Indians 5, Dodgers 4: Tribe doesn’t “fear the beard,” takes series in L.A.

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No matter how much I watch this Indians team, I will never be able to figure them out.

I was in the building Monday night when the Wahoos were one-hit by Dan Haren. That was a night after Seattle’s Felix Hernandez one-hit gem. The offense went from ice cold to smokin’ hot last night as they exploded for 10 runs while beating up LA’s Josh Beckett. This outburst came after a 3-66 team skid! So Wednesday afternoon in the rubber match with the Dodgers, you had to think that had probably had blown their wad the night before. We’ve seen this too many times this season. The offense shakes out of their doldrums for a 10 or 12 spot, and then revert back to normal. It sure looked like we were headed in that direction against LA lefty Hyun-Jin Riu.

The only two runs the bats could muster came in the fourth when Ryan Raburn blasted his second homer of the season, this of the two-run variety. He exited the game after seven innings, scattering seven hits while striking out eight. Ryu didn’t walk a single Indian. The Dodgers nursed a 3-2 lead as Ryu had outdueled Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer. The former UCLA star fought his way through five and two thirds, and only had one bad inning; the fifth.

With two out and the pitcher Ryu at the plate, it seemed a foregone conclusion that we would move to the sixth with a Tribe 2-0 lead. Ryu, who had already singled in his first at-bat, doubled home a run to get LA on the board. It was the second time in the series that a Dodgers starter had two hits in a game. The stone-faced Bauer then lost some command, walking both Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis to load the bases. Andre Ethier then gave the Dodgers the lead with a single up the middle.

“After Ryu’s double I just missed with some pitches,” said Bauer. “I felt a little out of synch that whole inning.”

It stayed 3-2 until the eighth.

Everyone in baseball knows that the Indians have a hard time hitting left-handed pitching. It is no exactly a secret. Seemingly every manager in the game uses multiple lefty relievers each time their starter gets lifted in a close game. Everyone except for Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly that is. Donnie Baseball has two eighth inning guys — right-hander Brian Wilson and southpaw J.P. Howell. Wilson has been great in June, posting an 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings of work.  However, his April and May were brutal. Howell has been terrific all year (1.55 ERA/1.07 WHIP/.149 vs lefties/.189 vs righties). So the obvious move with the Indians best hitter, Michael Brantley, leading off the inning, is to go to Howell. Mattingly went with Wilson, and it cost him. Big time.

The Bearded One walked Dr. Smooth and watched him steal second. Then he walked Carlos Santana to put the Tribe in business. Wilson did come back to strike out Yan Gomes, but it would be the only out he would record. Raburn’s spot was next, so Terry Francona called for a pinch hitter, David Murphy. Again, Mattingly could have gone to Howell right there. He was ready. Except he didn’t. Murphy slapped a single to left which tied the game at three. Matt Kemp came up firing to third, but nobody was looking and the ball got away, allowing both Santana and Murphy to move up into scoring position. First base was open and Wilson intentionally walked Lonnie Chisenhall to set up the double play and take the right on right matchup with Mike Aviles. Handsome Mike ruined those plans with a perfectly placed single into right-center which scored two.

“Anytime you can get a hit and some RBIs, it’s always great,” Aviles said. “I was just looking for pitch up. I know he throws a bunch of cutters and he throws hard. He’s (Wilson) been a good pitcher for a long time.”

The lazy Dodger defense on Kemp’s throw turned out to be a huge play. Scott Atchison came on to pitch the eighth after Bryan Shaw had been lifted for a pinch hitter. Scott Van Slyke got him for a solo homer to make it a 5-4 game. Francona didn’t want to take any chances after seeing a homer and two loud outs in the eighth, so he turned to Cody Allen for a four out save.

Things got a little dicey in the ninth. With two out, Allen walked pinch hitter Hanley Ramirez and gave up a bloop double to Ethier. It was up to Kemp to be the Dodger hero. Cody had thrown 33 pitches but was able to get Kemp to fly out to deep center to end the ballgame, giving the Indians a series win over one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Just like they drew it up, right? The third and final west coast road trip saw the Indians go 4-4 against Arizona, Seattle and the Dodgers.

“We went 4-4, but it seems like we were gone a month,” Francona said. “It’s been a long trip, and this was a good way to end it. We won a tough game. That was a good one to win.”

They get a welcomed day off before flying home for a big series with the Kansas City Royals, a team they are currently looking up at in the AL Central.

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

  • boomhauertjs

    I’ll take .500 on a road trip. Now time to make some hay at home.

  • Natedawg86

    Huge game. Good to see a win. Would have been nice to beat up Perez a little, but oh well. Tough road trip facing two potential playoff teams. Would have been nice to take both from AZ, but I guess we will take it.

  • Natedawg86

    Bauer looks very tense and a little scared out there, he is going to be very good when he gets more confidence IMO

  • nj0

    This is what sucks about the extra wild card. We’re 5.5 out of WC#2 with three teams ahead of us. Yes, it’s still early and anything can happen… That said, I see us hovering around .500, always 5-7 games out, and convincing ourselves that we’ve got a chance if we get hot. I just hope we don’t do something stupid and trade away assets to attempt that run. I seriously wonder what we could get back if we just decided to be sellers a little bit before everyone else realizes that they’re not really in the race.

  • Steve

    They only added Rzep last year, so I highly doubt they’ll trade away anyone worthwhile this year.

    Possible sells are pretty much Masterson and Cabrera. You might get someone decent back, but I wouldn’t hold out hope that either can bring back anyone too exciting.

  • pigeonholepundit

    anyone know how far Lonnie is from being eligible for being on the hitting board stats?

    227 AB in 69 Games is 3.2xxxx AB/Game. Isnt the qualifier 3.1?

  • woofersus

    One other possibility, although it wouldn’t be a big move at all is to trade Aviles and bring up Ramirez as the utility guy. Since Chisenhall’s career has new life and Santana can play 3rd once in a while, it wouldn’t really sacrifice any flexibility.

    Anybody else we’d really like to trade probably isn’t playing well enough to justify their salary.

  • nj0

    I guess it’s more about lost opportunity. With so many buyers, I would be open to actively shopping more players, basically anyone, just to see what kind of offers are out there.

  • nj0

    I’m always amazed that more ink is being spilled on Ramirez. He’s 21, handling AAA without any issues, and playing all over the diamond.

  • Steve

    I’m wondering if there are as many buyers as we think. Teams are really starting to value pre-arb and arb talent highly.

    Sure teams would like to add a piece, but a lot less likely when it’s at the expense of a top prospect or someone who can help next season.

  • nj0

    Yeah, Jonah Keri wrote an article over at Grantland and suggested that it’ll probably start becoming more common for teams to start trading very young, low A guys rather than AA/AAA/almost MLB ready talent. Basically, it’ll be a lot more roll-of-the-dice, hope-this-guy develops rather than we know this guy can at least play in the Bigs.

    I just don’t think we’re good enough to make the playoffs this year so why pretend. But I thought that last year too.

  • nj0

    Well, over at Fangraphs the last guy on their qualified list has 261 ABs. Lonnie is at 256. So five or less.

  • Steve

    3.1 per your teams total games played, not individual games played. So 261 (84 games) at the moment.

  • Laura

    He would need 8 PAs (well, technically 7.5) on Friday to be eligible. I doubt that will happen.

    Altuve(.343) and Beltre(.335) are hot on his tail right now. I’m just hoping he can hold them off long enough that he’s still in the lead when he does reach eligibility!

  • Laura

    Ignoring anything about the actual pitches Bauer threw, he just looked so flustered and lost after giving up that RBI double to Ryu. It was hard to watch.