The Indians’ offense finally started taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities Wednesday night as some late-inning magic helped the Tribe overcome a rough start from Justin Masterson and earn a comeback 10-6 victory in Tampa Bay. The win improves Cleveland’s record to 47-44, and the White Sox’ loss puts the Tribe just three games back in the AL Central.
The Rays got to Masterson in the early innings. Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings opened the bottom of the second with back-to-back base hits and came home to score on Elliot Johnson‘s RBI single and B.J. Upton‘s sacrifice fly, respectively. A pair of walks to Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce to start the third also came back to bite Masterson as Scott and Jennings both came through with RBI hits to give the Rays a 4-0 lead after three.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson kept Cleveland’s bats stymied—at least, until the fifth. Hellickson walked Carlos Santana and hit Casey Kotchman to put two on with two outs for Jack Hannahan, who put the Indians on the board with a two-run double. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a base hit two pitches later to score Hannahan and cut the Rays’ lead to 4-3.
After Esmil Rogers escaped the bases-loaded, one-out mess he inherited from Masterson in the fifth and shut down Tampa Bay in the sixth, the Indians got to work against the Rays’ relief corps. Kyle Farnsworth retired Kotchman and Hannahan without issue to start the seventh, but Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera got base hits on consecutive pitches to chase Farnsworth from the game. Jake McGee took the mound, and the fun began.
The first batter McGee faced was Jason Kipnis, who battled him for eight pitches before coming through with a game-tying RBI single. Michael Brantley put the Tribe on top with another run-scoring hit on the first pitch he saw before Carlos Santana capped the rally by smacking a 2-0 fastball over the wall in dead center. By the time Johnny Damon struck out to end the inning, the Indians were up 8-4.
Cleveland then added a pair of insurance runs against Burke Badenhop in the ninth; Cabrera doubled and scored on Kipnis’ RBI single, and Kipnis in turn came home on Santana’s base hit. The Rays also added two more runs in the late innings, but it was too little too late as the Indians held on for a 10-6 win.
The Good: Can you say clutch hitting? An inability to capitalize on run-scoring situations has dogged this team all year, but you wouldn’t have known it Wednesday night. Kudos to the Indians for putting together a huge comeback against one of the best bullpens in the league.
More specifically, each of the Tribe’s first six hitters had multi-hit games. Carlos Santana was the offensive MVP, going 2-for-5 with a homer, a walk, and four RBI, while Asdrubal Cabrera (3-for-5 with a double) and Michael Brantley (2-for-5 with a triple) both had huge nights as well. And on the mound, Esmil Rogers pitched 1.2 near-perfect innings, including working out of a bases-loaded one-out jam he inherited from Justin Masterson without allowing a run.
The Bad: What an ugly outing it was for Justin Masterson. The Tribe’s ace allowed four runs (all earned) on seven hits in 4.1 innings—and that’s not counting the runners that would have scored when he left the game with the bases loaded and one out had not Esmil Rogers escaped the jam unharmed. He got only one strikeout, and—perhaps the worst sign—he gave up seven walks.
Also, the Indians’ Nos. 7, 8, and 9 hitters didn’t contribute to the offensive onslaught much at all, combining to go 1-for-11 (the one hit was Jack Hannahan’s) with a hit-by-pitch (Casey Kotchman’s). Johnny Damon went a straight 0-for-4.
The “Huh?”: The middle of the Indians’ order Wednesday night went like this: Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner. We’ve already covered why hitting Brantley ahead of Hafner is probably a mistake, but Santana? Hafner entered Wednesday’s game hitting .226/.364/.428, while Santana owned a .221/.348/.329 line—worse on all fronts—and is known to be in a deep slump. Why hit him higher than Hafner, especially against a right-handed pitcher?
Interesting Tidbit: Justin Masterson set an unfortunate career high Wednesday night by walking seven batters in a single outing. His previous worst was six, a mark he’s reached four times, most recently April 22 in Oakland.