For the third consecutive game, the Tribe won using said formula 5-4 over Toronto. They did it without the use of their best set-up man, Chris Perez, who was unavailable after pitching the previous three days. Said closer Kerry Wood, “This is something we can build off of. The bullpen has come in the last three nights and thrown the ball well. The starters have given us a chance to win. And we’ve gotten some timely hits.”
A timely defensive blunder on the other side helped the Tribe jump out early. After their were two out in the first, Carlos Santana singled and Travis Hafner doubled. Santana had to be held at third, so the Tribe were in need of a two-out hit. Jhonny Peralta hit a weak ground ball to third that old friend John McDonald picked up and threw across the diamond. The throw was low and the glare at that time of night from the sunset was tough on Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay, who never saw the ball. It scooted past him for a error, scoring both Santana and Hafner.
The Indians never looked back.
They got another two-out run thanks to an RBI single from Shin-Soo Choo scoring Trevor Crowe in the third and a fourth two-out run in the fifth inning on a Hafner double to deep center that brought in Santana.
It seemed to be more than enough for Fausto Carmona, who cruised into the sixth inning with a 4-0 lead. The Jays loaded the bases with one out and got two back on a two-out RBI single from Adam Lind. However, a Tribe youngster was about to get his power stroke on.
Matt LaPorta, who had been stuck behind Russell Branyan most of the year, is now finally getting to be the everyday first baseman. He showed why the scouts are so intrigued by him in the bottom of the sixth, crushing a 423 foot homer over the high fence in left-center off of starter Brandon Morrow. It was his first blast since returning from Columbus last week.
“I was looking for something over the plate that I could hammer,” LaPorta said. “I got that.”
Meanwhile, during the game, a brilliant game of “Blame Branyan” broke out on Twitter. Essentially, it went from “LaPorta’s struggles were because of Branyan” to “Branyan caused the BP oil spill” to “Branyan called Tom Izzo and talked him out of taking the Cavs job.” Craig will have much more on that at noon. Man it was fun, but I digress.
LaPorta’s blast put the Tribe ahead 5-2, but in the seventh, Carmona got into some trouble. He put the first two men on before striking out McDonald. Acta then turned to his much maligned bullpen. First up was Tony Sipp, pitching in his first key spot in weeks. Sipp got lefty Fred Lewis on a groundout, but wild-pitched home a run, moving the Jays closer. After he walked Alex Gonzalez (why he was pitching to a righty with Joe Smith warming is odd), Acta went to the side-arming Smith.
Smith has not exactly been 2007 Rafael Betancourt since coming over from the Mets last season, but he seemed to have done his job against AL home run leader Jose Bautista. However, Bautista’s pop fly to right was dropped by Choo, allowing a run to score and the Jays were withing one run at 5-4. Smith recovered nicely to get Vernon Wells to groundout. Crisis averted.
The worry at that point was who would pitch the eighth with Chris Perez unavailable. Acta turned to Rafael Perez, who actually hasn’t been bad lately. The best thing that happened to Raffy was Tony Sipp’s horrific 15 run week. Had that not occurred, the Indians may have dumped him when they purged Jensen Lewis and Jamey Wright. Regardless, the lefty pitched a perfect eighth, getting the ball to Wood for a save opportunity.
For the third consecutive game, Wood slammed the door on an Indians winner. It was the first time he has saved three straight game since being signed last Winter to the two-year, $20.5 million. More importantly, Wood is picking up his game just in time to be showcased for a possible trade to a contender. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, barring a miracle in which is 55 games closed out option vests.
Stat of the night: 44 percent (139-for-316) of the Indians runs this season have come with two outs. That is incredible considering what little offense they have had. “Two-out hits are big,” said Hafner. “They seem to take the air out of the other team when you get them.”
The Wahoos go for three in a row tonight at Progressive Field and send new dad Aaron Laffey (0-2, 6.37 )to the mound, two days after his son Braeden was born. He faces Jesse Litsch (0-2, 8.78 ERA)