I know none of you were really concerned about the offense after the last three games, right? I mean, what you can’t forget is that there was a time earlier in the year where they were shut out back to back games in Tampa and then followed it up by dropping a 13 spot on the Rays. Make no mistake about it, this was a tired ball club. It is also a very streaky ball club offensively. These types of hot and cold streaks will probably continue most of the year. You just hope that the cold spells don’t last very long.
After scoring just three runs in three games Monday and Tuesday, the Tribe had a quick turnaround afternoon tilt against tough lefty Cole Hamels and his Philadelphia Phillies. It was their seventh game in the last six days in three different cities (Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia), so another bat slumber could have easily occurred. Then again, this is a new era of Tribe baseball. ActaBall is dead. Long live TitoBall.
One of the things you come to learn while watching years and years of baseball is that on the mid-week “getaway day” games, you often see both clubs give “getaway-day at-bats.” Guys swing early in the counts and strike-zones seem to be more liberal. However in this one, the Indians approach against Hamels was the opposite. They were set to work the lefty deep into counts and wait for him to make mistakes.
It worked to perfection.
“Our guys did a good job of not chasing [Hamels’] pitches where he likes to live on the corners,” Jason Kipnis said. “We made him come to us. I think we did a good job today.”
After two innings, the Indians didn’t score, but worked Hamels’ pitch count up to 53. Perhaps the best at-bat during the first time through the order came from Tribe pitcher Corey Kluber. With two on and two out, Kluber looked extremely comfortable handling the bat and nearly roped a double down the line, but it landed foul. He worked the count full and cracked a deep fly ball towards the gap in left-center which was run down by Domonic Brown.
“We were stunned,” said manager Terry Francona. “As he (Kluber) got into the at-bat, he looked like a good hitter. Most pitchers tell you they’re good hitters. Corey is so quiet he doesn’t say anything, but he had some pretty good at bats.”
An inning later, they would finally get to Hamels.
Kipnis, who had a big day, doubled with one out. Then Asdrubal Cabrera fell behind in the count 0-2 before working a walk in a terrific at-bat. Nick Swisher struck out and the Tribe looked like they wouldn’t be able to push across a run yet again. But the man who left seven on base a night before, Mark Reynolds, made up for it with a two-run double to the corner in left field. The Tribe jumped out to a 2-0 lead which they would never relinquish.
Kluber, who was coming off of his worst start of the season in Detroit (4.2 IP, 8 ER), gave one back in the bottom half of the third on a two-out RBI hit from Jimmy Rollins. But as we have seen so many times this season, when a Tribe pitcher gives up a run, the offense goes right out and gets it back. This time it was Mike Aviles who did the deed, blasting his third homer of the season in the fourth. Kluber settled in with a 1-2-3 bottom half.
Smelling blood in the water, the offense then went right back at Hamels.
Kipnis led off the fifth with his second double in as many at-bats. An out later, Nick Swisher hit a deep fly ball down the line in left, he watched it and used a little body English, hoping it would stay fair. It did for the Tribe’s second homer in as many innings. This one was of the two-run variety.
The Phillies tried to get back into it and did so in the bottom of the frame, scoring two on a two-out RBI double from Rollins, who had Kluber’s number on this day. It was a game again at 5-3, but not for long.
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel had seen enough of Hamels after 106 pitches, five innings, five runs and six hits.
“We made him earn every out, and then we scored also,” said Francona regarding Hamels. “It’s great to work the count and everything, but when you have something to show for it, especially in a National League game, where when you’re behind and you have to pinch hit, and we did a very good job of that.”
Out of the bullpen came old friend Chad Durbin, who easily retired Ryan Raburn and Aviles. But this is Chad Durbin after all. I figured Kluber would be lifted for a pinch hitter, but noticed nobody warming up in the Indians bullpen, so with two out and nobody on, Francona gave Kluber another shot with the stick. For a second time, he worked the count full. Durbin would walk the pitcher, which almost always comes back to haunt you. We would learn after the game that Kluber hadn’t hit in a game since 2010 in the minors.
Drew Stubbs beat out an infield single and the Indians were once again in business. Manuel emerged and called for one of his three lefties, Jeremy Horst, to face Kipnis. It was awfully early to be matching up lefty/lefty, but then again, Manuel learned at the feet of the master of this move, Mike Hargrove. Horst threw four straight balls to Kipnis to load the bases for Cabrera. Down 1-2 in the count, Asdrubal stepped on Manuel’s throat with a sharp two-run single up the middle to stretch the Wahoo lead to 7-3.
With a nice four-run cushion, Kluber got through the sixth unscathed and turned it over to Cody Allen. Corey gave the Indians what they would expect from a fifth starter; six innings, three runs, five K’s, and most importantly, no walks. You would take that from him every time out if you could.
“Obviously, I threw more strikes,” Kluber said. “I was more aggressive in the strike zone and I didn’t fall behind too many guys. I didn’t carry the last game into this one at all. It makes your job a lot easier when you get ahead of hitters.
Allen looked great, easily disposing of the Phillies in order. Then the offense poured it on in the eighth.
With one out, Michael Brantley, who entered the game in Kluber’s spot in the batting order, walked against lefty Raul Valdes. Then in another great and patient at-bat by an Indian, Stubbs fouled off two full count pitches before doubling to left. Up stepped Kipnis, who already had two doubles. Valdes left a hanger over the plate and The JK Kid crushed a three-run jack to the seats in right field to break the game open. It was his sixth homer of the season but strangely the first one that didn’t come in the first inning.
Nick Hagadone and Matt Albers would finish off the 10-4 win for Kluber (now 3-2) and sent the Tribe to a much needed day off. The rest is welcomed by everyone. As I said earlier, the Tribe has played seven games in six days in three cities.
On the injury front, after the first pitch of his third inning at-bat which produced an RBI double, Reynolds was checked out by trainer Lonnie Soloff. He stayed in the game, but was removed in a double-switch after the sixth when Kluber’s day was over.
“That what happens when you swing as hard as you can at a change-up and miss. I was waiting for the feeling to return to my arm,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to hit with a numb arm.”
Francona said that Reynolds should be fine and would most likely be ready to play Friday when the Indians return home and welcome the Seattle Mariners for a four-game set.
(AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)