CLEVELAND -- Danny Salazar finally did it. In a critical moment, the Indians starter solved Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who has tormented the Tribe all season long. With the bases loaded in the fifth inning on Tuesday night, Salazar induced a weak chopper in front of the mound.
A botched throw attempt by Salazar laid the groundwork for a six-run outburst for the Tigers in the fifth, sending the Indians on their way to a 7-3 loss at Progressive Field. It was the latest chapter in the continuous woes against Detroit, which picked up another series win and now boasts a 9-2 record against the Tribe this season.
"I gave away the game," Salazar said.
The situation arose following four stellar innings from Salazar, who made Detroit's lineup look foolish to that point with his overpowering fastball and bat-eluding changeup. In the fifth, Andrew Romine led off with a double and Salazar later issued back-to-back walks to Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler to load the bases with one out.
The Indians took some issue with the strike zone of home-plate umpire Eric Cooper, who ejected pitching coach Mickey Callaway after he complained during his walk back to the dugout following a mound visit. Callaway and manager Terry Francona got into a heated on-field exchange with Cooper, while Cabrera waited to face Salazar with the bags full.
"We want every call," Francona said. "But I thought [Tigers starter David] Price was getting some pitches than Danny wasn't. They're a tough enough team to beat."
Cabrera has been a major reason behind that fact this season.
With his 2-for-5 showing on Tuesday night, Cabrera's season average actually dropped to .619 (26-for-42) in 11 games against Cleveland this season. That showing includes 16 RBIs and five home runs, including a three-run shot off Salazar the last time they met on June 12 in Detroit.
Once the dust settled on the argument, Salazar settled back in and used a 1-0 pitch to Cabrera to induce the desired result: a soft grounder in front of the mound. Salazar had a prime chance to pluck the ball from the ground and initiate a potential inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play. Finally, Cabrera hit a ball that played into the Indians' hand.
"When you get Miggy to hit a ball 15 feet," Francona said, "man, you're thinking we're going to get the out at home and maybe a double play."
"It's not too often you get a gift from that guy," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis added, "especially not this year the way he's been hitting versus us. We had a gift from him, a little dribbler."
Salazar fielded the ball, but he never had a solid handle on it. The pitcher raised his right arm to attempt the throw, but the baseball slipped from his fingers and dropped to the grass behind him. The home crowd groaned in disbelief as a run scored, pushing the Tigers ahead, 2-1.
"It was a little heartbreaking," Kipnis said.
Then came an RBI single by Victor Martinez. Next, a two-run base hit from Yoenis Cespedes. After Salazar hit the showers, Nick Castellanos capped off Detroit's outpouring with a two-run double against reliever Zach McAllister, putting the Tribe in a 7-1 hole. All seven runs (six earned) were charged to Salazar, who struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings.
Salazar was admittedly rattled after his error.
"That kind of [throws] you off a little bit," Salazar said. "You know you could have got that play there and get out of the inning without trouble."
Kipnis said the Indians could have fought harder after the meltdown in the fifth.
"As soon as that big inning happens, it's deflating a little bit," Kipnis said. "You're just like, 'Of course. Here we go again. Everything's going for them versus us this year.' We're losing our fight too early. We're not giving up on games, but we're not piecing together, we're not chipping away in the fifth, sixth, seventh inning to make it interesting in the eighth and ninth.
"I think if we still stay with that, we'll come back in some games, where we're not giving it a chance right now."