Your first place Cleveland Indians swept four games from the Seattle Mariners in dramatic fashion thanks to three walk off wins and a shutout from their ace Justin Masterson. We were all riding high heading into Tuesday’s two-game set with the rival Detroit Tigers. Then the Tigers beat down the Tribe two straight and all of a sudden, people were starting to panic a bit. When asked if I was worried at all yesterday, I told my dentist, the great Dr. Ben Hornstein, If we had taken three of four from Seattle and split with the Tigers, nobody would be concerned.
What you all need to remember is that the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and this is NOT the 2011 or 2012 Cleveland Indians.
This is Terry Francona’s revamped 2013 Cleveland Indians with a real roster and a top flight manager leading the way.
So with that, the Indians took off for Boston to face the Red Sox. It was Francona’s first trip back to the place where he is a legend. But ever the humble skipper, Tito told the hordes of press before the game that this wasn’t about him, this was about his players. In a class move, the Red Sox played a tribute video before the game to honor the manager that won them two World Series titles.
“I appreciated it,” Francona said. “It was very heart-felt, but again, you don’t want to be the main focus. You want to let the players play. But, it felt good.”
It is easy to see why the Tribe team would run through a wall for this guy and last night, they tried to do everything in their power to let him have his day.
“Everyone wanted to go out there and get a win for the team, but for him also,” said starter Zach McAllister. “He’s been great for us this year. He’s well-liked everywhere he is.”
Facing veteran Ryan Dempster, the Indians used their patient approach. In the second inning, Carlos Santana dropped a perfectly placed bunt single down the third base line that stayed fair. With two outs and two on, Drew Stubbs hit a flair down the right-field line that landed just fair by the diving glove of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, putting the Tribe on top.
An inning later with one out, Asdrubal Cabrera got things going with a single. Dempster then lost his command as the Tribe waited him out. Dempster nibbled, and the Wahoo bats didn’t bite, as he walked Michael Brantley and Santana to load the bases. The recently struggling Mark Reynolds followed with an RBI single, scoring two. Dempster would walk Yan Gomes to re-load the bases. Mike Aviles’s slow ground out scored Santana, giving the Indians and McAllister a 4-0 lead.
The Zach Attack didn’t have his best stuff in this one, but he bobbed and weaved his way through five innings. The only real big mistake he made was giving up a titanic three-run blast to David Ortiz in the third, putting the Sox on the board. But after Big Papi stood and admired the homer, McAllister settled down, retiring eighth of the last nine batters he faced. The Red Sox made him work, throwing 96 pitches in five innings, but he exited with a 5-3 lead.
That extra run came on a fourth inning answer, RBI single from Cabrera which scored Bourn, who had a huge night. Bourn continues to make things happen at the top of the Indians order. Not since Kenny Lofton in his prime have we seen this kind of dynamic. The Tribe overall team speed, led by Bourn, is a huge difference maker.
Take the fifth inning for example. With two outs, Mike Aviles stole second base. On the next pitch, Bourn lined an RBI single to right, bringing Aviles home. That kind of manufacturing we just haven’t seen here in years.
Things really opened up for the Indians in the sixth. Dempster was lifted after three innings in favor of Clayton Mortensen, who was on for his third inning. He clearly looked out of gas as he walked Asdrubal, gave up a single to Brantley, and walked Santana to load the bases with nobody out. Mortensen was replaced by Alex Wilson. The first batter the rookie faced was Reynolds, who again came up big with his second RBI single of the night.
That is when the backbreaker occurred.
Gomes stepped to the plate with the bases still loaded and nobody out. He popped one into foul territory wide of first for what looked like a sure first out. Instead, Mike Napoli dropped the ball. The Yanimal was given new life and promplty smashed a double to left, scoring two more runs. The Indians smelled blood. After an Aviles pop out, Drew Stubbs took a Wilson pitch to deep center for a two-run triple. It was one of Stubbs’s three extra-base hits on the night. Bourn kept the line moving with another RBI single of this own. Suddenly, it was 12-3 Tribe.
The offense busted through for the 12 runs on 16 hits, none of which were of the long ball variety.
“Homers have been known to be rally killers,” Reynolds joked. “You keep having guys on base, it keeps pressure on the pitcher and it makes him be precise. We were just able to get big knocks with guys on base out there.”
Bourn missed three weeks with the gash in his finger and it almost went unnoticed because the Indians played so well without him, but over the last week, you have really seen the full package of what he has to offer this club. His speed on the base paths and in center field is nothing short of incredible. With the bat, he has come as advertised and is in the midst of a 13-33 (.394) stretch in his last seven games. In his 23 games played, he has 12 multi-hit games (h/t to Jakey Stats). Bourn is up to .320 thans to his three-hit night.
After Cody Allen pitched a scoreless sixth, Francona gave the ball to the newest member of the “hey, its my turn to be the eighth man in the pen” club, Scott Barnes. The lefty has a big opportunity to make himself into a key part of the pen with the struggles of the southpaws thus far. Barnes would end up pitching three shutout innings, striking out four without a walk to earn his first career save.
The Indians, 22-9 in their last 31 games, go for a second straight win at Fenway Park tonight sending out former the Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson (7-2, 2.83 ERA) to the mound with his 19 inning scoreless streak in tow. Boston will counter with the much maligned John Lackey (2-4, 3.31 ERA).
AP Photo/Charles Krupa