Just when you start to think you have a team figured out, they go and pull a complete 180. Case in point: last night’s game against the Rays. Having struggled all season long against left-handed pitching, the Indians have now won four games in a row when facing a left handed starter. Tampa Bay’s highly touted Matt Moore became the latest southpaw to fall victim to the Tribe’s resurgence against lefties in Saturday’s 7-3 victory. In 4.2 innings of work, the Indians jumped all over Moore for five runs on five hits and five walks.
Perhaps even stranger than the Indians solving their issues against lefties was that all five hits off of Moore were doubles. The parade of two-baggers got going in the bottom of the second. Michael Brantley led things off by doubling to right. After a groundout and walk of Shelley Duncan, the red-hot Lou Marson doubled to left to bring Brantley home. Jack Hannahan followed with an RBI groundout to bring up Aaron Cunningham for the most memorable play of the night.
Cunningham hit a hard grounder to the left of Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez. In an effort to make what would have been a spectacular play, Rodriguez dove after it. The ball glanced off of his glove and caromed into left center, slowing down before it could reach the outfielders. That’s all the help Cunningham would need. Seizing the opportunity, Cunningham hit the bag at first and immediately broke for second. B.J. Upton would get to the ball and throw it in to second base, but not before Cunningham could slide in safely. It was 3-0 and all the momentum had officially shifted in the Tribe’s favor.
The Indians’ offensive onslaught continued in the bottom of the third. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a walk followed by a Jose Lopez double to left. Michael Brantley then plated Cabrera on an RBI groundout to Rodriguez. Carlos Santana followed with what would be an extremely positive sign for his continuing progress at the plate: On Moore’s 1-0 offering, Santana stayed back and sent a missile ricocheting off the base of the wall in right-center field to give the Indians a 5-0 lead.
Shelley Duncan capped off the night in the bottom of the 8th. After a lead-off walk to Santana, Duncan crushed the very next pitch from Wade Davis into the bleachers. He looked thrilled running the bases, and he had every right to be. After all, this was his first start since coming off of paternity leave after his wife gave birth to twin boys. That two-run jack was quite the gift for the brand new father of two and pushed the lead to 7-2.
One other positive for the Indians on this night was the performance of Ubaldo Jimenez. Over the course of six solid innings of work, Jimenez allowed only two runs (albeit off of a titanic two-run home run to center by Luke Scott) on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. This start continued an impressive stretch for Jimenez. Over his last seven starts he’s turned in an ERA of 2.93 while striking out 44 and walking only 15. Whatever it is Jimenez has done since June 1, he had better keep it up.
The only other run for the Rays came after the Tribe’s lead was safe. Leading off the ninth inning against Esmil Rogers, B.J. Upton hit a laser beam to the home run porch in left to make it 7-3. It was all for naught, though, as Rogers settled down and retired the next three batters in order. To quote Tom Hamilton: “Ball game!”
The Good: The production from the bottom of the order was great. Duncan, Marson, Hannahan, and Cunningham each chipped in a hit and combined for five RBI and three runs scored. On a day when Manny Acta decided to give Jason Kipnis and Travis Hafner a day off, the offense had to come from somewhere. Luckily the bottom of the lineup decided to pick it up in a big way.
The other positives were Carlos Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Santana looked great when he hit his RBI double, which could be the sign of things to come. As for Jimenez, he did what the Indians needed him to do and was able to help the team bounce back from a tough loss the night before.
The Bad: It’s hard to find anything bad in this performance, but if I had to nitpick, it would be Asdrubal Cabrera striking out three times. It didn’t hurt the Indians overall, but you hate to see one of your guys go for the hat trick.
The “Huh?”: Manny Acta ran out on to the field to argue a call in the bottom of the seventh and actually got a call overturned in his favor. Carlos Pena bobbled the throw from Sean Rodriguez at first but Jose Lopez was still called out. After a bit of arm flailing from Acta and some deliberation from the umpires, the Rays were called back to the field and Lopez was awarded first. It wasn’t a critical play by any means, but any time you actually see a call get reversed after the fact, it’s always a bit of a head scratcher.