$1 hot dogs. Michael Bourn Bobbleheads. Johnny Freaking Manziel (and Justin Gilbert too!). Two hour and 28 minute rain delay. Bunting. Strikeouts. Leads. Preening Papi. Comebacks. Replays. Carlos Freaking Carrasco. More bunting. Edward Freaking Mujica. Walk off homer at 2:02 AM.
What did I miss? The details, my friends….the details.
How about your Cleveland Indians, ladies and gentlemen? Left for dead by so many after being swept by the Oakland A’s to the tune of 30-7 two and a half weeks ago, the Tribe has managed to not just gain their mojo back, but a whopping seven games in the standings. After last night’s 7-4, 12-inning win to sweep the Boston Red Sox, the Indians have raced back to within three and a half games of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, who are suddenly reeling, losing four straight and seven of 10.
“That was a long day for us,” said walk off hero Asdrubal Cabrera. “It was really good to win a game like this.”
Nobody knew if this game would ever start, then nobody had knew if this game would ever finish. The rain delayed not just the start of the game, but the appearance of the Cleveland Browns rookie class, most notably Manziel and Gilbert. Make no mistake, it was Johnny Football that many fans were there to see. I mean, when was the last time the Indians had 20,000 plus on a Wednesday night? Many fans were decked out in Browns/Manziel gear and were disappointed when the pre-game festivities were cancelled due to the rain.
Manziel made an appearance on the field, flashed the money sign, the fans screamed for more, and then the REAL action began. Those who stuck around during the almost two and a half hour delay (a lot more than I expected) were treated to another Tribe gem.
You had to like the Indians chances for the sweep with their best pitcher Corey Kluber taking the bump. His counterpart, Brandon Workman, looked shaky right from the start. He was high and wide with his fastball early and the Indians took advantage. With one out, Asdrubal Cabrera singled and stole second. Of course he was driven in with the first of three singles from Michael Brantley. Kluber made that run stick into the sixth, despite not having his best stuff.
The arbiter of all things in baseball these days seems to be David Ortiz. Last week he charged at Rays starter David Price after he was plunked. He perceived what Price did to him as disrespectful. Many around baseball applauded Price for his post-game comments about Ortiz when he said “Nobody is bigger than the game of baseball and sometimes the way he acts out there, he kind of looks like he’s bigger than the game of baseball.”
So when Ortiz absolutely destroyed a Kluber fastball to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead in the sixth, then watched it for several seconds before starting his turtle-slow trot around the bases, it is just a tad on the hypocritical side. Big Papi’s fun would be short lived.
In the home half of the inning, the Tribe offense responded in a big way. Workman walked Cabrera and then was chased from the game after another Brantley single. On came lefty Chris Capuano with three left-handed hitting Indians due up. Jason Kipnis was the first and he tied the game with an RBI single right back up the middle. With runners one first and second and nobody out in a tie game, Manager Terry Francona called for my least favorite thing, a bunt.
Its the sixth inning, arguably your hottest hitter in Lonnie Chisenhall, a guy with a .937 OPS, should not be bunting with the chance to break the game open. But he did, and it worked out for Francona as Lonnie’s perfectly place bunt was beaten out for a hit. Good Guy David Murphy stepped to the plate and punched a single just over the reach of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, scoring two.
A bigger inning could have and should have been had as the Tribe still had runners at the corners with nobody out, but that is where things ended. Right-hander Burke Badenhop came in and did a terrific job for the Sox. Yan Gomes hit a grounder right at third which caught Chisenhall off the bag in no man’s land. He was tagged out in a run down. Jason Giambi’s double play ball let the air out of the balloon. You had a feeling this would come back and haunt the Tribe and it did.
Kluber came back out for the seventh with a two-run lead and immediately got himself into trouble with the bottom of the Sox order. He walked the light-hitting Stephen Drew and then gave up a single to the ice cold Daniel Nava. Jackie Bradley Jr. bunted both into scoring position, which worked out perfectly when Brock Holt’s single brought in both Drew and Nava to tie things back up, this time at four. That was all for Kluber, who was replaced by former Red Sox righty Scott Atchison.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I had been,” Kluber said. “With the exception of the home run and then that walk [in the seventh], for the most part, it was just not being able to quite finish guys off.”
The 38-year old Atchison got two big outs, striking out Xander Boegaerts and getting Pedroia on a grounder.
We would stay tied for the next four innings as both teams received superb relief work. The Indians used Nick Hagadone, John Axford, Josh Outman, Bryan Shaw, and Carlos Carrasco during that span. Hagadone, Axford, and Carrasco came up big in big spots. Axford would K both men he faced in what had to be a confidence boosting appearance for him.
The offense couldn’t touch lefty Craig Breslow, but had their chances against both Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Giambi’s two out double in the ninth was all for naught when Tazawa got Mike Aviles on a lazy fly to center. Uehara opened the 11th with a walk of Kipnis, who was bunted over (have I mentioned I HATE bunting?) by Chisenhall. Kip never made it home as Murphy and Gomes failed to deliver the hit that was needed.
Carrasco’s two scoreless innings took us to the bottom of the 12th where Cabrera’s heroics took place. As the clock was about to strike two in the morning, ex-Indian Edward Mujica took the mound. He gave up back to back one-out singles to Aviles and Michael Bourn. Then it was Cabbie’s turn.
“I know Mujica,” Cabrera said. “I know what kind of pitcher he is and what he likes to throw. He threw what I was looking for, and I hit it pretty good.”
The three-run walk off blast into the Sox pen propelled the Indians to their sixth straight win, their ninth in a row at home, and moved them to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 11-11 on April 24th. The 21-11 home record is the best in the American League.
You know what the Indians record was after 60 games last season? The same as it is today, 30-30.
Said Kluber: “I think if you start worrying about your record in May, you’re kind of fighting an uphill battle. There’s so much of the season left that, maybe if you kind of stay the course and continue to play good, you’re capable of getting on a roll like we have this homestand, and things can turn out in your favor.”
After today’s day off, the Indians start a 10-game road trip that will take them to Texas, Kansas City, and Boston. Now would be the time they start improving on their woeful road record.