Cleveland’s bats made up for their absence this weekend and Shin-Soo Choo, Lonnie Chisenhall and Casey Kotchman all homered as the Indians beat up on Cincinnati’s pitchers to beat the Reds in a 10-9 slugfest to get the three-game series off on the right foot Monday night at Progressive Field. The win upped the Tribe’s record to 34-32 and brings the Indians to within a half-game of the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central standings.
It was apparent from the get-go Derek Lowe wasn’t on top of his game. Usually a wormburner, he gave up fly balls to the first three batters he faced—including a home run to the seemingly unstoppable Joey Votto. Luckily for the Tribe, Cincinnati starter Mat Latos wasn’t at his best either; it took all of two pitches for Latos to lose the lead as Shin-Soo Choo led off the bottom of the first with a solo shot.
This back-and-forth became the theme of the early innings. Lowe gave up two more runs in the top of the second as Scott Rolen and Ryan Hanigan came through with RBI singles, but the Indians responded with three of their own off Latos as Johnny Damon‘s groundout brought Carlos Santana home and Lonnie Chisenhall followed with a two-run homer. The Reds answered with two more runs a Ryan Ludwick double and another Rolen base hit to give Cincinnati a 5-4 lead in the third.
The Tribe struck again in the bottom of the fourth. Casey Kotchman delivered with a two-run shot to put the Tribe back on top; Chisenhall’s triple and Choo’s RBI double then made it 7-5 Cleveland. What was essentially a Brandon Phillips‘ two-run inside the park home run in—Damon crashed into the wall trying to get to Phillips’ shot down the left field line and it was ruled a double and an error—retied the game, but Kotchman’s groundout and Chisenhall’s single in the bottom of the sixth plated Santana and Damon, respectively, to put the Tribe up 9-7.
Both teams scored again in the seventh—Jay Bruce took Joe Smith yard for a solo home run, then Michael Brantley brought Santana home with a sacrifice fly against J.J. Hoover—to make it a two-run game heading into the ninth. The Reds brought the go-ahead run to the plate as Phillips singled, stole second, and scored on Bruce’s two-out single, but Chris Perez ended the threat with a called strike three on Ryan Ludwick to seal Cleveland’s 10-9 victory.
The Good: I think the offense pretty much speaks for itself. After a week of blown opportunity after blown opportunity to score runs, the Indians reached double digits as 10 of their 14 baserunners ended up crossing the plate. Seeing them tattoo Mat Latos was particularly encouraging because he had dominated the Tribe (one run on two hits in seven innings) just last week.
The biggest individual standout was Lonnie Chisenhall, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and a triple, falling just a double short of the cycle. Shin-Soo Choo (2-for-5 with a double and a home run) and Michael Brantley (2-for-4 with a pair of doubles) also had great games. And it’s always nice to see Casey Kotchman go yard.
The Bad: Derek Lowe struggled against the Reds his last time out, and despite raised expectations after a weekend of hype surrounding his feud with Dusty Baker he clearly didn’t make the necessary adjustments to avoid a repeat. He got tattooed for seven runs (all earned) on 11 hits and a walk while striking out just two in five weak innings. His sinker wasn’t working—he got only six groundouts—as he slumped through his third straight rough outing.
Despite the offensive outburst, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis—usually the Tribe’s best hitters—both had rough days at the plate, combining to go 0-for-7 with a walk and three strikeouts. And while he’s never been known for his defensive prowess, Johnny Damon looked even weaker than usual in left field.
The “Huh?”: Moving Carlos Santana down from the cleanup spot to the No. 6 hole makes sense given his slow start, and despite my protests I’ve come to expect that Manny Acta favors Jose Lopez over Shelley Duncan when the DH spot is open. But why on earth was Santana banished to hitting two slots behind Lopez? Even if their 2012 stats could be interpreted as Lopez having outhit Santana—and they can’t—does anyone really think that Lopez is the better hitter?
Interesting Tidbit: Lonnie Chisenhall’s eight total bases Monday night tied a personal best. He matched the feat on September 9, 2011, when he went 2-for-4 with two homers in Chicago.