The Indians were victorious when returned home to Progressive Field Friday night as Cleveland (14-10) rode a strong start from Jeanmar Gomez and some good clutch hitting to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers (17-9).
Texas has posted a 21-4 mark against the Indians since 2009, including a 9-1 record last year. As the record indicates the Rangers always seem to catch the breaks when they play the Tribe and that trend continued into Friday night as Josh Hamilton returned to the lineup after missing several games with a sore back. The Indians did receive a rare benefit when third baseman Adrian Beltre was held out of the lineup due to a strained hamstring.
Rangers starter Colby Lewis entered Friday night with a record of 3-0 and a flashy ERA of 1.93 in his first five starts. He was making his sixth appearance (five starts) against the Indians with a lifetime record of 2-0 (5.87 ERA). Jeanmar Gomez, who took the hill for the Tribe, entered the game with a record of 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA. This was his first career appearance against the Rangers.
The Indians got the scoring started in the second inning on a two-run homer off the bat of Shin-Soo Choo—his first of the year. The Rangers came back and cut the Indians’ lead in half in the top of the third after Mitch Moreland sent a fly ball into left field—so began the adventures of Johnny Damon. Damon turned left, then right, then leaped in the air but the ball hit his glove and landed safely on the warning track for a leadoff double. Moreland moved to third on a ground out by Alberto Gonzalez and came home on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler.
The Indians answered the Rangers’ run with one of their own in the bottom of the third on Jack Hannahan‘s home run, which was initially ruled a triple but was overturned by instant replay. The Rangers responded with a run of their own in the top of the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Michael Young and David Murphy to cut the Tribe’s lead to 3-2. Texas then tied the game in the top of the sixth on Nelson Cruz‘ two-out single.
The Indians immediately answered the Rangers’ run and regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a single. He then stole second, moved to third on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s single up the middle (Elvis Andrus‘ diving stop prevented Kipnis from scoring), and came home on Travis Hafner‘s sacrifice fly.
The Rangers appeared to have a chance at a big inning in the 7th. Moreland singled to lead off the inning and Alberto Gonzalez laid down what would have been a sacrifice bunt; Gomez’ hesitation cost him an out as he was unable to retire Gonzalez at first. The Rangers had two on and nobody out for Ian Kinsler, but Gomez was able to induce a 5-4-3 double play and retired Elvis Andrus to end the inning.
The Indians pushed the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh, with another two-out rally. Casey Kotchman drew a walk and moved to second as Jack Hannahan hit a dribbler that barely made it through to right field for a single. With two and two out, Rangers manager Ron Washington elected to allow Lewis to face Johnny Damon who had flied out weakly to left field in each of his three previous plate appearances. Damon smashed a line drive that sent Josh Hamilton crashing into the wall and ended up as a two-run triple.
No lead is safe against Texas’ offense, but the Indians bullpen once again came up with a shutdown performance. Cleveland’s relief corps has been one of the best once they got over the early-season rustiness, posting a 2.05 ERA covering 44 innings striking out 37 and walking 15 since April 15. Friday night was a continuation of that dominance as Vinnie Pestano worked a perfect eighth and Chris Perez earned his American League-leading 10th save on the year to give the Tribe a well-fought 6-3 win.
The Good: After homering in their first nine games of the season, the Indians went homerless for their next 11 games. The power returned in Chicago (five different players hit homers in those three games), and it was on display again night with home runs by Shin-Soo Choo and Jack Hannahan.
Cleveland should also be commended for handing Lewis his first loss on the season; the Rangers’ ace gave up six runs on 10 hits in 6.2 innings. Meanwhile, the Indians received another stellar start by Jeanmar Gomez. who picked up his second win on the season after holding the Rangers to three runs on eight hits in seven innings.
The Bad: Jack Hannahan made his fifth error on the season after just 21 games played. He committed just five errors in 110 games in 2011.
Interesting Tidbits: With his infield single in the first, Elvis Andrus extended his hitting streak to 24 games against the Indians. Entering the game Andrus had hit .386 (34-for-88) with three homers, seven doubles, and 21 RBI against the Tribe. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Andrus’ streak is the longest current start-of-career streak by any player against any team.
Also, the Indians are now 4-0 on Fridays and 11-5 against right-handed pitchers in 2012. Friday also marked the second time that they utilized an all left-handed hitting lineup.