After suffering through a brutal eight game losing streak, the Indians have turned things back around. Over their past eight games, they have six wins against just two losses and, with last night’s victory over the Royals, have won three straight series. Whatever it was that was ailing the Tribe as the calendar flipped from May to June appears to be behind them for now.
As for last night’s game, after struggling to get anything going over the course of the first four innings against Royals starter Luis Mendoza, the Indians were finally able to get their offense going in the bottom of the fifth. Trailing only 2-0 thanks to some spectacular defense by first baseman Mark Reynolds, Michael Brantley stepped to the plate to begin his own personal offensive onslaught. On a 2-2 offering from Mendoza, Brantley golfed a low breaking ball over the wall in right. Not only was it the Indians first run, but it was also their first hit of the game and only their second man to reach base. From there, things only got better.
In the bottom of the sixth the Tribe’s offense really got rolling. Drew Stubbs walked to lead off the inning and Michael Bourn followed with a single. WIth runners on first and second, Mike Aviles singled to score Stubbs and tie things up at two. Jason Kipnis bunted and managed to get on, loading the bases for Carlos Santana. Santana did what he does best and drew a walk to score Bourn. After pulling Luis Mendoza for Tim Collins, Michael Brantley hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Aviles and making it a 3-2 ball game.
After scoring a fifth run in the bottom of the seventh thanks to an Aviles sacrifice fly, Brantley once again stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth looking for a ball he could drive. He got it in the form of a first pitch fastball grooved down the middle of the plate from Luke Hochevar. Whereas Brantley’s first homer barely cleared the fence in right, his second homer was a no doubter. It put the Tribe up 6-2 and paved the way for a victory.
AS for the Tribe’s pitching, Justin Masterson was once again masterful on the mound. The big righty went 6.1 innings and allowed only 2 runs. However, it wasn’t his cleanest performance. He allowed 9 hits and walked two, thus forcing him to continually work his way out of jams. He did help himself out by striking out 8, but it did him no favors with the pitch count, 115 total. Bran Shaw and Joe SMith combined to close out the final 2.2 innings by allowing only one run on three hits.
The Good: Michael Brantley broke out of an 0 for 13 slump in a big way last night. He went 2 for 3 with two home runs and three RBI. Brantley continues to show how good of a hitter he is. It’s just one quality at bat after another by trying to do nothing more than make solid contact. If Brantley wanted to, he might be able to generate 20+ home run power, but instead he focuses his efforts on putting the ball in play and hitting it where it is pitched. Here is video of Brantley’s two homers.
The Bad: Luis Mendoza made the Tribe hitters look pretty bad last night. Through the first four innings it looked as if he might throw a no-hitter. Fortunately, they were able to turn things around and put six runs on the board but until Brantley’s home run it was looking like it was about to be another long night.
The “Huh?”: Jason Giambi was in the lineup once again. The reason this is odd is because Giambi was brought in to be an occasional part-time player. Lately, Giambi is playing every other day and with not much in the way of production. How long can Giambi keep this pace up before his body finally says enough is enough?