See, this is why Terry Francona is the manager and I just sit here and write about the Indians.
For weeks I have watched Asdrubal Cabrera flounder at the plate, looking seemingly worse and worse each day. Then the next day, his name is right there in the lineup card. Riding in the middle of a 4-21 slump while playing sloppy defense, I begged and pleaded for Asdrubal to get a day off. And there he was again, right in the six hole on Thursday afternoon.
So naturally with yours truly in attendance, Cabrera has one less hit (four) then the entire Twins lineup (five) while driving in three runs in the 9-4 Indians win. It was a badly needed awakening from a guy who the Indians desperately need to get going. Both Cabrera and Carlos Santana have been black holes of sorts in the middle of the Indians order. They can’t contend without them.
But Cabrera was far from the only member of the Tribe who came strong with their bat. They scored runs in six of the eight innings and led right from the jump. With two outs in the first, Michael Brantley doubled to right. Santana worked starter Kevin Correia for a walk, which brought David Murphy to the plate. The veteran outfielder delivered a double to right-center scoring Brantley. Santana came around as well but was thrown out at the plate for the third out. It was nothing more than a stay of execution for Correia, who is essentially what you’d be looking at if the Indians had chosen to keep Aaron Harang around.
Cabrera led off the second with a solo blast, his second of the season. They would stretch that lead in the fifth, chasing Correia. Nick Swisher started the fun with one of his three walks on the day. Dr. Smooth then did his thing, crushing his sixth homer. He had 10 all of 2013. Brantley now leads the all eligible Indians in batting average (.289), home runs (six), RBIs (29), runs (nine), and OPS (.840). Is there any doubt who the best player on the team is right now?
A 4-0 lead should have been plenty with Justin Masterson on the mound. He cruised into the sixth but once again bad defense hurt him. Masterson himself booted a leadoff grounder from Danny Santana, the team’s 36th error in 35 games. He then walked Brian Dozier and wild pitched both into scoring position. Justin got himself into a two on two out situation and got the ground ball he needed, but it turned out to be a dribbler to short off the bat of Chris Collabello. Cabrera attempted to barehand the ball and it trickled under his hand. Asdrubal didn’t realize that Dozier was running hard all the way and he ended up scoring from second. Just your everyday, average two-run infield single that barely got past the mound.
Despite giving up just four hits to that point, the trying run was now up for the Twins. Masterson walked Jason Kubel, but got out of the jam by getting Kurt Suzuki to foul out. The Wahoo offense did get one run back when Michael Brantley grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and one out in the home half.
The sixth inning really seemed to take a lot out of Masterson as he walked Josmil Pinto to start the seventh and then was touched up for a single by Chris Herrmann. Not exactly Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer in their primes. Danny Santana’s double inched the Twins closer at 5-3. Masterson departed after inducing a Dozier groundout.
The Tribe’s top starter wound up giving up four runs (only two earned) on four hits. He walked four and struck out seven. Masterson has been more sharp, but he was very effective and kept the great run of starts going. During the 5-2 homestand (which really should have been 7-0), Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin combined for a 1.94 ERA (10 earned runs in 46.1 innings pitched) with an 0.99 WHIP.
That is pretty heady stuff right there.
Speaking of which, the offensive explosion continued in the latter innings. After Scott Atchison kept the Twins at bay, manager Ron Gardenhire turned to reliever Anthony Swarzak who the Indians have owned in the past. It only took three hitters for the Tribe to stretch that lead back out. Murphy doubled and came home on a Cabrera double. Ryan Raburn then ended an 1-19 skid with an RBI single and just like that it was 7-4. Raburn would come around to score on Michael Bourn’s sac fly against lefty Brian Duensing.
They would add a ninth and final run on Cabrera’s second double and fourth hit of the game. He advanced to third on the throw home. It was up to the official scorer to make a to either give or prevent an Asdrubal cycle, but veteran writer Sheldon Ocker ruled it a double.
Carlos Carrasco pitched the ninth to finish out the 9-4 win and a 5-2 homestand. It is also the first time the Indians have won three in a row all season. The 15-hit attack was led by Cabrera’s four, but Brantley, Murphy, and Mike Aviles all had three as well. It was a welcome sight for an offense which is 14th out of 15 in batting average and runs, and 11th in on-base percentage and OPS.
Up next is a trip to Tampa for a three-game set with the Rays. It is Corey Kluber’s (2-3, 3.60 ERA) turn to keep this run of quality starts going. He will face off with Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.83 ERA).