike zone as opposed to lofting four balls. Percival prefers that so that he can keep his mechanics in rhythm. Nonetheless, it seemed to get him out of sync against the next hitter. Percival fell behind on a 3-0 count to Grady Sizemore, bringing to mind his 6.31 career ERA and nine losses in 37 games against Cleveland.
Percival battled back with four straight fastballs for strikes. Sizemore fouled off one, but whiffed at the last one. Percival's ERA jumped to 5.40, but he nonetheless earned his sixth save of the season and his first since June 16.
"At this point in my career, my ERA doesn't matter to me," he said. "Just give me save opportunities and I'll go get 'em."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.