I’m not sure to me what’s truly more startling during this six-game winning streak: the Indians’ offensive explosion or the team’s consistent starting pitching. Scott Kazmir earned his first win in three years, lasting six innings and striking out seven with the Tribe using 12 hits (for the sixth straight game) to take game two of the series from the Twins 7-3. With eight players collecting a hit and six players driving in at least one run, the Tribe is swinging the bats with an unbelievable ferocity.
The bats did not waste any time in the first as both Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher (in his first at-bat after missing multiple games due to a shoulder injury) hit solo shots off of starting pitcher Kevin Correia. It was the Tribe’s patience mixed in with attacking at the right spots with Correia that chased the 32-year-old righty from the game prior to the end of the seventh inning for the first time in his five previous starts this season. Correia lasted just five innings, giving up 4 runs (a season-high), 6 hits, while throwing 102 pitches. The Indians struck for a pair in each of the first two innings, but the Tribe only went 1-2-3 against Correia in the fourth inning.
As for Scott Kazmir, his one bad inning was the second, where he threw a stunning 35 pitches. Still, the Cleveland lefty still only allowed one run in the inning on a RBI single by Pedro Florimon, stranding two runners after getting Brian Dozier to pop out. Tribe skipper Terry Francona had this to say about his starting pitcher, “His second inning was a grind, and to his credit he got out of it with one. I thought he really pitched. He started to throw his fastball in, and that opened up the plate for everything else. [He was] very effective.”
There’s no doubt that Kazmir is progressing along the right track. He is lasting longer in each outing (3 1/3 in his first outing, 5 in his previous outing), working ahead in the count now (17-of-23 first pitch strikes), all while still hitting the low to mid 90s. What I like is that he’s walked just six guys in three starts (14 1/3 innings). He has been a fly ball pitcher (10 fly ball outs yesterday), though, so it’s important that he continues to locate his breaking pitches after getting ahead with the fastball.
As has been key in the Indians’ offensive coming-out party, it has involved scoring crooked numbers in multiple innings. After the two in the first, the Tribe got two more in the second off a pair of two-out RBI singles by Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. Brantley’s liner just glanced off the glove of shortstop Florimon, while Kipnis hit a lazy pop-up that carried. The left-fielder Josh Willingham assumed that Florimon had a beat on it, which was a bad assumption as it caried into shallow left field. The ball dropped and the Tribe capitalized.
Cleveland added two more in the seventh on RBI hits by Asdrubal Cabrera, who just missed a homer to right, and Mark Reynolds, who took a patient approach and lined his second straight into center. The save opportunity was washed away when Ezequiel Carrera singled to right to score Drew Stubbs and then was tagged out as he slid past second base.
Between Friday and Saturday’s game, we found out that it wasn’t anything that was wrong with Joe Smith as to why he didn’t pitch the 7th inning. Rather, it was Vinnie Pestano’s “cranky elbow” that bumped Cody Allen into the seventh inning role and Smith to the eighth. Joe pitched yesterday, and he did struggle, walking two and allowing a hit, which led to Minnesota’s third run. 13 of Smith’s 28 pitches were out of the strike zone as he had several near-misses, unable to bring it in the zone consistently.
I have to bring up the throwing of closer Chris Perez two straight days in non-save situations. Friday, it was in the tenth inning of an extra innings win in which Perez notched the win after putting two runners on and getting out of the jam. Yesterday, it was an eighth inning run by the Tribe that erased the save opportunity. With CP already warmed up, I can understand just bringing him in, but with Pestano already injured, a day off for Perez on a save situation night could really force some changing of roles.
The Indians go for the sweep of the Twins and their seventh straight this afternoon. Corey Kluber will face righty Mike Pelfrey, who has struggled in five starts this season.
(Phot0: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)