I will be honest: With the way the Indians offense has performed most of the year and with the up and down nature of the team as a whole, I thought the game was over when I turned the TV on. I took my dog for a quick walk after the Indians batted in the first. When I came back inside, the first thing I saw was Oswaldo Arcia’s three-run blast which had capped off a five-run, four-hit start for the Minnesota Twins. I thought to myself, “I could just save myself the time and start my recap now.” But that my friends, is why they play nine innings.
Three-plus hours later, the Tribe were celebrating an improbable 7-5 road win which they desperately needed. Our local nine is in the middle of a soft part of the schedule and if there was ever a time to rattle off a long winning streak, it is now.
Trevor Bauer put them behind the eight ball after those first five Twins all got hits and scored. It is not the first time that the 23-year old has struggled early. It seems to be his M.O.—start slowly, then find himself and dominate the rest of the way. Last night was no different. After the first five reached base to start the game, the Twins couldn’t touch him. Bauer retired the next 14 men he faced before walking Brian Dozier with two out in the fifth. Even though he was at just 87 pitches, manager Terry Francona lifted him. His starter was clearly not thrilled with the decision and walked off the mound with his usual “bitter Bauer” face, but it wasn’t for the wrong reasons. Trevor is a true competitor who wanted to continue and see this thing through.
“It’s nice to know you can turn the ball over to them and they’re going to throw up zeros,” Bauer said of the Tribe bullpen. “They’re going to keep you in the game and it’s not going to get out of hand. You almost get stronger when you turn it over to them. That’s a credit to everyone down there.”
Meanwhile, the offense kept chipping away at Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson. Yan Gomes got things started with a solo blast to left to get the Tribe on the board in the second. After another three hit night, the Yanimal is hitting .362 in his last 30 games, tallying 20 RBIs. In the fourth, Kipnis and Gomes, who now hit fifth and sixth with Michael Bourn back in the leadoff spot, opened with back to back singles. Lonnie Chisenhall’s grounder to the right side moved both runners into scoring position, which brought DH Zach Walters to the plate. The Zach Attack has shown some nice signs with the bat since coming over from Washington for Asdrubal Cabrera. Last night was another example as his single to left brought in both Kipnis and Gomes and inched the Tribe closer at 5-3.
Gibson came out for the sixth inning but was chased by a one out Gomes single. Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire is no dummy. He is more than aware that the Indians have trouble with lefties, so his first call was for Brian Duensing. Chisenhall greeted him with a single. Walters popped out for the big second out. With the left-handed hitting Chris Dickerson due up, Francona went to his bench and turned to Tyler Holt. The rookie is back with the Indians for the third time this year and arrived at the ballpark 15 minutes before first pitch. Ryan Raburn was placed on the DL earlier in the day with a wrist injury. This was a huge spot for the kid who at the time was taking swings in the batting cage in the bowels of Target Field.
“(Bench coach Brad Mills) slams through the door and says, ‘Hey, you’re up!'” Holt said. “I didn’t really have any time to think or get ready. So, I just threw on some gloves.”
All Tyler did was split the gap for a two-run, game-changing double to put the Tribe on top. They were his first two RBIs of his young career. Bourn added to the fun with a single that scored Holt. They chipped away and chipped away and now here the Indians were with a 7-5 lead and 12 outs to get. This is the kind of situation Francona loves.
The Tribe skipper knows that is getting late in the season. Every game means so much and when your team storms back from a five run deficit and has the lead, you cannot afford to blow it. So he went to work. Kyle Crockett, who came on to get the final out of the fifth, started the inning and got the left-handed hitting Arcia before giving way to 38-year old Scott Atchison. Crockett has been dubbed “The Fetus” thanks to his boyish appearance and it is funny that he gave way to “Old Man Atch.” They look like father and son standing next to each other. Atchison got the final two outs of the inning and started the seventh. He turned things over to lefty Marc Rzepcynszki who faced two batters. Enter CC Lee who came on with two on and one out to face the dangerous Dozier. Lee got Dozier to pop out before giving way to lefty Nick Hagadone who retired Joe Mauer on a ground ball to end the Twins threat.
Francona used four pitchers to get three outs in the seventh, but his dance was not done. Hagadone got both men he faced in the eighth before leaving in favor of Bryan Shaw, who nailed Trevor Plouffe to end the inning. Cody Allen came on for the ninth to record his 16th save of the season. So if you are scoring at home, Tito used seven relievers to pitch the final four and a third innings. The deep pen gave up just four hits and didn’t walk a single batter. The amount of quality arms this group has that can be counted on is seriously impressive and neded considering the state of the rotation. If they continue their current pace (571), Francona’s relievers will break the Major League record for appearances in a season (540)1.
Lets hope that T.J. House can give the Indians some depth tonight after everyone but long man Josh Tomlin was used last night. He will square off with Minnesota’s Ricky Nolasco.