DETROIT -- Given the extent of the Indians' bullpen issues this season, it would be easy to focus on the final pitch thrown on Saturday night. Jeimer Candelario sent it rattling into the right-field seats at Comerica Park, and Tribe closer Cody Allen made the lonely walk off the field
DETROIT -- Given the extent of the Indians' bullpen issues this season, it would be easy to focus on the final pitch thrown on Saturday night. Jeimer Candelario sent it rattling into the right-field seats at Comerica Park, and Tribe closer Cody Allen made the lonely walk off the field as the party ensued at home plate.
That home run was the decisive moment in Cleveland's 4-2, 12-inning loss to the Tigers, and it came after Allen volunteered for duty, despite it marking his fourth appearance in five days. Prior to that pitch, though, this had been one of the better showings of late by the Tribe's relief corps.
The path to this defeat was paved by missed chances for the Indians' offense.
"Credit to the pitching today," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "It stinks that we ended up on that side, but both sides' pitching did a tremendous job, both sides had chances to win a ballgame and both sides escaped."
Detroit just happened to escape with the win.
Gomes' solo homer in the third inning marked the only breakthrough against Tigers starter Mike Fiers, who filled the strike zone with fastballs and confounded Cleveland's order with his array of offspeed offerings over seven innings. At multiple turns, the right-hander found himself in a jam, but sidestepped harm to keep Detroit within striking distance.
In the first, the Indians put runners on the corners with one out, but Lonnie Chisenhall chopped into an inning-ending double play. In the seventh, Chisenhall doubled and Yonder Alonso drew a walk, but Fiers recovered by setting down Jason Kipnis (strikeout), Melky Cabrera (flyout) and Gomes (strikeout) in order.
The Indians finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and 1-for-12 with runners on base.
"[Fiers] used every quadrant of the plate," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Up, down, both sides. He doesn't light up the radar gun, but he spins the breaking ball -- a good breaking ball -- and changeup. He just keeps you off balance. We had a lot of off-balance swings."
Tribe starter Mike Clevinger did all he could to keep in step with Fiers, turning in 6 2/3 innings and limiting Detroit to two runs. Clevinger allowed an RBI single to Victor Martinez in the first, retired 17 batters in a row and then issued a bases-loaded walk after slipping into a jam in the seventh.
That 2-1 lead was short-lived for Detroit, which handed the ball to reliever Louis Coleman for the eighth. Indians outfielder Rajai Davis welcomed Coleman by sending his first pitch down the left-field line for a home run that just cleared the wall, pulling the game into a 2-2 tie and putting the game on course for extras.
After going through Oliver Perez, Neil Ramirez, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister -- who combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings -- Francona handed the ball to Allen. After Friday's win, the manager noted that Saturday may have been a day off for the closer, but that plan was scrapped at some point between then and the 12th inning.
Once Francona had Allen warming up, the closer was going to enter the game.
"We got him up and in and it didn't work," Francona said. "I just felt like, where we were in the game, they had gone through most of their relievers, too. That gave us the best chance to keep that game going and hopefully win."
Allen struck out Leonys Martin and then induced a groundout off the bat of Nicholas Castellanos. Jose Cabrera then delivered a two-out single up the middle, setting the stage for Candelario's walk-off heroics.
"They were awesome tonight," Clevinger said, of the bullpen. "It came down to the nitty-gritty time. One swing of the bat can end the game."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Sacrificing a rally: The Indians had another opportunity arise in the 11th inning, when Buck Farmer opened the frame with back-to-back walks against Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez. With no outs and the game caught in a 2-2 tie, Chisenhall then attempted a sacrifice bunt against Warwick Saupold. The result was a weak popup, which was caught by catcher James McCann for a critical out. Saupold retired the next two hitters to halt the potential rally.
Cleveland has struggled throughout the season to get bunts down successfully. Chisenhall's miscue was the Tribe's American League-leading fourth popup on a bunt attempt. The Indians also entered the night with 27 missed or fouled bunts, per Statcast™.
"I know. Man, I know," Francona said. "It's frustrating, because it directly impacts winning the game. We try not to ask guys that aren't bunters to bunt. It's just, we haven't done a good job of getting them down."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Castellanos sent a changeup from Clevinger on a line toward left field with an exit velocity of 101.9 mph, per Statcast™. Shortstop Francisco Lindor was positioned underneath the liner and jumped up at the last moment, snaring the baseball from the air as the crowd let out a collective groan. Lindor flashed a smile at Castellanos, who stopped well ahead of first and laughed while throwing his arms up in disbelief.
KIPNIS EXITS EARLY
Utility man Erik Gonzalez took over at second base for the Indians in the 12th inning, replacing Kipnis. Francona indicated after the loss that his starter left due to neck stiffness. Kipnis will be re-evaluated prior to Sunday's game against the Tigers.
Tribe ace Corey Kluber (9-2, 1.96 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound on Sunday, when the Tigers host the Indians in a 1:10 p.m. ET tilt at Comerica Park to conclude this three-game set. In an April 9 clash with Detroit, Kluber struck out 13 and allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings. The Tigers will counter with right-hander Artie Lewicki (0-1, 3.86).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.