It was a rough night on the mound for Cleveland starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimemez, but the Indians (6-5) held on for a 4-3 win over the Oakland Athletics (7-8) in the first game of a weekend series at the O.co Coliseum.
The Indians opened the scoring in the second inning thanks to some solid plate discipline. Carlos Santana fell behind 1-2 but battled back to work a leadoff walk off Oakland starter Graham Godfrey; Travis Hafner and Casey Kotchman both saw ball four as well to load the bases with one out. Jack Hannahan‘s sacrifice fly brought Santana home and gave the Tribe a 1-0 lead.
Oakland got a run back in the third via Josh Reddick‘s solo home run, but Cleveland struck back for two more in the top of the fourth. Hannahan had the magic bat again: his two-out two-run double scored Hafner and Duncan. The Indians added another run in the fifth thanks to Jason Kipnis‘ hustle—he was hit by a pitch, then stole second and just barely beat Reddick’s throw to plate to score on Shin-Soo Choo‘s RBI single—to make it a 4-1 game.
The A’s weren’t done yet, though. Cespedes came through with two RBI singles (one in the fifth and one in the seventh) to make it a one-run game, and Oakland loaded the bases in the bottom seventh with the go-ahead run in scoring position. But the scoring ended there and the Indians came away with a 4-3 victory.
The Good: All in all, it was a great game for the offense. Four runs might not seem like too impressive a total, but that the Indians combined to work nine walks was a great sign. Including hit-by-pitches, Cleveland hitters reached base 18 times Friday night.
Individually, Jack Hannahan obviously had a very good night—he went 1-for-2 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, and three RBI—but the biggest kudos go to Travis Hafner. Though he got only one hit, he walked thrice and was hit by a pitch, meaning he got on base in all five of his plate appearances.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez. Though his outing was a quality start—he held the A’s to two runs on six hits in six innings—he looked quite uncomfortable on the mound. He struck out only three Oakland hitters, and even more troublingly he allowed five walks. He got the W, but that doesn’t mean he looked good on the mound Friday night.
The “Huh?”: With Michael Brantley on second and nobody out in the top of the ninth, Jason Kipnis laid down a sacrifice bunt, which decreased the Indians’ win expectancy—they were already winning, so improving their crossing the plate again wasn’t necessarily worth punting the possibility of a big inning.
The move makes sense if you don’t have much faith in Kipnis’ hitting ability; he’s had a rough year so far (he entered Friday hitting .178/.224/.422), so there’s at least an argument to be made that the Indians didn’t lose much by taking the bat out of his hands. But if Manny Acta doesn’t trust Kipnis’ bat, why is he hitting him second in the lineup?
Interesting Tidbit: Good news for the Indians: it’s been more than five years since Cleveland won the first game of a set against Oakland but ended up losing the series (the last time was September 2006). So if history repeats itself, this should be a fun weekend for the Tribe.