So let me get this straight. The Indians can get completely shut down by rookie Shane Greene one night, then beat down arguably the best pitcher in the American League this season in Masahiro Tanaka the next? Sounds about right. These, ladies and gentlemen, are your 2014 Cleveland Indians in a nutshell.
I mean seriously, how does this happen? Monday night, Greene took a no hitter into the fifth inning and left after six with a 5-2 lead en route to his first Major League win. Yet last night, All-Star Tanaka departed after the Tribe knocked him around for five runs on 10 hits in six plus innings. This is why anyone who gambles on baseball is crazy.
Tanaka beating the Tribe looked like a sure thing early on as the Yanks got on Trevor Bauer in the first. Lead-off man Brett Gardner walked and after a Derek Jeter fly out to the warning track, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a rocket single. Mark Teixeira followed with a broken bat blooper to shallow left. Chris Dickerson charged hard and made a diving attempt, but the ball ricocheted off his glove away from him, allowing Gardner to score. Brian McCann was next, and Bauer came back to strike him out however, the Tribe defense interjected themselves yet again. Ellsbury and Teixeira attempted a double on strike three, but Yan Gomes’s throw to second from his knees was air-mailed, giving Tanaka and the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Our boys in Red, White, and Blue scratched and clawed back into it all night long. They managed to get to Tanaka in the home half of the first. On his own bobblehead night, Jason Kipnis, with his new walk-up song in tow, singled and stole second. Michael Brantley would bring him home with the first of his three extra base hits on the night when he doubled to right.
“It’s almost like a sigh of relief when he gets to the plate,” Bauer said. “It’s like, ‘OK, Brantley’s at the plate, we’re in a good spot.'”
The Yankees got the run back in the second after a single, a walk, a bunt, and an RBI groundout. Yes, I say bunting in the second inning is for losers, and I was proven right. Manager Joe Girardi decided to give up an out and eschew the big inning. He would live to regret that decision. The Gardner RBI groundout in the second would be the last run New York would score. That’s because Bauer was about to turn things up a notch.
The 23-year old California kid is so intense, so focused on the mound that he is able to overcome obstacles that come his way. The newly DL’d Justin Masterson could learn a few things about their craft from the kid. On and off the mound, Bauer is all business. If you have ever been around the happy go lucky Masterson, it just seems as though baseball is secondary in his world. Right or wrong, that’s just how he is. Give me a guy like Bauer in my foxhole all day long.
Over the next five innings, Bauer just kept putting up zeroes. He pitched around two more horrific errors on routine groundballs – one between the legs of first baseman Nick Swisher, the other seemeingly went through the glove of third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. He just remained calm and came up with the big outs when he needed them. McCann’s third inning single was the last hit he gave up. Trevor kept getting stronger as the game went longer, something he has done a lot since becoming a regular member of the rotation. The 1-2-3 seventh inning featured back to back strikeouts to end the inning and his night.
“Bauer’s best inning was the seventh,” said Francona. “You see that with a lot of good pitchers. The longer they go, the stronger they get.”
Trevor’s seven inning, three-run, four-hit, six K performance was not wasted thanks to some explosive Tribe bats. Once Twitter legend @sportsyelling joined me in the lower deck, things turned around for everyone. Brantley’s second RBI double of the game with two out in the fifth inched the Indians closer at 3-2. Then came the sixth.
Chisenhall started the inning with a single, which brought Swisher to the plate. It had not been a good night to that point for The Bro. He was 0-2 with a strikeout and that brutal error. But facing his old team, Swish got his revenge. Tanaka left one right in Nick’s wheelhouse and he deposited it into the seats in center for a monster two-run bomb that put the Tribe on top 4-3.
“We need him (Swisher) for us to get where we want to go. His home run, obviously, came at an important time in the game. It changed the game,” said manager Terry Francona.
But they weren’t done.
Dr. Smooth added a huge insurance in the seventh which chased Tanaka. The red-hot Tribe All-Star smoked a solo blast, his team-leading 14th of the year, to right-center. Brantley now has two-plus hits in each of his last five games. He couldn’t be any hotter.
“The home run was a mistake,” said Brantley. “I think it was a fastball up. It was a great team effort tonight. We wanted to make him get the ball up in the strike zone. We had a lot of quality at-bats.”
Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen did their usual stellar work over the last two innings, nailing down the win for Bauer. The up and down Tribe once again sits one game under .500 with five games remaining before the All-Star break. But all anyone could talk about what Dr. Smooth.
“Dr. Smooth is doing it, man,” Swisher beamed. “He’s just a pro hitter. That’s all there is to it. … He’s coming into his own. It’s the best sign we’ve had so far this year for the Indians.”
Tonight’s matchup with the Yankees features a pair of right-handers with the Tribe’s Josh Tomlin (5-6, 4.11 ERA) and the Yankees newly acquired arm Brandon McCarthy (3-10, 5.01 ERA)