The Indians have been playing arguably their best baseball in a long while. They came into last night’s game with the Royals riding a 3-game winning streak and had started to look like the Indians we had expected to see all season long. Unfortunately, the streak came to an end as the Indians fell to the Royals by a final score of 7-6 in 14 innings.
While the Indians lost, it wasn’t the result of a lack of effort. What we’ve seen now in two games under Sandy Alomar is that this team is going to fight to the bitter end. It probably also doesn’t hurt that the firing of Acta signals to the players that the front office has come to a point where they realize changes need to be made. In other words, start playing as if your job depended on it.
Things got off to a good start for the Indians in the bottom of the first against Royals starter Jake Odorizzi. After back to back walks to Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, who found himself hitting in the cleanup spot last night, smacked and RBI double to right, scoring Kipnis and putting the Tribe up 1-0. Unfortunately for the Indians, Jeanmar Gomez wouldn’t be able to make the 1-0 lead hold up.
In the top of the third, the Royals offense came to life in a big way. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Gomez gave up a single to Irving Falu and then walked Alex Gordon. Billy Butler made him pay for those mistakes by singling to left. Falu scored on the play and tied things up, 1-1. Gomez then loaded the bases and proceeded to give up a two run double to right off the bat of Mike Moustakas. Finishing up the scoring for the Royals in the third inning was Jeff Francoeur. With the count 2-0, Francoeur sent the next pitch deep into the bleachers in left to put the Royals up 6-1.
That lead would hold up for most of the night. The Indians added a run in the bottom half of the thanks to two errors on one play Royals’ pitcher Nate Adcock. Then in the bottom of the eighth, trailing 6-2, things got interesting. Shin-Soo Choo came up huge by delivering a two run single with the bases loaded. It cut the Royals lead down to 6-4 and put the Indians in prime position to make a comeback, only it wasn’t meant to be. At least not in the eighth.
One inning later, with Santana and Chisenhall on third and second respectively, Asdrubal Cabrera delivered yet another in a series of clutch hits as a member of the Indians. With two out and the count full, Cabrera hit a weak broken bat blooper to right center that would score both Santana and Chisenhall. It was perfectly placed and split the outfielders, thus allowing Cabrera to advance to second. It looked as if the Indians were about to pull off the dramatic comeback. Michael Brantley was intentionally walked, and then Ezequiel Carrera walked, loading the bases for Choo. However, he couldn’t get it done and flied out to center.
The Indians had plenty of opportunities to end the game in extras. In four of the five bonus innings, the Indians got at least one man on base. In three of those innings they were able to get a man to third and in two of those innings it was a runner on third and less than one out. As a matter of fact, while trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the 14th thanks to a Tony Abreu RBI single in the top half, the Indians managed to loaded the bases with no one out. They just couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it most. Kelvin Herrera settled down and got Santana to fly out, Chisenhall to line out, and Casey Kotchman to ground out to end the game.
The Good: Loved the fight in the Indians last night. We had gotten so accustomed to watching the Indians fall behind and seemingly give up. Not last night. They battled there way back from a 6-1 deficit and had more than a handful of opportunities to actually win the game. It’s too early to tell whether or not this is a result of Alomar sitting in the manager’s seat, but in two games so far you have to be encouraged by what we’ve seen.
I was also a fan of Chisenhall being in the cleanup spot. If he’s going to be a core piece of the middle of the order for years to come, why continue to coddle him by hitting him in the bottom third? The Indians should be hitting him in the 3, 4, or 5-hole and getting him accustomed to the types of situations he’ll be facing as soon as next season. If that was Alomar’s decision, then I say, “Bravo, Sandy… Bravo!”
The Bad: I already mentioned it, but the inability of the Indians to get the big hit to win the game. They had so many opportunities to win and each and every time they came up short. It was essentially a microcosm of the entire season for the Indians. We’ve said it time and time again. The Indians need to improve their situational hitting if they want to improve themselves as a team.
Also, Jeanmar Gomez had a rough night. We expected good things from him this season thanks in large part to a successful Spring Training campaign, but he has completely fallen apart. Is he someone the Indians can rely on moving forward? Is he anything more than just a spot starter at the Major League level? It’s hard to say at this point, but if things keep progressing at this rate he may find himself in Columbus for the majority of next season.