Tigers can't complete monumental rally
Cabrera's homer keys five-run eighth; Galarraga off his game
DETROIT -- For the second straight game, the Tigers nearly erased a big deficit late. For the second straight postgame, their manager was left to lament falling behind big in the first place.
"Comebacks falling short don't mean much to me," Jim Leyland said after what had been a six-run deficit and a potential Carl Pavano shutout before a 6-5 loss to the Indians on Friday night at Comerica Park.
"The one fact you appreciate," Leyland continued, "is that they kept playing. They're playing nine innings, busting their tails, so you appreciate that. But to come in here [after] the last game and say you had the tying run on deck, and tonight you got within one, that's all fine, but that's not the idea here."
The idea, and the pressure the Tigers face this year, is to win. And after back-to-back losses, the Tigers are back to the .500 mark and now in fourth place in the American League Central, albeit a game back of the first-place White Sox. They have an offense that can't seem to hit starting pitchers lately and some starting pitchers who are struggling to last deep into games.
On Friday, as quickly as Miguel Cabrera's three-run homer went out on a line to left to put Detroit back into the game, Pavano kept Detroit's offense creeping along for seven innings at the ballpark he nearly called home.
Though Pavano had never pitched in Comerica Park, he paid a visit on his cross-country free-agent tour after the 2004 season, when he was the target of Detroit's offseason wishes. He met with the front office, talked personally with owner Mike Ilitch and went into the Winter Meetings with a positive impression before he spurned the Tigers to sign with the Yankees.
"I had some good meetings here," Pavano said. "I was impressed by all the personnel. They have an owner with a lot of passion."
Injuries marred his four-year tenure in New York, making it a move the Tigers were glad they didn't make. Those injuries have made Pavano a much different pitcher now compared to then. On Friday, Pavano's ability to work the strike zone made him an effective pitcher nonetheless.
It wasn't complicated, and certainly not hard-throwing, but it was efficient. Pavano (1-3) retired the first seven Tigers he faced before Josh Anderson reached base on an error by first baseman Victor Martinez in a collision at the bag. Detroit didn't manage a hit off of him until a fourth-inning single from Magglio Ordonez, the player the Tigers eventually signed with their free-agent dollars after Pavano turned them down.
Curtis Granderson had a one-out single and stolen base in the sixth, but Pavano sent down Placido Polanco and Ordonez on ground balls to short. Cabrera's leadoff single in the seventh vanished when Pavano got an ensuing double play from Carlos Guillen.
"Pavano pretty much controlled us," Leyland said. "He just used both sides of the plate. Nothing fancy. He used both sides of the plate and threw strikes."
He did what Tigers starter Armando Galarraga could not.
Galarraga (3-1) jump-started his career last year with his ability to quiet Indians bats. He earned his first Major League win at Cleveland in April 2008, and three of his team-leading 13 victories came at Cleveland's expense.
He was aggressive against the Indians then, and they couldn't answer. He never seemed to get into that comfortable Friday.
Though Mark DeRosa's leadoff double and Cabrera's error served as the catalyst for the four-run second inning that sank Galarraga, it was a one-out walk to Kelly Shoppach that Galarraga was left to regret. Shoppach was 0-for-5 off Galarraga entering the game, but battled out of an 0-2 hole. Galarraga tried to get him to chase at sliders down, but couldn't, before he missed the inside corner on a changeup.
"I think it was a big mistake," Galarraga said. "It was probably the key to the game, because they got a couple more runs. That's a guy I can handle up in the count, and I had two strikes already."
Up came Grady Sizemore, 6-for-15 with three homers off Galarraga entering the night. His sacrifice fly made it 2-0 before Asdrubal Cabrera and Martinez followed with RBI singles.
"When he struggles, to me, he gets away from his sinker a little bit too much and goes to his slider too much," Leyland said of Galarraga.
Brandon Inge's sliding catch in foul territory to end the top of the eighth and hustling double to lead off the bottom half seemingly sparked the Tigers, who knocked out Pavano on Adam Everett's ensuing double. Back-to-back singles from Curtis Granderson and Polanco put runners on base for Cabrera, who took Jensen Lewis deep on a line to left for his fifth home run of the year and first since April 15.
But as Leyland said, it was too little, too late.
"We're not supposed to get shut out for seven innings," Leyland said. "That's just not supposed to happen."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.