While you were sleeping last night, your Cleveland Indians were getting back to work. The deflating series in Oakland was now behind them and the Tribe had three more games to go on this 10-game road trip. We are in the stretch drive and time is no longer on the Indians side. As Jason Kipnis said Sunday: “”It’s go time. You gotta win. There’s no time to sit around and feel sorry about losing two out of three. We’ve got three against the Angels and those are big games.”
The offense is going to have to start carrying a bigger load if Terry Francona’s crew is going to stay in the chase for the two Wild Card spots. There is no time like the present but facing Jered Weaver, a guy who has had the Tribe’s number during his career, was not going to be an easy task. After just one hit in the first three innings, the bats finally put together a big inning, producing a crooked number. Kipnis was of course right in the middle of it.
The team’s clear offensive MVP walked and stole second to start the frame. He would score on Carlos Santana’s shot single to right field, giving the Tribe a 1-0 lead. After a Michael Brantley pop up, Asdrubal Cabrera continued his string of improved at-bats with a double to right. Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly brought home Santana, setting the stage for Lonnie Chisenhall.
Chiz has been an enigma of sorts this season. This was supposed to be the year that he came up and established himself as the third baseman of both the present and the future. He has been given every chance to become the guy, but struggled out of the gate. He was sent to AAA Columbus to work out his confidence and raked to the tune of .390/.456/.676. It was more proof that he had graduated from AAA. It was time for him to prove himself on the Major League stage. Since his return, it has been more of the same from Lonnie. You see the beautiful swing and think it is definitely in him to be the man. The former First Round pick just hasn’t been consistent enough and has become something of a black hole at the bottom of the lineup over the last month. But last night, he came up with the biggest knock of them all.
With two out and Cabrera on third, Chisenhall got a hold of a Weaver hanger and took it over the wall in right to extend the Indians lead to 4-0. Lonnie entered the game in a 3-35 slump.
“That was a good swing,” Francona said. “That was exciting to see.”
Yan Gomes and Michael Bourn kept things going with back to back singles and the ninth man to bat in the inning, Nick Swisher, lined a rocket shot right at Mark Trumbo at first base for the third out. The offense made Weaver work in that big frame, making him throw 37 pitches.
“I know Weaver’s velocity is down after that injury, but that doesn’t mean he has forgotten how to pitch,” said Francona. “We had one really good inning, but we kept after him. We made him work really hard.”
The four-run fourth was more than enough for the Tribe’s starter Zach McAllister, who looks like he has completely rounded himself back into mid-season form. After missing six weeks with the finger issue, The Zach Attack has now put together back to back quality starts that mirrored each other. A week ago in Minnesota, he threw six innings of four hit, one run ball, striking out seven. Last night in Anaheim, McAllister went six and a third, again allowing just one earned, this time on five hits with five strikeouts.
As always, Zach led with his fastball and the Angels weren’t able to get to him, other than the one fourth inning run.
McAllister gave way to Bryan Shaw after a one out seventh inning walk to Hank Conger. Shaw calmly retired both Angels he faced to close the book on Z Mac.
“I felt like I was able to make some pitches when I needed to,” McAllister said. “Early in the game, I felt really good. I just felt like, after that, I didn’t have the command of the fastball the way I would’ve liked.”
The Tribe added a ninth inning insurance run on a solo homer from Swisher, who all of a sudden is starting to regain his power stroke. It was his third homer in his last 35 at-bats. He had hit is previous three in 127 ABs (h/t to Jordan Bastian of Indians.com for that stat). If Swisher (five for his last 14 with 2 HR) and Cabrera (five for his last 11) can finally catch fire it would be a huge boom for the streaky offense. As I said before, there is no time like the present.
“Hopefully, this is something that snowballs into something great for us,” said Swisher. “We’re coming toward the end of the season. We’ve got some guys starting to get hot right now. This thing ain’t over. There’s no doubt about that.”
Tonight they go for two in a row in Anaheim with rookie Danny Salazar taking the mound. He and Zach McAllister flipped spots to give Salazar a little extra rest as the organization continues to monitor him closely. The course has seemed to again reverse on Salazar as the Tribe is clearly thinking long term with him for good reason. He may still end up in the bullpen late in the season.
“Some parts will depend on how he pitches,” said Francona. “Some parts depend when Corey Kluber gets back. Things can change so fast.”
The Angels will counter with lefty C.J. Wilson.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)