Monday night was the long awaited debut of the Indians top hitting prospect, Lonnie Chisenhall. With the offense in a deeper funk than George Clinton and Parliament, GM Chris Antonetti fired his biggest bullet. Manager Manny Acta wasted no time, starting Chisenhall at third base and hitting him seventh. “Here’s here to play,” Acta said.
The last Tribe phenom to come up and wear #27 was Jaret Wright in a year the Indians were fighting for a pennant. Could Chisenhall have that same kind of instant impact?
In his debut, all Chiz did was go 2-4 with a huge sixth inning RBI single in the 5-4 win. “I felt like an all-around baseball player tonight,” said Chisenhall. “I got a couple of hits, drove in a run and made a couple of plays at third base.”
I’m not going to say Chisenhall’s presence alone was the difference in this game, but it was clearly an improvement over the Jack Hannahan/Adam Everett/Orlando Cabrera third base experience of late.
There were plenty of heroes in this big win.
Start with the Asdrubal Cabrera, who got the Indians off to a first inning lead for seemingly the first time in ages. He crushed a two-run jack off of D’Backs starter Ian Kennedy to get the Tribe rolling.
You could call Mitch Talbot an unsung hero in this one. Sure, I was killing him for giving back three runs in the bottom of the first. But if you take a step back and look, this could have easily been avoided. After walking Kelly Johnson to open the frame (you can’t be walking a guy hitting .206), Stephen Drew laced a line drive to center. Grady Sizemore made the mistake of trying to make a diving catch on a ball that was out of his reach. It rolled all the way to the wall for a stand-up triple, scoring Johnson.
Sizemore has to know better than to attempt a dive in that situation. It wasn’t even close. SIDE NOTE – I know he singled in the first (with nobody on), but the rest of his at-bats were again terribly weak, included popping out with two on and nobody out in the sixth in a tie game.
Back to Talbot. After Justin Upton’s bloop single scored Drew, Chris Young ripped a double off the left field wall. Five batters in, the Indians were down 3-2. After that, Talbot didn’t allow another hit in his five innings of work, retiring the last 10 batters he faced. It was vintage Talbot. He got behind early, then teased us with four good innings.
”He’s had some issues early in games in the two years I’ve been here,’’ Acta said. “”But he righted himself and gave us four good innings.”
Talbot was lifted after five innings because Acta had to use his once a game allotment of Travis Hafner. After the Indians tied the game at three on Travis Buck’s RBI single and took the lead on Chisenhall’s RBI single, Acta called for Pronk with two on and two out and the right-handed Kennedy on the mound. The D’Backs had no lefty ready in the pen.
While Hafner K’d to end the inning, it was the right decision. Acta had no problem handing over the lead to another set of heroes in this one; the bullpen.
First up was Joe Smith who retired all four batters he faced. He was replaced in the seventh by lefty Tony Sipp, who got the last two outs in a tidy five pitches. In the eighth, Acta turned to Vinnie Pestano, who has been close to unhittable this year.
Pinch hitter Wily Mo Pena led off with a single. Johnson, in a great at-bat, tripled Pena in on Pestano’s 3-2 pitch to tie the game at four. It was an 11 pitch at-bat. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the batter, and this was one of those times. Sure, Pestano may have given up the lead, but what he did next has to be applauded.
With the lead run on third and nobody out, Arizona had three chances get ahead. Drew’s fly ball to left (on the 10th pitch of the AB) wasn’t deep enough to score Johnson. Smartly with first base open, Pestano intentionally walked Upton to set up the double play with Young. Instead, he K’d Young for a huge second out. With the left-handed hitting Miguel Montero coming to the plate, Acta called for Rafael Perez.
Perez’s biting breaking pitch was on, and Montero couldn’t touch it. Raffy struck him out to work out of the jam and would soon after be rewarded.
“I hope this whole bullpen can make it to the All-Star Game,” said Orlando Cabrera. “I know it can’t happen, but these guys have been incredible.”
So to the ninth we went, where the biggest hero of the night would appear. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson called on closer J.J. Putz in a non-save situation. As we have seen for many years in our city, that is usually a recipe for disaster. With two outs, Orlando stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. He entered 5-11 in his career against Putz.
Putz hung a slider and OC deposited it into the left field seats to put the Tribe back on top 5-4. ”Manny knows that I hit Putz very well,’’ Cabrera said. “”He knows if it’s late in the game and I get a pitch, I have a pretty good chance. The ball just made it into that little corner; it was kind of scary. But everybody knows the ball flies in here.’’
Chris Perez closed out the ninth for his 19th save of the season. Raffy Perez was the winner.
This was such a big win for so many reasons and it was a complete team effort. The youngest kid (Chisenhall) and the grizzled veteran (O. Cabrera) came through when the team needed it the most.
”There still were a couple of opportunities that we missed,’’ Acta said. “”That would have made it easier on us. But we still won the game. It was a very good win, considering that it almost slipped out of our hands.’’
With the Tigers win earlier in the day against Toronto, the Indians stayed one game back in the AL Central. Tonight the “good” portion of the rotation restarts with Josh Tomlin (9-4, 3.95 ERA) taking the hill. He will be opposed by Arizona’s tough right-hander Daniel Hudson (9-5, 3.58 ERA).
(AP Photo/Matt York)