Tigers fall to Indians in close game

Tigers fall to Indians in close game

DETROIT -- Less than a week into his first season with the Indians, he's already given another team reason to call him Aaron Freakin' Boone.

To Alan Trammell, though, it's hard to call Boone a Tiger killer after the chances his team had to strike back.

"The opportunities we had, we didn't cash in," Trammell said after Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Indians at Comerica Park. "We gave them a couple of runs and it cost us."

Boone's tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning ended up being the difference, but the Tigers had a chance to tie the game later. Three times, Detroit had the bases loaded with two outs against Cleveland relievers. The one run they scored in those situations came on an RBI walk, and they came within a ball of tying the game that way, too, as some of the same fans who booed Bobby Higginson on Opening Day chanted his name Friday.

It was the kind of game the Tigers think they could see plenty of times against the Indians this season.

"Last year we had some good games," Rondell White said. "When they come in, they mean business."

Friday's battle came down to a draw until Boone stepped to the plate against Urbina. The last game-deciding home run Boone hit was in the 2003 ALCS, earning him a special place alongside Bucky Dent in Red Sox lore.

Travis Hafner had just worked a nine-pitch at-bat into a one-out single against Urbina, who fired one fastball after another before Hafner hit his changeup. Three pitches later, Boone took a 1-1 fastball and lined it over the fence in left.

Urbina's fastball has been gaining velocity and life since the start of a dominating performance in Spring Training, when it was clocking in as high as 94 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun. Yet Boone's homer marked the third time Urbina had been scored upon in as many games this season, though the run he allowed Thursday against Kansas City was unearned.

"Nobody's going to be perfect," Trammell said. "I think it's a little premature to really make any assumptions at this point."

A half-inning later, Boone had the Tigers rallying. His second error in as many games put leadoff batter White on base. Another error, this one when Jhonny Peralta tried to flip the ball to second base for a force out, put another runner on base. After Brandon Inge singled to load the bases, Trammell ended the day off for Carlos Guillen, putting him to the plate as a pinch-hitter against David Riske.

Riske fell behind on a 2-0 count to Guillen but recovered to strike him out on a high fastball.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," Trammell said. "It just didn't work out."

Riske then fell behind on a 3-1 count to Omar Infante. He drew a high strike call from home plate umpire Paul Schreiber, but missed inside on the full count to drive in White.

That brought up Higginson and brought on the chants.

"Bob-by! Bob-by!"

Higginson, starting for the second consecutive game in place of flu-stricken Magglio Ordonez, heard them. Some of them came from fans who were booing Higginson an inning earlier when he grounded out to first.

"I really think there's a lot of people still behind me," Higginson said. "They're waiting for me to come around and break out."

He was a pitch away from at least breaking the Indians lead. Riske threw three consecutive balls out of the strike zone to Higginson before finding the plate. On a 3-1 pitch, Higginson thought he had his pitch to hit and went after it. The pop up to left ended the threat.

It was a pitch Higginson was beating himself up over after the game, though he acknowledged he wanted to be aggressive with a 3-1 count.

"I probably should've taken it, waited for another one," he said. "But you don't have much time. It kind of started in there and ran off to the corner. Even if [Schreiber] had called it a strike, I still would've had another pitch. But it probably wasn't the best pitch to swing at."

The chants subsided. "If I would've gotten a hit, it would've been great," Higginson said, "and I would've maybe had some more people on my side. But since I didn't, then maybe I'll lose a few more."

It was dramatic theater from a rivalry that has had more than its share of close games over the last few years but not the significance to match until this season.

"I have a feeling we're going to battle each other all year," Trammell said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.