A quiet crowd of 29,278 which included an estimated 6,000 walk-up patrons saw the Indians drop the opener of a three-game series to the Miami Marlins and Indians irritant Ozzie Guillen Friday night.
Justin Masterson did not earn a decision on the evening but went seven innings, giving up two runs (both earned) on six hits while striking out five and walking three but was matched by Carlos Zambrano who earned the victory after going seven innings with two runs (both earned) on four hits while striking out two and walking five. Randy Choate worked a scoreless eighth for his seventh hold, and Heath Bell earned his fourth save on the year. The loss went to Tony Sipp, who drops to 0-2.
Some games are filled with missed chances and reasons to complain. Tonight was a well-played game which was decided on two key plays: Greg Dobbs‘ diving stab of a line drive off the bat of Jason Kipnis to end a two-out rally in the second inning and a throwing error by Joe Smith in the eighth.
The Indians jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning with one of their trademark two-out rallies. Johnny Damon walked and came around to score on a double by Casey Kotchman, and after a Jose Lopez walk Shin-Soo Choo lined a single to center to plate Kotchman. With runners at first and second Jason Kipnis lined a ball toward the right field line but Marlins first baseman Greg Dobbs made an outstanding play to stab it and end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Marlins cut the Indians’ lead to 2-1 in the top of the third on a fielders choice groundout which scored Bryan Peterson. They then tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly which scored Omar Infante.
Sipp started the eighth inning in relief of Masterson. He issued a leadoff walk to Bryan Peterson and was taken out of the game after a sacrifice bunt by Jose Reyes. Joe Smith induced a comebacker to the mound and had Peterson in a rundown but threw wildly to second; the ball hit Peterson and deflected into short right field, allowing him to advance to third. Hanley Ramirez followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Marlins ahead, 3-2.
Randy Choate and Heath Bell worked the final two innings to preserve the 3-2 victory for the Marlins, who improve to 21-18 on the year. The loss drops the Indians to 22-17, three games ahead of the second-place Tigers in the AL Central.
The Good: Johnny Damon continues to get on base, as he drew three more walks on the evening. He has now reached base in 10 of his last 21 plate appearances, including eight walks.
The Bad: The Indians drew five walks and Carlos Zambrano was constantly pitching from behind in the count—including 12 2-0 counts—but the Indians were unable to make him pay. In a close game against a good pitcher you can’t let those kinds of opportunities get away.
The Huh?: Randy Choate is a left handed specialist. Michael Brantley cannot hit left handed pitching. With the Tribe down 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Manny Acta allowed Brantley to face Choate rather than go to Shelley Duncan. This is the second time in as many weeks that Acta has elected one of his left-handed hitters to bat in a late-inning situation rather than go to Shelly Duncan. This leads me to wonder how much longer the Indians have Shelley Duncan in their plans.
Interesting Tidbit: Carlos Santana threw out three Marlins attempting to steal, becoming the first Indian to pull the hat trick (without pickoffs) in almost 10 years. The last time: Eddie Perez did it on May 27, 2002 against the Detroit Tigers.