Why play eight and a half innings when you can play all nine?
Zach McAllister pitched a gem, allowing 2 runs (both earned) in 7.1 innings and the Indians offense overcame a to-of-the-ninth-inning meltdown from closer Chris Perez in the bottom of the innning with a bases-loaded fielders’ choice by Mark Reynolds. Seattle shortstop Brendan Ryan went home with the throw, but catcher Jesus Montero appeared to not touch the plate and Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis was ruled safe with the winning run.
Believe it or not, this game was relatively drama-free until the top of the eighth inning. Despite only striking out one batter, McAllister was firmly in control, scattering four hits before first baseman Justin Smoak led off the eighth inning with a double, which at the time was only his eighth extra base hit this season (more on that later), before moving to third on a Montero groundout. McAllister backed Ryan into a 1-2 count, but Ryan flipped a splitter from McAllister into left field to make it a 4-2 game. Everyone’s favorite situational lefty, Rich Hill, relieved McAllister and danced around a single to second baseman Dustin Ackley to get the final two outs of the inning.
Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth, and Chris Perez appeared on his way to an easy save, getting DH Kendrys Morales to line out to Kipnis on two pitches, and struck out right fielder Michael Morse looking on five pitches. But left fielder Raul Ibanez homered to the Seattle bullpen on a 1-1 offering to make the score 4-3. Next up was Smoak, the faltering former prospect who has shown no power in 2013, power that made him the prize when the Mariners traded LHP Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers in the middle of the 2010 season. Smoak drilled a 1-1 pitch to right center field, and Perez his
third second blown save of the year (thanks, Angel Hernandez!). Perez quickly stopped the bleeding, and got Montero to ground out to second on his next pitch.
The Indians offense looked like it was trying to break out all game against starter Joe Saunders. Credit where it’s due, as Saunders did what Seattle manager Eric Wedge loves, and grinded through five innings, only allowing a run in the first when Reynonds singled in Asdrubal Cabrera from second, and a run in the fifth, when Reynolds hit a towering solo shot to left field. Reynolds probably should have had a two-run home run, as Cabrera led off the inning with a single, but he was doubled up during the previous at bat when designated hitter Nick Swisher hit an almost identical shot to left, which died in the wind and into Ibanez’s glove. For whatever reason, Cabrera was off and running on Swisher’s contact, and was easlily thrown out trying to get back to first.
But for awhile, the baserunning error appeared to not matter, as the Indians used their speed to take advantage of Wedge trying to squeeze another inning out of Saunders in the sixth. Mike Aviles, who started the game in left field, led off the inning with a double, and catcher Yan Gomes singled to left, but Aviles was unable to advance. Right fielder Drew Stubbs dropped a bunt to advance Gomes and Aviles before centerfielder Michael Bourn reached on an RIB-fielder’s choice, scoring Aviles, and Kipnis singled to left to score Gomes.
The Good: Zach McAllister was brilliant yet again. He didn’t strike out many (1 K), but Seattle hitters weren’t able to do too much with what he gave them. The Indians offense stayed hot, raking in 13 hits, and only starting first baseman Carlos Santana and Stubbs went hitless. Bourn continues to wreak havock in the leadoff spot, stealing two bases and going 2-5 with an RBI. Reynolds may not be a three-true-outcomes hitter anymore, and continued to give the Tribe big at bats. Eric Wedge is still #ginding.
The Bad: No one will believe I didn’t want to write this, and that I take no joy in it, but Chris Perez was not good in this game. Which is weird to say, because he dominated the first two batters he faced, and then seemed to ease up with two outs, much like the now-infamous game vs. Oakland on May 9. No, nobody is perfect, and yes, even the best players will have a bad game. But the very nature of Perez’s role with the club means he’s either doing his job or a goat, and it’s exaserbated by this being only his 15th appearance. The home run to Ibanez is pretty forgiveable, as despite the fact that he’s an anchient husk, Ole’ Raul now has eight homers on the year and has been fairly hot of late (with six of those home runs in the past two weeks). Giving up a dinger to Smoak, on the other hand, is pretty inexplicable, as the first baseman has shown next-to-no power this year, and had been slugging .250 for the week entering this game. Can’t get too upset as the Indians still won the game in the next at bat, and perhaps Perez is able to shrug it off and dominate going out, but there wasn’t much encouraging about this game for him. Of course, Perez still earned the win. Eff-yeah baseball!
The Huh: Cabrera’s previously-mentioned baserunning gaffe could have really hurt this team. You can’t argue with the results, but manager Terry Francona‘s tinkering with the lineup is bordering the abusrd, as Reynolds started the game at third base and Mike Avlies manned left field with Swisher as the DH until Michael Brantley was a late defensive subsitution in the eighth inning. Again, it’s kind of complaining for complaining’s sake as they won, but as Jeff Mount pointed out earlier this week, this really wasn’t an optimal defensive lineup for the Tribe.