Seth Greenberg, former head basketball coach at Virginia Tech, now an analyst on ESPN once said after a blowout loss “sometimes you’re the dog….sometimes you’re the tree.” Well your Cleveland Indians were the tree all week as the Yankees took turns battering the Wahoos into submission.
The Indians had hoped to stop their 4-11 skid on a sunny afternoon in the Bronx, but things just got way out of hand far too quickly. Corey Kluber entered the game pitching as well as any Indians starter. In the first inning, the Yankees hit a couple of rocket shots. One of them was a fly ball towards the gap in right center off the bat of Robinson Cano. Center fielder Michael Bourn ran a long way to get the ball and did everything put make the catch. The ball bounced off his glove for an error, giving the Yankees an extra out. Of course, they would capitalize.
“He chased it down and just didn’t catch it,” Manager Terry Francona said. “He went a long way and he got to it, but it didn’t stay in his glove.”
Throwing salt in the wound was the titanic blast that old friend Travis Hafner crushed to the second deck in right field for a two-out, two-run homer. Of all people…..
Hafner has 10 homers on the season. Three of them have come against the Indians.
An inning later, it got worse for Kluber. With a shift on, Lyle Overbay punched a knubber down the third base line for an infield single. An out later, another ex-Indian, Jayson Nix, slapped a double the other way moving Overbay to third. Ninth place batter Chris Stewart made the score 3-0 with an RBI single. The Yankee catching duo of Stewart and Austin Romine were on base six times in this series and were constant thorns in the Tribe side. As was Brett Gardner, who followed Stewart’s single with a three-run home run. There was one out in the second inning and the Yankees already had a 6-0 lead.
So now what?
The Indians had to face CC Sabathia in this one. Oh wait, another ex-Indian who killed them Wednesday afternoon? You don’t say? Sabathia, like any ace, is extremely comfortable pitching with a huge lead and took his time making easy work of the Indians early. He retired the first 14 Wahoos he faced until Mike Aviles’s single broke his string. But as we have seen with CC, he can get lazy at times.
With one out in the sixth, Drew Stubbs beat out another infield single. The man can fly. Bourn followed with a single to left, moving Stubbs to third. He would score on Jason Kipnis’s single past Mark Teixeira at first. Nick Swisher’s fielder’s choice brought in Bourn. At the time you were thinking “hey, at least they got on the board.”
Give Kluber credit for at least calming things down and eating innings after the debacle of the first two innings. He didn’t allow another run through the next four innings and left after six, striking out eight.
“I just left a few balls over the heart of the plate a little bit too much early on,” said Kluber. “I don’t know what the difference was — I just didn’t make those mistakes after that point.”
CC probably figured he could cruise right along for another inning and fly to the winners circle. Instead, he gave up three more hits in the seventh, including a two-out, two-run home to the Yanimal, Yan Gomes. It was his sixth on the season. By contrast, soon to be former backup catcher Lou Marson has five homers in 882 career at-bats!
Like the night before, the Indians seemed destined for a quick loss, but fought back to make things interesting. Which brings us to the Tribe bullpen. Its now a two-run game in the bottom of the seventh and Tito turned to rookie Matt Langwell for some odd reason. He walked Stewart on four pitches. Realizing it wasn’t a great idea, Francona gave him the quick hook and called for the struggling left-hander Rich Hill. Gardner bunted Stewart over to second for the first out. Cano grounded out to second for the second out. With first base open and a man on third, Hill intentionally walked Teixeira to set up the force. Up stepped Hafner and I was all but certain he would hit a three-run jack. Its tough to do so when Hill won’t throw you strikes. He would walk Pronk to load the bases for Vernon Wells.
That was all for Hill as Francona signaled for Joe Smith, who got Wells to pop out to second. Memo to Tito: next time just skip right to Smitty. It wouldn’t shock me one bit if both Langwell and Hill are not with this team by the weekend.
With setup man David Robertson and closer Mariano Rivera seemingly unavailable, Yankees manager sent Sabathia out for the last two innings. With two outs in the eighth and a man on first, Mark Reynolds sent a liner to the gap in right-center, but it was run down by Ichiro. CC entered the ninth at 102 pitches. He retired the Indians in order for his sixth win of the season.
I am not one for moral victories, but at least the Indians showed fight in this one.
“We had to dig out of a hole,” Francona said. “[Kluber] gave us a chance. That says a lot for him and his competitiveness. That’s just a pretty big hole to dig out of with CC pitching.”
Their comeback came up just short and the Wahoos lost their 12th in their last 16 games.
“After we started that game in Cleveland against Tampa after midnight on Friday, it’s all kind of gone downhill from there,” said Nick Swisher. “We’re a little tired. I think the off-day is going to be crucial for us.
“We’ve played 20 games in a row, all sorts of hours, night games, day games … but this is what we’re paid to do and we need to find a way to go out and get it done.”
They will now receive a much needed day off before a three-game set in Detroit with the Tigers.