The Indians’ suddenly roaring offense kept on rolling Saturday night as Cleveland (3-4) won a tense 10-inning game against the Kansas City Royals, 11-9.
The Indians got on the board on the third as Michael Brantley hit a one-out triple and Asdrubal Cabrera drove him in with an RBI single. Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez—the guy who broke Shin-Soo Choo‘s thumb last year—promptly beaned Choo and the benches cleared. Sanchez didn’t get thrown out out of the game, but he didn’t make it out of the inning as Carlos Santana and Jose Lopez‘s doubles, Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan‘s walks, and Jason Donald‘s sacrifice fly chased him from the game.
By the time Brantley grounded out to end the inning Sanchez had hit the showers, the Indians had sent 11 men to the plate, and the Tribe had opened up a commanding 5-0 lead over Kansas City.
Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez retaliated in the bottom of the third by beaning Mike Moustakas; Gomez, Hannahan, and Manny Acta were all ejected in the chaos that followed. Moustakas and Alcides Escobar both scored before Josh Tomlin could end the inning to cut the Tribe’s lead to 5-2.
Cleveland struck back in the fourth as Santana drove in Cabrera with an RBI single. The Indians added three more in the top of the fifth as Kotchman sent the first pitch he saw over the fence for a leadoff homer and Jason Kipnis followed with his own three-run shot two batters later to make it 9-2 Tribe.
But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. The Royals scored two runs in each of the next three innings off of Tomlin, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, and Tony Sipp, and Yunel Escobar‘s solo shot in the bottom of the eighth erased the Indians’ lead completely and made it a 9-9 game. Both teams’ bats were quiet in the ninth so the game went to extra innings.
Donald and Kipnis started off the top of the 10th with singles to put the go-ahead run in scoring position, and with two outs Choo drove Greg Holland‘s 1-1 pitch to left field for a two-run double. Chris Perez preserved the lead and the Indians came away with an 11-9 victory.
The Good: Shin-Soo Choo gets some major props for his big hit in the 10th—per FanGraphs, he single-handedly upped the Indians’ odds of winning from 48 percent to 92 percent with one swing. Jason Kipnis and Casey Kotchman have both been struggling, so it was good to see them go yard. Kudos also go out to Asdrubal Cabrera (3-for-6 with a double, two runs, and an RBI), Carlos Santana (2-for-4 with two walks, a double, a run and two RBI), and Jason Donald (2-for-4 with a run and an RBI).
Great job by the offense in general. The Indians have scored 19 runs in the last 19 innings after starting out by scoring just 20 in their first 54 chances. Obviously that pace won’t hold up, but it’s a big improvement to say the least.
The Bad: The beaning and ensuing fights. Mounting pressures make for good television, but seeing bad blood on the field and having two players and a manager ejected from the game is never a good thing (especially when the other team’s lineup remains intact).
Having to go so deep into the bullpen didn’t help either. Most of the damage the Royals did came with Josh Tomlin on the hill—he didn’t pitch well, but in his defense he probably wasn’t expecting to have to throw almost four innings of long relief. Not to mention that every member of the bullpen except Dan Wheeler took the mound for the Tribe today.
The “Huh?”: Why is everyone trying to bean Shin-Soo Choo? This is at least the third time this year it’s looked like an opposing pitcher has thrown at him, and that it came from Jonathan Sanchez made it seem that much less innocent. And if it wasn’t intentional, why not show some contrition? If a decent human being had just hit the guy whose thumb I’d broken less than a year ago he or she would apologize, not get ready to fight.
In addition, that Vinnie Pestano got charged with a blown save for giving up the tying run in the eighth inning is total malarkey. Technically the shoe fits since he lost the lead in a save situation, but really? He was in as the setup man, not the closer. If Rafael Perez or Joe Smith had blown the lead in the sixth inning that could count as a blown save since they could have finished the game and earned an ‘S.’ Sound ridiculous? It’s just a matter of degrees.
Interesting Tidbit: Gomez’ outing Saturday marked just the second time in his MLB career that he pitched fewer than three innings. The first was Wednesday.