Cleveland — It was just nine days ago that Blaine Hardy gave up two quick runs to the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park, spoiling Justin Verlander's season debut.
Manager Brad Ausmus chalked it up to just "a bad day" for Hardy.
Hardy has validated that assessment.
In four appearances since, he has retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced, including all seven Indians on Monday in the Tigers 8-5 win at Progressive Field.
"Their lineup is stacked with really good left-handed hitters and I am a left-handed pitcher — so I am going to end up seeing them," Hardy said. "After that outing (at Comerica) I just said, 'It happens … but it's baseball. You win some and you lose some.'
"Sometimes you don't make a pitch exactly the way you want to and they hit it hard. Today was a success and a victory for me."
Hardy was summoned early in this one. After the Tigers built a 7-3 lead, starter Kyle Ryan was on track to give it all back in the fourth inning. Manager Brad Ausmus gave Ryan the hook, leaving a bases-loaded, two-out mess for Hardy to clean up.
"I went and got him earlier than he would have liked," Ausmus said. "But I just thought we needed to get that out; that was a big out."
Hardy's task was to get left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis, who had doubled in two runs the previous inning to extend his hit streak to 17 games.
"I was thinking as long as he doesn't hit a home run, I am good," Hardy said with a chuckle. "Nah, with those situations some people put too much pressure on themselves. I just go about it like, just throw strikes and let him get himself out."
Hardy got Kipnis to line out to right, then he preceded to set down the next six without much fuss to earn the victory.
"I thought I threw Kipnis a pretty good curveball and he hit it pretty hard," Hardy said. "It's fun to go out there and be able to compete and keep us in the game."
Hardy has allowed just three earned runs in his last 26 outings covering 26-2/3 innings. Still, using his bullpen for five-plus innings is not the way Ausmus wants to get through games.
"It's not a formula for winning because you will end up burning your bullpen out by the time August rolls around," he said. "But there are games when I have to make a decision early and we will have to work our way through them."
The fact the Tigers built a four-run cushion — led by three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored by Yoenis Cespedes — certainly took some of the stress out of the evening.
They pecked at Indians starter Trevor Bauer at first, then devoured him.
A single run in the first on a ground rule double by Cespedes.
A single run in the second on a bloop double by Andrew Romine and a fielder's choice grounder by Ian Kinsler.
A single run in the third on Cespedes' 10th home run of the year — a 407-foot clothesline shot into the seats in right center.
Peck, peck, peck — 3-0.
Little bites weren't going to get it done, though. The Indians tied it up in a hurry, scoring three runs off Ryan in the third. Doubles by Roberto Perez and Kipnis, plus an RBI single by Michael Brantley did the trick.
So the Tigers took a bigger bite in the fourth — a four-run bite.
Singles by Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose set the table. Kinsler walked and, on a 3-2 pitch, Miguel Cabrera walked, forcing in a run.
The at-bat of the inning, though, belonged to Victor Martinez. Bauer had struck him out in the second on a letter-high, 95 mph fastball. Martinez was hunting the fastball again in the fourth and fouled one back and swung through another.
But after he worked the count full, he finally caught up to a high fastball, at 94 mph, and laced it into right field, scoring two.
"I was hunting the fastball for sure," Martinez said. "But I was making sure he threw a strike. He doesn't throw strikes all night and he wasn't throwing his fastball for a strike. That's tough for a guy like that who throws the ball really hard.
"But we were able to, as a team, put good bats together and come up with a good win."
The Tigers have now won four straight in Cleveland and are 8-2 against the Indians this season.