Remember back in early January, when most teams had signed their big ticket free agents, or were at least attempting to do so? Well the Indians were bargain hunting as usual. They announced two additions on the same day – Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan.
Nobody was excited. These signings didn’t exact move the needle. Who knew that both Kearns and Duncan would play key roles for the 2010 season. Not saying its something to be proud of, but its reality for the last place Tribe.
Last night, Duncan put on a show at the plate, crushing two homers and driving in all four RBI’s in the Tribe 4-3 win. A good night for one of the good guys on the team.
“He’s an aggressive guy,” said Manny Acta. “At least you know he’s going to take some hacks in there. We like that. Tonight he won the game by himself offensively.”
Duncan now has 10 homers in 192 at-bats. By contrast, The $14 million man, DH Travis Hafner, who grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, has 11 homers and 352 at-bats.
So what exactly are we paying for? That’s another story for another post.
Thank goodness for Brock Hudson last night, otherwise the Indians would have been blanked by the great Scott Kazmir. Other than him, they couldn’t seem to get the big knock-out hit when they needed it (i.e. Hafner in the seventh).
On the other side was Josh Tomlin, who again showed his guile by baffling the Angels into the seventh. It looked like it would be a long night for him in the first. He gave up back to back one-out doubles to Alberto Callaspo and Torii Hunter (who wished that every game could be played against the Tribe). After that, he completely settled in for the next five innings.
Tomlin retired 11 straight by the time their were two out in the sixth. Then Hunter got him with a single. Hideki Matsui followed with a double off the left field wall, Duncan fielded it, and fired to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on the hop. Cabrera threw home to Lou Marson who was floored by Hunter. Marson held on for the third out of the inning and what turned out to be a huge play in the game.
“The play by Lou Marson was the key,” Acta said. “It’s tough enough to try to pick up an in-between hop with those types of catcher’s gloves, but he was able to hold onto it. That play won us the ballgame today.”
Two hitters into the bottom half of the sixth, Duncan was blasting his second homer, and thanked the play in the field for it.
“As fast as it happened, it was really clean,” Duncan said. “It really fired me up. I was more fired up about that play than anything else that happened tonight.” He took it with him to the plate and extended the Tribe lead to 4-1 (though TV play by play man Matt Underwood said “its 3-1 Tribe!).
Tomlin seemed to have run out of gas in the seventh after the first two were out. Mike Napoli’s double was followed by a Bobby Wilson RBI double. Peter Bourjos tripled in Wilson, and Acta came out to get Tomlin after 100 pitches.
“I don’t know if I was tired or not,” said Tomlin. “I just left balls up to certain guys and they made me pay for it.”
Rafael Perez came in and retired Alberto Callaspo to end the threat. At 4-3, it would be up to the Tribe’s pen to hold this one down. Perez got the first two in the eighth, but allowed a single to Matsui. Acta called for Joe Smith to face the right-handed Napoli. Smitty did his job by inducing a groundout.
The bottom of the ninth was Pure Rage time. Chris Perez came in looking for his 20th save. He made it a little dicey by putting two on with one out. After striking out Bourjos, Marson’s passed ball moved by the tying and lead runs into scoring position. However, Pure Rage came through and got Callapso to fly out to end the game.
“Chris Perez got into a bit of jam there,” said Acta, “but when you have the stuff he has, you can work yourself out of those once in a while with a strikeout. He continues to be terrific for us.”
Tonight the Tribe looks for their second straight against the Angels by sending Jeanmar Gomez (3-3, 3.07 ERA) to the mound against Los Angeles ace Jered Weaver (11-11, 3.06 ERA).
In other Tribe news, it looks as though Mitch Talbot’s next start will have to be skipped due to his balky shoulder. Justin Masterson, who has just seven innings left on his 180 innings limit, will most likely get that start in Kansas City over the weekend.
photo via Mark Duncan / Associated Press