I said yesterday that the Indians are going to have to win this division with their pitching and defense. Naturally a night later they come out and tear the cover off the ball. I believe yesterday I also wrote the following sentence “the bottom of the order continues to be a black hole.” The 7-8-9 of the Tribe order then proceeded to drive in seven RBIs while the guys who have been carrying the offense, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, didn’t get a hit. This was just another in a long line of reasons of you never know what you are going to get on any given night in baseball.
This one was supposed to be the big rematch between the Indians Derek Lowe and the Reds Mat Latos, less than a week after the Lowe/Baker flap in which Latos got himself involved. Instead, it became a battle of the bats. All-World first baseman Joey Votto got Lowe with a two-out solo shot in the first to put the Reds on top. Shin-Soo Choo led off for the Tribe and answered with a deep solo blast of his own. It was on from there.
The Reds pounded Lowe with a double and three singles to take a 3-1 lead in the second. However, the Tribe countered with some offense of their own. Michael Brantley opened the second with a ground-rule double. Carlos Santana, moved to the six hole to help his slumping bat, singled sharply up the middle moving Brantley to third. He would score on Johnny Damon’s groundout. With two out, Lonnie Chisenhall blasted a two-run shot into the Reds bullpen to put the Tribe on top 4-3.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long because Lowe didn’t have it again.
Brandon Phillips singled with one out in the third. Jay Bruce walked. Another ex-Indian, Ryan Ludwick doubled in Phillips to tie the game. Scott Rolen, fresh off the DL, singled in Bruce. Every time the Indians offense gave Lowe the lead, he gave it right back.
Strangely, both Latos and Lowe managed to get through the bottom of the third and the top of the fourth unscathed. But an inning later, the Wahoos got right back on top. Once again it was Brantley who got things started with a double off of the glove of center fielder Chris Heisey. Santana struck out and Damon grounded back to Latos and the rally seemed to be killed. But up stepped Casey Kotchman. The Tribe’s first baseman hit a rocket shot into the bullpen in center, giving the Tribe a 6-5 lead in this see-saw affair. But they weren’t done in the fourth. Chisenhall tripled into the right field corner and was driven in with a Choo opposite field double. It was now 7-5 heading into the fifth inning.
Latos was done after four and after the game, he whined that the Indians may have been stealing signs. “When you go back and look at video, a couple runners on second base, they put better swings on the ball than they did most of the time without a runner on second base.”
As for Lowe…
“I kept digging us hole after hole after hole,” he said. “And we kept plugging away, finding ways to get us back in the game.”
This one was far from over. The Reds had the heart of their order coming up in the fifth against Lowe. Votto opened with a double off the wall in left. Phillips, who can play for me any day but can’t play for Eric Wedge, smoked a double down the line past third base. Damon, who Acta described after the game by saying “everyone is well aware that Johnny is not a Gold Glove-caliber player,” crashed into the fencing in his attempts to field the ball. It trickled between his legs and rolled all the way to the wall. The speedy Phillips never stopped running and scored on the double and two-base error. Just like that, we were tied at seven.
“I’m not sure what it hit. … All of a sudden it went up against the well, and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ I committed to go get it to try and get him at second, and then unfortunately when I hit, my body kind of went numb,” said Damon.
Was there any end in sight to the scoring?
We headed to the bottom of the sixth where the Reds mustached man Sam Lecure was on for his second inning of work. Santana singled for his second hit of the game (a welcomed sign). Damon, who earlier looked like would be coming out of the game after the collision with the wall, doubled to right field. Third base coach Steve Smith smartly held Santana at third with nobody out. Kotchman brought Carlos in to give the Indians the lead 8-7. Chisenhall, he of the two extra-base hits earlier in the game, stepped up in a big spot. He worked the count to 2-2, fought off a pitch, and then reached down and poked an RBI single to center for a big time RBI.
Of course, the Reds answered with a Jay Bruce solo homer off of Joe Smith with two outs in the seventh. You could tell how badly Manny Acta wanted this one. He went to Smith in the sixth and after the Bruce homer, he called for Vinnie Pestano to get four outs, something he rarely does. It is clear he doesn’t have the confidence in the non-big three members of the Mafia right now. But give Acta credit – he knew this was a game his team sorely needed.
Pestano retired the last four men he faced before turning things over to closer Chris Perez. Brantley’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh proved to be the difference as the Reds got a run off in the ninth off of Perez, but Rage struck out Ludwick to end the game and record his league-leading 22nd save.
What a wild affair down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Lonnie Chisenhall was the big star of the evening, going 3-4 with a homer, a triple, and three RBIs. The three home runs on the night was something we rarely get to see with this offense.
“The homers by Kotchman and Lonnie were huge,” said Acta. “It was a great team effort. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves because we weren’t playing well and rolled over. These guys really went after it today. I’m proud of them.”
The White Sox were worked over by the Cubs last night 12-3, so the Tribe is just a half game back of first. Incredible considering how they have been playing of late. Game two with the Reds comes tonight at 7:05 with Josh Tomlin (3-4, 5.56 ERA) going for the Wahoos. He will be faced by righty Mike Leake (2-5, 5.05 ERA).
(photo via Chuck Crow/PD)