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Indians rally to top Tigers in opener

Indians rally to top Tigers in opener

CLEVELAND -- Fausto Carmona didn't get to pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game. The starting nod in the sparsely attended first game of a twin bill with the Tigers is certainly not as sexy a scenario.

But this start showed why Carmona went from Minor League outcast to All-Star in the span of a year. In the kind of game that would have gotten away from the right-hander last season, Carmona clicked, and so did the Indians in a 4-3 win at Progressive Field.

"[Carmona] deserves a lot of credit for the way he's handled himself," manager Manny Acta said. "It was looking like the game would unravel, but he kept his composure."

Rocked for three runs and struggling with his control in the first, Carmona was backed by Andy Marte's excellent defense at third base, the Tribe bats' ability to force Justin Verlander out after six innings and some impressive work from the bullpen.

Carmona had the Indians in an early 3-0 bind in the first. He gave up a leadoff single to Austin Jackson and walked Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch in succession to load the bases with two out.

"The first inning, I think I tried too much," Carmona said. "I was overthrowing."

Carlos Guillen made Carmona pay with a two-run single, and Brandon Inge added an RBI double. Guillen tried to score on Inge's hit, only to be gunned down at home on a relay from left fielder Trevor Crowe to shortstop Jason Donald to catcher Carlos Santana.

Turns out, that would not be the last time the defense would come to Carmona's assistance.

In the second, Carmona walked leadoff hitter Alex Avila, who was eliminated one out later on the double-play ball that Jackson sent Marte's way at third. The following inning, it was a similar pattern. This time, Carmona walked both Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez to open the inning.

"I went out to tell him he needed to settle down and forget about that," Acta said.

What could have been a run-scoring knock for Cabrera turned into another 5-4-3 thanks to Marte's defensive effort. Often knocked for his bat, Marte, filling in for a flu-bitten Jhonny Peralta, showed off his glove.

"You have to give Marte credit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Cabrera hit an absolute bullet and Marte made a [heckuva] play. It seemed like the wind came out of our sails after that."

After that, the Indians made adjustments against Verlander, who stymied them in the game's first two innings.

In the third, Marte singled, and No. 9 hitter Donald doubled to bring him home. Michael Brantley then singled to score Donald and make it 3-2.

The Indians wasted a golden opportunity in the fifth, when Travis Hafner and Matt LaPorta struck out to leave the bases loaded. But in the sixth, they loaded them again. Verlander threw a wild pitch to Jayson Nix, allowing Shelley Duncan to score from third to tie it up.

That pitch was one of 116 thrown by Verlander. He was gone after six innings.

"That was big for us," Crowe said.

With Verlander out in the seventh, the Indians put together the go-ahead run with two out. LaPorta doubled, and Duncan was intentionally walked. Crowe sent a base hit to left to score LaPorta, but was gunned down trying to advance to second. Still, Crowe's hit had given the Tribe a 4-3 lead.

Carmona entered the eighth having already thrown 116 pitches. He served up a leadoff double to Damon, and Acta went to the bullpen. In came Joe Smith, who retired Ordonez on a groundout to third and got Cabrera to go down swinging.

"You know they're going to be swinging," Smith said. "I got Magglio to chase a sinker that ran off the plate, and Marte made a nice play. I threw a fastball up and in to Cabrera and got one by him."

But the Indians still had to get by Boesch, who came up with two out and the runner still at second. Lefty Rafael Perez was summoned for that job, and he got Boesch to ground out.

Chris Perez, taking over the closer's role for an injured Kerry Wood, closed the door in the ninth.

"It was a nice win," Smith said. "And four hours from now, we get to go out and try to do it again."

But the Indians were going out for the nightcap with all their relievers eligible, and that's a tribute to Carmona's seven-inning effort.

"He was able to pick us up on a day where we have two games," Acta said.

It was an All-Star effort.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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