While you were sleeping, the Indians pulled off another doozy. Since they decided last week to bring Johnny Damon aboard, the Indians have entered the bizarro world. Up is down, left is right, the starting pitching has been shaky and the bats haven’t stopped hitting like they were a Tribe team from the mid-90s. All of a sudden, no deficit is too great to overcome. Here they are, seven days since they were bombed by the Chicago White Sox at home, and the haven’t lost since.
Maybe all they needed was to hit the road and catch a breather. Maybe it was the threat of losing playing time to Damon. Whatever it is, the Wahoo Express continued to roll last night in Seattle against old friend Eric Wedge and the Mariners. The 9-8 victory tasted so sweet, despite the fact that crazies like me stayed up past 1 AM to witness it.
It is still very hard to believe they were able to pull this one off.
At the start, you saw a pitching mismatch (or so we thought) with Tribe ace Justin Masterson taking on the on-his-last-legs veteran Kevin Millwood. The Tribe got one in the top of the first off of Millwood when Travis Hafner went the other way an on 0-2 count to bring in Michael Brantley with an RBI single. Meanwhile, Masterson was mowing Mariners down through the first two innings. In the third inning, it was as if a different pitcher took the mound.
With one out, he walked 8th place hitter Brendan Ryan, then gave up a two-run homer to John Jaso. Things would get worse in the fourth as Masterson was up in the strike zone with everything. The Mariners took advantage. Three of the first four batters singled to open the frame. Then for the second time he walked Ryan, this time with the bases loaded to force in a run. J Mast followed by hitting Jaso in the ankle with a pitch bringing in another run. Chone Figgins followed with a sac fly for the second out, but it was now 5-1. He walked Dustin Ackley and the gave up two more RBI singles to Ichiro and Justin Smoak, the 10th man to bat in the fourth. Manager Manny Acta had seen enough and turned to newly called up lefty Nick Hagadone, who retired Kyle Seager for the third out.
At that point, it would have been very easy to chalk this one up as a loss and go to bed. But remember, we have entered the bizarro world.
“I think it was pretty incredible when [Seattle] scored all the runs,” said Masterson. “Then I was like, ‘We’re at least going to get six or seven.’ I mean, I didn’t necessarily think in that next inning.”
Neither did I.
The Indian attack jumped right on Millwood with a double by Jack Hannahan and a single by Jason Donald, who will be your everyday shortstop for a week while Asdrubal Cabrera is back in Venezuela dealing with the death of his grandfather. This was where the key moment in the game occurred. Brantley hit a double-play grounder to Ryan at short. He booted it and Hannahan scored. Then the flood gates opened.
Jason Kipnis singled to load the bases with nobody out. Shin-Soo Choo singled home two to inch the Tribe close at 8-4. That’s when Carlos Santana absolutely crushed one into the right-field seats (and into the glove of the lone Indians fan out there) for a three-run jack. There was still nobody out and it was now a one run game. That ended Millwood’s evening.
They would get the tying run against Erasmo Ramirez thanks to a Jason Donald sac fly scoring Shelley Duncan who walked and reached third on Casey Kotchman’s double.
“These guys are not going to quit,” Acta said. “They know they’re capable of doing it. They did it last year a bunch of times. I thought it was great. I was hoping to come back two at a time, but they went out there and just put a seven spot up. It was just wonderful.”
This is when the Bullpen Mafia took over. Hagadone pitched a scoreless fifth after dancing around a walk and a Hannahan error (yes, it’s bizarro world. Jackie has four errors already. He had five total in 2011). Rafael Perez got the Mariners in the sixth.
The top of the seventh is where the Tribe took the lead. Lefty Charlie Furbush put the first two Indians on, then K’d lefties Kotchman and Hannahan before Wedge decided to go to the righty Tom Wilhelmsen to face Donald. JD promptly singled to right to put the Tribe ahead 9-8.
The Mafia now needed nine outs to finish the improbable comeback.
Acta first went to Joe Smith, who walked one, but didn’t allow the Mariners to score in the seventh. Up next was Pestano who blew threw a 1-2-3 eighth. Then it was Pure Rage time.
Chris Perez loves to walk that tight rope. Last night was no different, but he really deserves credit for finishing this one. After allowing a one out single to Seager, Jesus Montero sent a hard grounder to short that Donald looked like he would turn into a game-ending double play. The ball took a wicked hop and skipped up into JD’s cheek and bounced into center field for a single.
“Bad hop is an understatement,” Donald said. “That thing, I just saw it at the last second kick up. There was nothing I could do. I didn’t put a glove on that thing — nothing. It was all face pretty much. Hopefully my girlfriend still wants to date me after getting smoked in the mouth like that.”
He got Michael Saunders to pop out to left before making things even more interesting after he walked Ryan to load the bases (that’s right, Brendan freaking Ryan walked three times).
It was up to Jaso, who earlier hit a two-run homer off of Masterson. He didn’t take a strike, ahead 2-0 in the count and flew out to Choo in right to end the ballgame.
What a win. Never a dull moment for our Tribe all of a sudden, eh? A week ago, they bored us to death. Now they can’t stop exciting us. They go for five in a row tonight in Seattle and turn the ball over to Derek Lowe, who has won both of his starts in this young season. He will face lefty Jason Vargas.
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)