Throughout the course of the season teams will often have a handful of season defining victories. Last night was one of those nights for the Indians as they battled back from a three run deficit late to beat the Royals 5-3. If the Indians find a way to will themselves into the playoffs, they may look back on last night’s game as the moment when it all finally came together.
Last night’s victory was by no means easy. The usually reliable Corey Kluber struggled mightily in his third start since returning from the disabled list. After making it through five effective innings in each of his previous two starts, Kluber lasted only 4.2 innings on Tuesday night. He surrendered three runs (and could have been a fourth had Billy Butler been on base in the third) and allowed six hits while only striking out two Royals. His three walks were clearly indicative of the control issues he was experiencing combined with a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth.
Meanwhile, in what can only be described as an incredibly risky move, the Royals decided that the second to last week of the season when you are in the middle of a playoff push was the perfect time for the big league debut of one of their top pitching prospects. It was a daring move and it nearly worked out as Yordano Ventura allowed one run on five hits in 5.2 innings of work. As if the Royals, who are already loaded with talent, needed another top-level prospect at their disposal. Ventura’s performance also continued the trend of the Indians struggling against pitchers they’ve never seen before.
As mentioned, the Indians had to battle their way back last night. That’s because the Royals jumped out to an early lead. through the first three innings.
In the bottom of the first, after a walk to Emilio Bonifacio, Eric Hosmer doubled to deep left center. Michael Bourn made a valiant effort to track the ball down, but it landed just outside the reach of his outstretched arm. Bonifacio raced around the bases to put the Royals up 1-0 and put the K.C. crowd up on their feet.
Two innings later the Royals added to their lead. Salvador Perez hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score Bonifacio for the second time in the game. Mike Moustakas followed Perez with a double. Eric Hosmer scored easily from second while Billy Butler chugged his way into third base.
The Royals would maintain their three run lead until the top of the sixth. It was at that point the Indians began their slow ascent out of the hole they had dug themselves into. It started with an RBI single from Michael Brantley to get the Tribe on the board at 3-1. They eventually loaded the bases, but could not come away with another run as Ryan Raburn struck out to end the rally.
Then in the seventh, with Yan Gomes sitting at first, Michael Bourn slapped a triple to the gap in right center. Gomes slid into home before Salvador Perez could corral the throw and apply a tag. Bourn scored a few pitches later to tie the game up at 3-3 when Nick Swisher hit a sacrifice fly to deep left.
The Indians took the lead in the seventh inning when the suddenly reliable Asdrubal Cabrera hit a double to deep center. Drew Stubbs scored easily on the play to make it 4-3 Indians and with Cabrera at second they were in excellent shape to add on. That was until Cabrera made one of the cardinal sins of baseball. On a ground ball hit in front of him to shortstop Alcides Escobar, Cabrera was thrown out at third. The mistake was deflating and ended the rally before it ever got a chance to really get moving.
In the top of the ninth Michael Bourn added some much-needed insurance when he cranked a solo home run into the Indians bullpen in right field. The no doubt about it shot gave the Indians a 5-3 lead and provided closer Chris Perez with a bit of a cushion. Fortunately, he didn’t need it. Perez looked dominant for the first time in weeks, retiring the Royals in order in the ninth inning to close out the 5-3 win for the Tribe.
With the victory, the Indians still find themselves a half game back of both the Rays and Rangers and will hold the second wild card spot if they can win tomorrow (the Rays and Rangers are tied and play each other again tomorrow night. Also worth noting, the win last night was the Tribe’s 82nd of the season meaning that they have guaranteed themselves a winning record in 2013. That puts an end to four straight sub-.500 seasons.
The Indians will close out this three game series, as well as their season series with the Royals tomorrow night when Danny Salazar takes the mound against Bruce Chen. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10.