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Published: 5/13/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

COMMENTARY

Cabrera saves the day for Indians

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

DETROIT — Much of baseball’s drama, what some might call the wow factor, the times you high-5 the guy in the seat next to you without regard to which team you’re rooting for, never makes it into the box score.

Some of it does.

The Indians did not lose Sunday, thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera. The little type will say Cleveland had two double plays. It won’t say anything about the improbability of what Cabrera pulled off in the bottom of the ninth inning at Comerica Park.

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The Indians won because of big hits by Michael Brantley to tie it in the top of that inning and another by pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds in the 10th that beat Detroit 4-3.

It was tied, thanks to Brantley’s slap shot to the opposite field off Tigers closer Jose Valverde, when Detroit batted in the ninth and Andy Dirks led off with a crisp single to left. But Torii Hunter, after failing twice to bunt the runner up, hit a hopper to pitcher Joe Smith.

Cabrera, the shortstop, was moving to his left to take the throw at second, but Smith fired it wide to Cabrera’s right. If the ball sneaks past Cabrera into the outfield or ricochets off his glove even just a few yards, Dirks probably advances to third as the winning run and there are still no outs with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder coming to the plate.

But Asdrubal Cabrera somehow flagged down the errant throw, stretching his glove across his body, then whipped himself backward, spinning and facing the outfield, to drag his right foot — the wrong foot — across the bag. He then threw off that same wrong foot to first, not much mustard on it under the circumstances, and remarkably beat Hunter by half a step with a nice stretch from Carlos Santana for the double play.

Detroit’s Cabrera followed with a flyout to right that easily would have plated Dirks from third to win the game. But there was no Dirks. It was simply out No. 3.

“Not so tough,” Cleveland’s Cabrera said over his shoulder, walking down the hallway in the clubhouse.

Well, no, maybe not if you have All-Star-caliber reactions and athleticism.

“That’s what it was; he’s very athletic,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “The throw had a lot of movement. It was off line. That’s not an easy play. It was just very athletic. The timing of the play made it even better.”

When it was pointed out that Cabrera couldn’t get much on the throw, Francona replied, “Just his arm.”

And that was enough. Enough to help keep the score tied. Enough that the Tribe could win it in the 10th and take the last two games in the series, each by a single run, after getting bopped pretty decisively in Friday night’s opener.

Ask Francona what it meant to do that and move in to a first-place tie with the Tigers in the AL Central and he said, not much.

“We took two out of three, and we go home for a doubleheader [against the Yankees this afternoon],” he said. “That’s all.”

Reynolds, who delivered the game-winning hit on Mother’s Day, and who said he would deliver the elfin-looking, high-topped pink cleats he was wearing for the occasion to his mother, Tammy, in Virginia, added, “The goal is always to win two out of three no matter who you’re playing.”

Tribe starter Zach McAllister, who allowed a couple earned runs in six innings, said, “Anytime you take a series from people in your own division, it’s a good thing.”

But this came on the road against the division favorites, and it marked a fourth-straight series win by the Indians for the first time since August, 2008. The Tribe has won 12 of their last 14 games.

“There’s something to be said for just continuing to play,” Francona said. “We’re playing a good team, a team that knows how to win. But we just keep playing and find a way.”

It may be just one tiny, otherwise indecipherable line in the box score, but the way on this raw, windy day was paved by Asdrubal Cabrera’s turn on an almost-impossible double play, and Brantley knew it.

“He doesn’t surprise me anymore,” Brantley, the Indians’ left fielder, said. “I’ve had a chance to be behind him for a couple years now, and he’s a phenomenal shortstop. He makes great plays all the time. He made one that probably saved the game today.”

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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