Every offseason, the Indians brass gets together and tries to piece together a bench that will be able to spell the starters with minimal dropoff. The right combination has seemed to elude Chris Antonetti since he took over as GM in 2011. Last year, the group was constantly in flux with the likes of Aaron Cunningham, Vinny Rottino, Lou Marson, Jose Lopez… Doesn’t that seem like another lifetime ago at this point?
Two nights ago, it was grizzled vet Jason Giambi who supplied the pinch hit heroics with his walk-off homer. Last night, two more reserves – Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes – came through in the late innings, providing the heavy lifting in the Tribe’s 7-4 comeback win over the Chicago White Sox. Along the way, Manager Terry Francona pulled every correct string he could. Afterwards, a trip to Horseshoe Casino should have been in the cards with the magic he pulled.
It was another strange game as the Indians trailed 4-3 heading into the eighth inning. The Sox bullpen has been decimated with the trades of their top set up men Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton. Getting to closer Addison Reed has been an adventure. Last night turned out to be no different.
Lefty Donnie Veal came on to relieve rookie Andre Rienzo, making his Major League debut. Veal retired Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, with an Asdrubal Cabrera single sandwiched in-between. Carlos Santana kept the inning going with a two-out single, moving Cabrera to third. Giambi was due up, but Francona went to his bench, calling for the right-handed Ryan Raburn. Sox manager Robin Ventura countered by bringing in right Matt Lindstrom. Francona also replaced Santana with the speedy Drew Stubbs.
Knowing they wouldn’t throw down on a steal attempt with the tying run on third, Stubbs took off for second as soon as he could, setting the stage for the biggest hit of the night.
Raburn has been borderline amazing with runners in scoring position and two outs. On a 1-1 pitch, Raburn lined a single right back up the middle scoring both Cabrera and Stubbs and putting the Tribe on top 5-4. Ryan is now hitting .462 in these spots with 19 RBIs in 26 ABs.
“I was just trying to stay prepared for whenever the chance might be, and it came in that situation,” Raburn said. “I was just glad I was able to come through.”
Oh, but the offense wasn’t done. They smelled blood in the water and went for the kill. Lonnie Chisenhall kept the inning going with a single of his own, bringing Yan Gomes to the plate. The Yanimal smoked a two-run double to the gap in right center, bringing the Progressive Field crowd to a fever pitch. Gomes for one will be sad to see the month of July go. He is hitting .313/.371/.500 and is in the midst of a four-game stretch where he has nine hits in 15 at-bats.
Have I ever mentioned what an absolute STEAL the Gomes/Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers trade was? In one fell swoop, Antonetti added two of his core four bench performers, both of which a key parts to this team’s run towards the playoffs. And of course you can’t discount what Raburn has done on the field and what Giambi adds in the clubhouse.
“I thought tonight was a good team win. We showed our versatility,” said Francona, who credited general manager Chris Antonetti for assembling his club. “Our roster really works well. The guys complement each other so well.”
Closer Chris Perez nailed down that W with his ninth straight save. CP still has allowed just one earned run in 16 innings since coming off the Disabled List.
It didn’t look like the Indians night early as the White Sox got on Scott Kazmir for three runs in the first two innings. They knocked the Tribe lefty around pretty good, but he was able to minimize the damage. He went just five innings, allowing four runs on nine hits. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out three.
“I don’t think he felt real good about his stuff tonight,” Francona said. “It was just one of those nights where he came out and he was having a little bit of trouble getting loose. But he kind of, to his credit, he hung in there.”
Kudos has to go to Matt Albers who worked two and two-thirds of scoreless relief. Bryan Shaw got the final out in the eighth and got the win thanks to the Tribe’s five run bottom half. The win could have gone to Rich Hill, who had Adam Dunn K’d seemingly twice, but home plate umpire Bob Davidson saw things differently. Davidson also blew a call in the second inning as the White Sox Gordon Beckham appeared to slide right into Gomes’s glove as he approached home plate, but Davidson was out of position and called Beckham safe.
The Tribe really had early trouble with the rookie Rienzo. He was the first Brazilian-born pitcher to ever appear in a Major League game. Ironically, he was able to face his Brazilian battery-mate, Gomes, in his debut. It was a historic moment for their home country. Gomes won the first round, singling in the third inning and walking with the bases loaded in a three-run fifth.
The win was the Tribe’s sixth straight as they now are a season high 10 games over .500 at 58-48. There are two more games left in this series and once again the Indians catch a break with the White Sox trading starter Jake Peavy to Boston last night. Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.74 ERA) will take the ball for Francona. It is unknown at this time who will go for the Sox.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)