I was all set to have this one written. My main topics were going to be how the Indians defense, easily the worst in baseball, just continues to let the team down and cost them runs the offense usually cannot get back. I was also going to go in on the bats who once again turned a below average starter into Cy Freaking Young. Then came the seventh inning, or should I say the start of the game for the Tribe.
The New York Yankees and their legion of
annoying bandwagon fans came out one more time to salute shortstop Derek Jeter in Cleveland for the last time. The Tribe cheesed it up by having former teammates Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher present Jeter with a pinstripe guitar with “The Captain, 2″ on it. Then these folks got the pleasure of watching Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall kick the ball around on their way to a 3-0 lead. Noted superstar David Phelps completely stymied the Indians offense, holding them scoreless on five hits through the first six innings. But things started to change thanks to two unlikely sources.
We’ve seen many players come and go this season with the myriad of injuries the Indians have seemed to suffer. The latest roster changes brought in outfielder Chris Dickerson in a minor trade with Pittsburgh. He was toiling for their AAA club with an out in his contract to become a free agent by the All Star break. Roberto Perez was off to a great start in Columbus as the every day catcher. George Kottaras had been DFA’d over the weekend and the Indians clear inclination to keep Carlos Santana away from the catching position spawned the need for Perez with the big club. Both were in the lineup Thursday night.
Dickerson was the catalyst of the incredible Tribe comeback. He opened the seventh with a single to left off of Phelps. Perez, no slouch himself on this night, followed with a single of his own, which sent Phelps to the showers as Yankees manager Joe Girardi called for lefty Matt Thornton. Kipnis sent a liner off of Thornton’s glove that landed just short of second base. Everyone was safe, loading the bases with nobody out. All of a sudden, the Tribe was right back in the game. Next was Asdrubal Cabrera.
To say Cabbie has been clutch in these situations this seasons is the equivalent of calling Chris Perez an automatic save machine last September. But on this night, he delivered one of the biggest hits of the season as he roped a line shot down into the right field corner for a game-tying, bases-clearing triple. The 28,000 plus were at a fever pitch and Cabrera showed the emotion he rarely lets out as he reached third base coach Mike Sarbaugh.
There was still nobody out and the lead run was now on third. Of course, Michael Brantley came through with a sac fly to bring in Cabrera and give the Indians a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They were far from done.
After Scott Atchison came through with a scoreless, double-play-aided top of the eighth, the Wahoo Express went back to work against right-hander Jim Miller. With one out, that dynamic duo of Dickerson and Perez kick started another huge inning. Dickerson’s double was his third hit of the game and the seventh in 15 at-bats since coming over from the Buccos AAA affiliate in Indy. Perez, who has already recorded his first major league hit an inning prior, smoked a Miller pitch deep to left. The ball hit off the top of the wall and was originally ruled a double. Terry Francona smartly came out to call for a review and replays showed the ball did indeed hit the railing above yellow line and was overturned, giving Perez his first Major League home run.
Talk about a perfect debut for the kid. The strange part is he only brought two bats with him and broke them both before his AB in the eighth. It was Cabrera’s stick that did it for him.
“All his bats were broken,” said Francona. “He as so nervous and jumpy and excited to get somebody else’s bat. Then he started to put the donut on the bat and the umpires were trying to keep the game going. Guys were all over him. He was a little flustered and then he hits the next pitch out of the ballpark.”
Perez’s bomb broke the game open, but the Tribe would get three more in the five run eighth. Kipnis singled and stole second – his fourth steal in the last three games – and was driven home by another Dr. Smooth RBI single. Brantley could trot his way around the from first as cleanup hitter Carlos Santana tattooed a Miller pitch to the seats in right field for his 14th homer of the year.
The 9-3 comeback win was truly a tale of two games. While the offensive awakening will get the credit, it was the stellar work of the bullpen that once again kept the Tribe in the game. Vinnie Pestano, Kyle Crockett, Carlos Carrasco (winning pitcher), Atchison, and Nick Hagadone completely shut down Yankees after T.J. House left with two outs in the fifth.
“Our bullpen came in and kept the score where it was so when we got a hit it was meaningful,” said Francona. “Cabbie’s hit was huge, but what the guys did before Cabbie made it count.”
It is also a wonderful thing when a stagnant offense gets some fresh blood and they help right away. That is exactly what Dickerson and Perez did last night.
“Coming in and contributing is a huge deal,” Dickerson said. “I’m just fortunate. I’ve been in this position before. I know just to kind of take it easy and not try to do too much in making a first impression with a new team. So, I’ve kind of just sat back, relaxed, and I’m trying to make hard contact.”
As for Perez, he couldn’t be happier to be in Cleveland and should be Yan Gomes’s backup for years to come.
“I still can’t believe it, man,” Perez said. “It was awesome to be out there with these guys. That was a great moment.”
The Indians are still a game under .500 with three to play before the All Star break. They will welcome in the Chicago White Sox tonight and get things started with their ace Corey Kluber (8-6, 2.86 ERA). The Sox counter with Hector Noesi (3-6, 4.90 ERA).