Yankees 5, Indians 4: Welcome Back to the Land of .500

Robinson Cano

That was an unbelievable home run by Robinson Cano. Down a run in the sixth, 1-2 count against one of the hotter starters in the AL Central1, and he blasts one off the end of his bat for a two-run homer to the opposite field.

Can we just focus on that part of the game, please? Because with that one swing the Yankees deserved to win this contest.

But, of course, all anyone is talking about is how the Indians stranded the bases loaded in the ninth inning to end the game. So while this wasn’t as ugly a game as the last four losses, this one sure was more heartbreaking.

With the loss, Cleveland fell back to .500 on the season at 37-37, and now sits 2.5 games behind the White Sox following their victory last night.

In the ninth, the Indians hammered NY closer Rafael Soriano quickly. Lonnie Chisenhall, pinch-hitting for Carlos Santana2, reached base on a single and Shin-Soo Choo walked. After one out, Lou Marson also singled, bringing up pinch-hitter Johnny Damon to the plate with the bases loaded.

The much-maligned veteran Damon battled briefly, but swung pathetically at strike three for the second out of the inning. In another long at-bat, Michael Brantley managed a walk, plating a run and moving the tying score 90 feet from home.

Right on cue, however, Asdrubal Cabrera flied the second offering he saw from Soriano to left for an easy third out. Just like that, a rally over, a sweep completed, and an ice-cold team back to .500 for the first time since mid-April.

Going back to the start of the game, Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte was dealing. He was absolutely hammering the strike zone, recording strikeouts as his first four outs of the game. Everyone knew from the first inning on that the Tribe would have trouble scoring many runs against the veteran lefty.

On the other side, I wonder if anyone reads Jon’s recaps. As a perfect response to his rant last night about walks, what did Ubaldo Jimenez do TWICE in the first inning? He walked a pair of guys, of course, and got into pitch count trouble early with what proved to be a relatively uneventful 27-pitch opening frame.

Then, in the top of the second, the Indians somehow managed to get on the board against Pettitte. Carlos Santana reached first to start the inning on a bad throwing error by A-Rod. A clean-shaven Shelley Duncan later plated him with a double to right-center. But, as usual, Cleveland eventually stranded a pair of runners in the inning as Aaron Cunningham was picked off first – Pettitte’s trademark.

Jimenez cruised through the second and the third frames, but ran into trouble in the fourth. Cano – ye’ of later heroics – began the rally with a one-out single for NY’s first hit of the game. Ubaldo gave up a two-out walk to Raul Ibanez, and a clutch two-out, two-run double by Eric Chavez to left-center gave the Yanks their first lead.

The game then turned upside down in the top of the fifth. This was the break the Tribe had been looking for in any game for nearly a week: Casey Kotchman’s leadoff single up the middle ricocheted violently off Pettitte’s ankle, knocking the lefty out of the game3.

You never wish injuries upon any athlete, but this was certainly a game-changer for Cleveland. Pettitte had been cruising since the rocky second inning, and was still mowing down Indians with no problem at all. When he exited the game, he had allowed just three hits, one run and one walk, while striking out seven of the 16 batters he faced.

Everyone also knows the Indians’ awful struggles against lefties. You could easily point to the 5-15 record against southpaw starters and .215/.298/.325 splits against lefties entering the game. So when the Yanks were forced to go to the pen instead of the red-hot Pettitte, you had to be excited.

Three Yankee relievers then were needed to finish up the inning. Back-to-back two-out singles by Cabrera and Jason Kipnis were the clutch plays, as the Indians took back the 3-2 lead.

But you can’t play with fire for too long though, right? Jimenez entered the bottom of the sixth inning with 89 pitches, pitching pretty well despite his one big mistake to Chavez in the fourth.

To start off the frame, A-Rod doubled, and then Cano provided the incredible, momentum-changing two-run blast to left field. It was a signature, All-Star-like home run, and it was all the STO broadcasters talked about while Jimenez found a way to eventually retire the side in the inning.

Cano has been red hot of late, and absolutely torched the Indians during this series. He went 6-for-12 in the three games, with three runs scored, two homers and five RBI. He has seven dingers in his last 10 games and now has 18 on the year. For comparison’s sake, Cabrera is your team leader with nine home runs and no one else has more than six4.

Technically in the end, the one run that set-up man Vinnie Pestano allowed in the bottom of the eighth inning was the difference as it was the deciding fifth run. It was an uncharacteristic performance for Pestano, who allowed a pair of singles before Chavez’s second clutch two-out RBI hit of the day.

But the game already seemed inevitable at that point. No one expected the Tribe offense to put up much of a fight in the ninth, and when the team fell short with the bases loaded, it ultimately wasn’t that surprising.

That’s just about how things have been going lately for the Indians, who haven’t been playing well in nearly all facets of the game. Against the Yanks this series, the road team was out-pitched and out-hit, and although the last two scores looked close, the games were never really that much in doubt.

Coming up next, Cleveland begins a four-game series against the surprising Baltimore Orioles (41-33) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Camden Yards. Zach McAllister (1-1, 3.96 ERA) is expected to return from AAA Columbus for the start, likely against Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (7-3, 3.38 ERA). In case the rookie’s name isn’t familiar to you, he’s a lefty.

Oh, and in case you were just wondering about this guy, Travis Hafner made his first rehab appearance last night for the Clippers. He played seven innings, going 1-for-3 with a strikeout in the team’s 3-1 loss to Norfolk. Sounds like a kind of familiar result, eh?

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Footnotes:

  1. Yes, Ubaldo Jimenez was pitching that well recently before Wednesday’s game. Entering play, he was 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four June starts since being skipped once in the rotation. Most importantly, however, he had 25 strikeouts against only seven walks in 26.1 innings pitched. Sounds like ace material to me, although in a small sample size. []
  2. Please ignore the rant I had about Santana’s skills previously in this footnote. It appears, in fact, that Santana was removed from the game with tightness in his back. Manny Acta said after the game that he would be further evaluated at the park Thursday. []
  3. Welp, as much as we all hate the Yankees, you’ve got to feel for Pettitte’s injury. That really was just a freak play. At 40 years old, who knows how the guy will return from a fractured fibula that will keep him out of the game for 6-8 weeks. He was having a really solid season too (3-3, 3.29 ERA in eight starts) and is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. []
  4. Yes, you read that correctly. Robinson Cano, a second baseman, has more home runs in his last 10 games than all but one player on the entire Indians roster has on the entire season. We need power. Desperately. []
  • http://twitter.com/dconeil Dave

    As most people believed at the beginning of the season, this is a fourth-place club. They should be in fourth within the next few weeks. No one’s really surprised. This is why no one goes to the games. They have absolutely no difference makers on offense. None. Not a single guy who can take over a game ala Robbie Cano or four or five other Yankees.

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I would argue Kipnis is our only real difference maker…but, you can’t have him support the entire offense all the time.

  • Cleveland rocks

    I’m pretty sure Kipnis is the team leader in home runs….

  • Steve

    And it certainly helps Cano that he plays in that little league park. Our lefties would have quite a few more homers if they had that porch to work with instead of one of the best pitchers parks in the game today.

  • nj0

    Asdrubal’s OBP and SLG are both about forty points higher than Kipnis’s.
    Choo also outpaces Kipnis in those two as well. While Choo’s home runs have been down, he’s been a doubles machine, tied for the AL lead.