We have been waiting for the offense to wake up and they finally did. The hot and cold streaks are no doubt frustrating. It is games like this one where the Wahoos scored 10 runs on 13 hits, where you scratch your head at how they can be so anemic at times. A day after a second straight blunder-filled one run loss, the angry Indians took their frustrations out on Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders.
From the jump, the caught Saunders off guard. Leadoff man Michael Bourn put down a perfect bunt single. Nick Swisher, who seems to have taken a liking to the two spot, worked a walk. Jason Kipnis decided to bunt on his own, looking for a base hit. Instead it turned into a sacrifice. New cleanup man Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to the wall in center, driving in Bourn and Swisher, starting a huge day for the offense. Carlos Santana kept the line moving with a ground rule double, scoring Cabrera. The inning ended with, surprise, a Mark Reynolds K, but the Mariners were put on notice. The Indians were not messing around in this one.
They would add a fourth run on a second Santana RBI double in the third.
At the end of the fourth, the Tribe led 4-1, but probably should have doubled that lead. As we have seen so many times since the break, several other opportunities went by the wayside. Like in the second Yan Gomes led off with a double. After a Drew Stubbs strike out, Michael Bourn walked, but the inning ended on a Swisher double play ball. In the fourth, Gomes and Stubbs started the frame with back to back singles. Swisher’s one out single loaded the bases, but Kipnis and Cabrera couldn’t bring home the runners.
None of the blown chances would matter, because Scott Kazmir was flat out dominating like Kramer in the kids karate class. For all of the misses GM Chris Antonetti has had with the minor league contract last chance guys, he has to be credited with taking a shot with Kazmir. Like he has done in his past six starts, the lefty has not just pitched well, he has looked like a borderline ace. Wednesday may have been the finest start of them all.
For eight innings, the Mariners had zero answer for Kazmir, coming up with just one hit – a fifth inning single by Justin Smoak. The one run that came across was thanks to yet another horrific Tribe error, one of two on the day. Cabrera threw away an easy inning ending force play to second in the second inning. Other than that, Seattle couldn’t touch Kazmir. He departed after eight innings. His final line – eight innings, one hit, zero earned runs, seven strikeouts, and two walks on 103 pitches.
“Everything is feeling good out there,” he said. “I’m getting ahead in the count. I’m able to throw my secondary pitch for strikes and bury them when I need to for strikeouts.”
The offense gave Kaz more than enough cushion, piling on in the fifth inning with two out and nobody on. Reynolds kept the inning alive with a sharp single. After Gomes walked – his third time reaching base in three plate appearances – acting skipper Robbie Thompson emerged from the dugout and called for right-hander Hector Noesi. He immediately walked Stubbs to load the bases, bringing Bourn to the plate. The Tribe’s center fielder worked a full count before depositing a Noesi pitch over the center field fence for his first career grand slam, busting the game wide open.
Said Bourn: “I saw a good pitch out of his (Noesi’s) hand and just put the barrel on the ball. I wasn’t really trying to do too much, but I guess that’s when things happen.”
They would add two more runs in support of Kazmir, highlighted by Cabrera’s moon shot solo blast in the sixth.
“That was much-needed and a good day,” Francona said. “It’s just nice to bounce back, because we had a couple tough ones. It was good to see our guys see some results.”
It has been a tough start to the “second half” but the starting pitching continues to keep the Indians in every single game. The craziest stat (h/t to @MartinRickman) is the fact that the Indians have outscored their opponents 25-14 since the break, yet have lost four of six. Meanwhile the Gomes/Kazmir battery continues to be the winning combination. In Kazmir’s last seven starts – all caught by The Yanimal – he is 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP.
“We have good communication,” said Gomes. “We’re in a relationship right now where we can yell at each other (in good fun). We just seem to be able to know what each other is thinking.”
Gomes caught back to back games in this series and came through with four hits, including a two-run homer. With Reynolds continuing to look like a black hole in the lineup, expect to see more of Gomes catching with Santana either at DH or at first.
“We have a pretty good catcher right now (Santana), but Gomes is going to be an everyday catcher,” said Francona. “If we have a problem where we have two starting catchers, good for us, because catching is hard to find.”
The Tribe will now get an off day to fly back across the country and await the AL West powerhouse Texas Rangers this weekend at Progressive Field. The good news is that they miss the newly acquired Matt Garza, who pitched against the Yankees Wednesday night. Things will get started Friday with the Indians sending Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.69 ERA) out to face Texas phenom Martin Perez (3-3, 3.40 ERA)