Last night, the Indians took on the first place Royals for the first of what is sure to be many close battles this season. Actually, this should have been the second battle of the season, but inclement weather gave both teams the night off and pushed Friday’s game one starters to last night. They did not disappoint.
Scott Kazmir came into last night’s match-up coming off of a rough first start. In it, he lasted only 3.1 innings while giving up 6 runs on 8 hits, including 2 home runs. He was significantly better last night against the Royals. Kazmir made it through 5 innings while allowing only 2 runs off of 5 hits and 2 walks. In fact, the only two runs Kazmir allowed came off of the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
With one on and nobody out in the bottom of the second, Perez hit a 91 MPH 0-1 fast ball to right. Somehow, someway, the ball found its way into the seats just inside the foul pole. It was a remarkable home run. The pitch in question was outside and about eye level. How Perez put enough good wood on the ball to drive it out of the park is anyone’s best guess.
As for Royals starter Ervin Santana, he was absolutely magnificent. Over the course of 7 innings, he shut the Indians offense down. He allowed only 6 hits while striking out 5 and walking none. It was an amazing display of efficiency as he left the game having thrown only 97 pitches.
It wasn’t until the top half of the ninth inning that the Indians would get anything going offensively. After getting two men on, Michael Brantley stepped to the plate with two outs looking to cause some damage. He did just that by lacing a 96 MPH fastball to the gap in right. Mark Reynolds and Lonnie Chisenhall both scored and Brantely slid into third, 90 feet away from tying things up at 3.
It wasn’t meant to be, however. Jason Kipnis struck out swinging to end the threat and the game.
The Tribe will look to bounce back today as they take on the Royals in a day/night double-header. The first game, which starts at 2:10, will pit Justin Masterson against former Indians prospect Jeremy Guthrie. In game two, Corey Kluber will take on Will Smith with a first pitch tentatively scheduled for 8:10.
The Good: Scott Kazmir had a decent bounce back outing following a somewhat auspicious debut against the Astros. It was more like the version of Kazmir we got used to seeing back during Spring Training. And, if not for one heck of a freaky home run by Salvador Perez, Kazmir pitched well enough that he could have gotten a win.
The Bad: Again, it’s the offense. They were held scoreless over the course of eight innings and didn’t finally break through until they were down to their final out. Yes, a lot of that can be attributed to Ervin Santana, a guy who just seems to have our number, but the lackluster performances are becoming more the norm. The Indians needs to figure out some way to become a better offensive team. Maybe that means getting Michael Bourn back sooner rather than later.
The “Huh?”: One has to begin to wonder why Terry Francona continues to bat Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera back to back at the top of the order. While understanding it’s still early and there is plenty of time for them to bounce back, their continued struggles are hurting the team. Meanwhile, Mark Reynolds and his team leading home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage found their way back down to the bottom third of the lineup.