DETROIT -- The eighth inning remains a pain. The rest went just the way the Indians drew it up Friday night. Carl Pavano turned in his longest outing in four seasons, the offense clicked early against Armando Galarraga, and Kerry Wood notched his fifth save, as the Indians beat the Tigers, 6-5, in the opener of a three-game set at Comerica Park.
And, uh, pay no attention to that five-run eighth the Tigers put together against Pavano, Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis. A win's a win, after all. Eighth inning aside, Pavano earned this win. He went 7 1/3 innings -- his deepest effort since a May 15, 2005, complete-game shutout against the Mariners, while with the Yankees -- and allowed just a pair of runs on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts. "Obviously, it's always nice to put the team in a position to win," Pavano said. "My location was better, I was able to mix in my slider to right-handers, and that's another weapon for me." Pavano had yet another weapon, in the form of run support. The Indians provided it early with a four-run second against Galarraga, who came in with a career record of 3-0 and ERA of 3.62 against the Tribe. To get to Galarraga, the Indians had to take advantage of a second-inning error from first baseman Miguel Cabrera. After Jhonny Peralta notched an RBI single, the freshly activated David Dellucci, en route to a four-hit night, sent a bouncer to the right side. Cabrera fielded the ball and thought about throwing to second before pirouetting and making an errant throw to first. Peralta went to third and Dellucci to second on the play. The big inning was born. Kelly Shoppach walked to load the bases by drawing a ball on a 3-2 pitch after taking two called strikes. "I think that's the first time I've ever had an at-bat where I didn't swing," Shoppach joked. "I was proud of myself." He was also proud of his teammates, who came through in the clutch. Grady Sizemore brought in a run on a sacrifice fly, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Victor Martinez both singled a run home to make it 4-0. "That's the key, playing team offense," Shoppach said. "You don't hear that term a lot, but it's important to get it to the next guy. We did a good job of that." A little individual offense doesn't hurt, either, as evidenced by Peralta's solo shot in the third. It was a major milestone for Peralta not just because he became the club's all-time leader in homers as a shortstop, with 86, but also because it was his first homer in 78 at-bats in '09.
That homer would end up looming large, as would the RBI single Shoppach added off reliever Nate Robertson in the seventh. At the time those runs crossed, they hardly seemed necessary, because Pavano was dealing. He didn't allow a base hit until the fourth, and the Tigers had just four baserunners -- none of whom reached second base -- through seven innings. "Pavano pretty much controlled us," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He just used both sides of the plate. Nothing fancy. He used both sides of the plate and threw strikes." But Leyland's Tigers weren't dead yet. The Indians came into this game having allowed 27 runs in the eighth inning -- by far their highest total of any inning -- and that tally was about to be inflated. In the eighth, Pavano gave up a one-out RBI double to Adam Everett, and Perez came on to serve up an infield single to Curtis Granderson and to let the inherited runner score on a Placido Polanco single. Lewis came out with two on and got a quick out before serving up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera on a 3-1 pitch. It was the sixth homer allowed by Lewis in just 12 1/3 innings pitched this season, and it came on a fastball right down the middle. "He better hit that pitch out of the country," Lewis said. "When you fall behind in the count against a Major League hitter, you're just looking for trouble." The Indians were certainly in trouble at this point, but they got a big third out from Rafael Betancourt. And in the ninth, they brought out Wood. The Tribe signed Wood to a two-year, $20.5 million contract over the winter -- beating out the Tigers, no less -- for just this type of situation. He easily retired the Tigers in order in the ninth. "That's what we love to see," said manager Eric Wedge, "is him finishing off games like that." As the eighth inning illustrated, finishing games off is not exactly an Indians specialty in the early going this season. But certainly they'll take the win.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.