CLEVELAND -- Rick Porcello's 75 pitches through 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday were a pretty good sign that he had his sinker working, as were his 13 ground-ball outs. The pitch data from MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net reinforced it.
Thirty-eight of Porcello's 75 pitches were sinkers, according to the data. Another 17 were four-seam fastballs. It was an uptick over Porcello's last meeting with the Indians on Aug. 21, when he threw sinkers for a little less than half his pitches while mixing in a decent number of sliders.
"I think my last couple times out, I tried to commit more to my sinker, especially against lefties, and get back to locating that thing down and away and make them try to hit that," Porcello said. "That's my pitch, and that was pretty much the key to the game, just trying to locate that thing. It was sinking pretty good and we were able to get some quick outs, a lot of ground balls."
That was a message relayed by Tigers coaches, including manager Jim Leyland.
"He's got to throw it to left-handed hitters," Leyland said. "He's got to sink the ball down and away from them. It was a nice sinker. It was right at the right time and it was late."
V-Mart's activity on basepaths a good sign
CLEVELAND -- Lost in the Tigers' run of six straight two-out singles in their five-run opening inning Tuesday night was a hit-and-run play early in the rally. The hitter was Alex Avila. The runner on first base was Victor Martinez.
Considering Martinez has been dealing with a left knee sprain of late, the fact that the play was on was an encouraging statement. While Avila's ground ball through the middle didn't get Martinez to third base, it gave the Tigers some peace of mind.
"I wouldn't have done it a week or so ago," manager Jim Leyland said. "He was feeling better."
Martinez is running better, which is why the Tigers were willing to send him. And he was running well enough to score without a throw on Jhonny Peralta's single down the left-field line.
If V-Mart continues to improve over the next couple weeks, it could make a bigger difference in what he can do on the bases.
It's unlikely to make a difference behind the plate, though. Barring an emergency, Martinez will not catch the rest of the season.
Leyland said he'll use Omir Santos to spell Avila in spot starts or late in blowouts. Martinez is capable of catching, Leyland said, but only if absolutely necessary.
Leyland happy with Alburquerque's return
CLEVELAND -- The return of Al Alburquerque on Tuesday night looked a lot like the first outings of Al Alburquerque earlier this season. The control was in and out, but the pitches were nasty.
"That was some good work for him last night," manager Jim Leyland said before Wednesday's finale against the Indians.
Considering Alburquerque missed nearly a month with a concussion suffered in Baltimore, the stuff part was encouraging.
"I felt good," Alburquerque said. "I felt my confidence was a little down, but I felt good. The first two hitters, I was pretty good; then I lost concentration."
Alburquerque struck out the first two hitters -- Kosuke Fukudome swinging at a slider and Asdrubal Cabrera taking a fastball for a called third strike after fouling off a slider -- then walked Carlos Santana and Jim Thome. The only pitch the Indians put in play was his last, and it wasn't much, just a slow roller that gave third baseman Brandon Inge no chance at an out.
That was Alburquerque's 26th pitch. Leyland said he set a pitch limit of around 25 for the right-hander's first outing back.
"I'll have to have a feel for it," Leyland said. "He threw the ball well. His command wasn't real good. It was good early on."
Schlereth adjusting well to situational relief
CLEVELAND -- Now that Daniel Schlereth is being used in key situations for short outings, the left-hander is starting to get used to warming up quickly.
When Al Alburquerque was struggling to get the game's final out on Tuesday against the Indians, that warmup time was particularly quick.
"I just threw eight pitches and I'm ready to rock," Schlereth said.
The quick turnaround from bullpen to game action didn't show in Schlereth's pitches once Jason Donald stepped to the plate against him. He needed just three offerings to strike out his former University of Arizona teammate, who swung at back-to-back fastballs before whiffing on a curveball.
Schlereth has worked an inning or less in each of his last five appearances, all of them 15 pitches or fewer. His emergence has given manager Jim Leyland a lot of versatility for using fellow lefty Phil Coke.
"I'd like to always have it so I have two lefties available a day for sure, if I can," said Leyland, referring to Duane Below alongside Coke and Schlereth. "Sometimes you can't have that if you play a team that's loaded with lefties and you have to use your lefty relievers a couple days in a row."
Surprisingly, five of Schlereth's 44 appearances this season have lasted three pitches or fewer, most on the team.