One day after leap frogging the Texas Rangers for the second AL Wild Card spot, the Indians found themselves in an advantageous situation – keep winning and they’re in. Mission accomplished on day one as Wild Card place holders thanks largely in part to the efforts of Scott Kazmir. The Indians 4-1 victory, combined with victories by the Rays and Rangers, maintained the new status quo in the AL Wild Card standings for another night.
Scott Kazmir came into last night’s game on a bit of a downward slide. Over his previous two outings he had allowed seven runs to cross the plate and only managed to throw a total of nine innings. Last night was a complete 180 as Kazmir last seven innings and shut out the Astros on four hits and a walk.
Perhaps most impressive, Kazmir struck out ten Astros along the way. It was his 20th career double-digit strikeout game and the second time he has reached double-digit strikeouts while shutting out an opponent this month. On September 6, Kazmir pitched six shutout innings while striking out 12 New York Mets. To put that into the proper historical perspective, the last time an Indians pitcher had two shutout/10 strikeout outings in the same calendar month was Bob Feller in July of 1946.
Offensively, the Indians decided to get things going early and alleviate some of the stress that had befallen the fans over the previous two nights. Michael Bourn led things off with a double and was followed by a Nick Swisher single. With runners at the corners, Jason Kipnis lifted a fly ball to center that allowed Bourn to tag up and score easily. Two batters later, Michael Brantley delivered the knockout blow. On a 2-1 pitch from Paul Clemons, Brantley blasted a two run homer deep into the right field seats to put the Tribe up 3-0.
As it turns out, that was all the support Xazmir would need as he breezed through the Astros’ lineup with pinpoint control.
The Indians added another run to the board in the bottom of the fourth inning. This time, it was Lonnie Chisenhall delivering in the clutch. Following a lead off double by Yan Gomes, Chiz slapped a single wide left of first baseman Chris Carter. Gomes raced around the bases and crossed the plate without any contest from Astros right fielder L.J. Hoes. The RBI single put the Tribe up 4-0.
The Astros ended the Tribe’s hopes for a shutout in the top of the ninth inning. Following a successful inning of relief work from Cody Allen, Joe Smith entered the game looking to put the finishing touches on the Indians 85th win of the season. With two outs and the bases empty, Chris Carter connected on a high fastball and sent it over the wall in deep center to make it a 4-1 game. That’s all the offense they would get as Smith got former Indians Trevor Crowe to ground out to end the game.
The Good: It would appear that the fans are starting to get behind this team. Last night the attendance topped out at 26,611. That’s a step up from the 12,000-14,000 they had been drawing for quite some time now. It will be interesting to see how the attendance continues to climb over the next three games, the final home games of the season.
The Bad: The Indians still hold a wild card spot and are doing exactly what they need to do in order to make the playoffs. There’s nothing bad about that.