If you had to pick a way for the Indians to lose a game, it would be a Jim Thome home run. Right? Well that’s exactly what happened Saturday night as Thome’s two-run shot against an otherwise outstanding Zach McAllister made the difference in a 3-1 Orioles win that dropped Cleveland back to .500 (47-47), 3.5 games behind in the AL Central.
Things started off about as well as they possibly could for the Indians. Shin-Soo Choo led off the bottom of the first with a home run off Baltimore starter Chris Tillman to give the Tribe a lightning-fast 1-0 advantage. The lead looked safe with McAllister, who effortless breezed through the first six innings, shutting down the Orioles on just two hits.
Trouble finally started in the seventh. J.J. Hardy reached with a leadoff single to set the stage for a Jim Thome liner into the right field stands that put Baltimore ahead 2-1. Ryan Flaherty gave the O’s an insurance run when went deep for a solo shot to center field that knocked McAllister from the game.
Meanwhile, the Indians couldn’t touch Tillman after Choo’s leadoff blast, and Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson kept Cleveland quiet in the late innings as the second-largest crowd of the season watched the Tribe fall 3-1.
The Good: Zach McAllister was brilliant once again, holding the Orioles to three runs on five hits in 7.2 strong innings—he had a two-hit shutout through six frames—while striking out six and not giving up a single walk. Perhaps most impressively, 73 of the 95 pitches he threw were strikes.
On a lighter note, it was great to see so many fans at the ballpark. A whopping 36,247 were in attendance at Progressive Field Saturday night, with fans filling in seats in even the normally closed outer nosebleed sections. It probably had a lot to do with the Rock ‘n’ Blast fireworks show, which included lasers and other fancy pyrotechnics synced to Beatles music and was worth the price of admission in itself, but it was nonetheless fun to see the stadium so alive.
The Bad: What’s it going to take for this offense to wake up? Baltimore’s pitchers combined to throw a shutout after Choo’s home run as the Indians managed only seven hits in a game started by a pitcher with a 5.36 career ERA.
Also, the Beatles tribute band that played in front of the Home Run Porch while the pyrotechnic crew set up for the fireworks used a keyboard synthesizer in place of a trumpet on “Penny Lane.” And though the Rock ‘n’ Blast show truly was spectacular, the accompanying video on the scoreboard triggered my pet peeve by superimposing sympathetic images of hippies and protesters among the lyrics for “Revolution”—apparently the producers (like most people) didn’t realize that the song is actually a condescending admonishment for social activists to shut up and trust the system. (“You say you’ll change the Constitution, well you know, we all want to change your head.”)
The “Huh?”: The Indians turned the scoreboard radar gun off in the top of the eighth inning as Zach McAllister tired…yet Manny Acta kept him in the game. If you’re already in the eighth inning, why leave your starter in there when it’s clear that he doesn’t have his best stuff anymore? Especially when it was a one-run game. The Ryan Flaherty home run that finally knocked McAllister out of the game seemed inevitable.
Interesting Tidbit: Jim Thome has now homered in Cleveland at least twice five years in a row.