Maybe the Indians DID know what they were doing when they traded for utility man extraordinaire Brent Lillibrdige back on July 24. Who knew?
Looking to bounce back one night after being dominated by Boston starter Clay Buchholz, the Indians found the spark they were looking for when Brent Lillibridge stepped into the box to lead off the bottom of the third. With the count at 3-1, Lillibridge was clearly looking for a fastball he could drive from Franklin Morales. He got what he was looking for and smashed a solo shot 10 rows deep into the bleachers in left to make it 1-0 Indians.
The Red Sox immediately responded in the following half inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Adrian Gonzalez doubled off of the wall in left to score Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. The Indians were fortunate as things could have been worse. Dustin Pedroia, who was right on the heels of Crawford, blew through the stop sign of third base coach Jerry Royster and was thrown out by a mile. Gonzalez’s double made it a 2-1 game. It would prove to be the only trouble Zach McAllister would face all night. He was absolutely dominant and continued what has become a pretty impressive rookie campaign.
Starting in the bottom of the fifth, the Indians scored in four consecutive innings. In the bottom of the fifth Lillibridge struck again. With Michael Brantley on third and one out, Lillibridge lined a single to left center to even things at 2 apiece. In the bottom of the sixth, the Indians took the lead, 3-2, on a sacrifice fly to left by Brantley. Drama unfolded in the bottom of the seventh as Lou Marson executed a picture perfect suicide squeeze to score Lillibridge, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Finishing it off in the bottom of the eighth, Ezequiel Carrera hit a line drive single to left to score Carlos Santana and make it a 5-2 ball game.
McAllister, who pitched a picture perfect game over the course of his 8 innings of work, 2 runs on 3 hits with 4 strikeouts and no walks, gave way to Chris Perez to close the game out with a near perfect ninth inning to record his 31st save of the season. For the Indians, it’s exactly the type of win they needed coming off the heels of a lights out performance from the opposition. The win restored their confidence and puts them in a position to win this four game series on Sunday when Corey Kluber takes on Jon Lester.
The Good: There was a lot to like about this game. First off, Zach McAllister was amazing. He had one rough inning but was able to limit the Red Sox damage to only two runs. It was encouraging to see him bounce back after a poor performance his last time out. It also continued a stretch of reliable pitching performances from McAllister and helped solidify his spot in the rotation moving forward.
The other good was Brent Lillibridge. Lots of fans, myself included, were luke warm at best when the Indians acquired him, but he was great last night. Lillibridge went 3 for 4, with a single, double, and home run, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He was the spark the Indians needed and was directly involved in the scoring of 3 of the Tribe’s 5 runs. Great game.
The last good was the suicide squeeze. The Red Sox never saw it coming as both Lillibridge and Marson executed it to perfection. Lillibridge didn’t break for home early and Marson squared to bunt at the exact right time. It was a gutsy call by Manny Acta but all the credit has to go to the two guys who managed to pull it off.
The Bad: Despite all the good will that emerged from this game, the offense was still only able to scrounge up 6 hits on the night. They did manage to draw 4 walks, but the 7 men left on base is a bit alarming. This game could have been broken wide open if only the Indians could have strung together some big hits. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about.
The “Huh?”: Can someone please explain to me why it took until August to call up Ezequiel Carrera for full time duty? He’s playing really well right now, granted it is a small sample size, but you can’t help but wonder if maybe he would have been a better option than either Jose Lopez or Johnny Damon back in June and July. His speed is a weapon the Indians don’t really have in anyone else on the roster and so far he’s been hitting. I’m curious to see how he performs the rest of the year.