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)