The Indians win a nail-biter against the first place Tigers behind a solid start from Corey Kluber and a clutch Michael Brantley home run in the tenth inning.
In a season that’s been tough to watch at times, the development of Michael Brantley has been fantastic to see. Dr. Smooth continued his 2014 breakout by driving a hanging slider from Al Albuquerque deep into the night to give the Indians a 5-4 win in 10 innings. Brantley has always been a solid if not spectacular player, but he’s clearly been the Indians best player this season, a stabilizing force in a lineup that has desperately needed one. It’s difficult to say for sure if this power surge will continue, but even if it doesn’t, Michael Brantley is solidifying himself as a fantastic outfielder; an all-around player with an unflappable demeanor. His contract extension is looking better every day.
The best thing you could say about the Tribe’s offense this game was that they generated plenty of opportunities to score runs. They chased Drew Smyly after five innings and 110 pitches by working counts and drawing five walks against him. Between Smyly and the Tigers bullpen, the Indians managed 14 hits, six walks, and one hit by pitch. For an offense that’s been inconsistent to say the least, generating that many scoring opportunities is the best thing the team can do. They should have scored more runs, but for this game the Indians did just enough, and one has to think the hits with men on base will start coming sooner than later.
Corey Kluber pitched a fine ballgame, going 7+ innings, allowing 3 runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out eight. Kluber was excellent through six innings, only running into trouble in the second, when he gave up a leadoff homer to the red-hot Victor Martinez and allowing two more men to reach base before striking out two in a row to end the inning. Kluber cruised from there, striking out the side in the fourth and facing the minimum in the fifth and sixth. He struggled through the seventh, giving up an infield single to Nick Castellanos and doubles to Alex Avila and Rajai Davis to let the Tigers tie it up at 3-3. But against a very good Tigers team, the Indians will take that sort of outing every time.
Outside of Cody Allen, the bullpen pitched well. (I know, that’s like saying aside from tasting like wet cardboard, Bud Light is a really good beer. But just go with it.) Bryan Shaw showed why, in this humble scribe’s opinion, he is the best reliever on the Indians roster by finishing the eighth inning after Kluber had allowed a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera. Scott Atchison continued his impressive season, earning the win by pitching a scoreless inning, lowering his ERA to 1.42 in the process. Despite all the shakiness, there’s a quality bullpen in there somewhere. Hopefully it emerges soon.
Cody Allen struggled today, but he should be fine going forward, and tonight is not a night to dwell on the negative.
The Bottom Line
It’s never good to put too much stock in a single game across a 162 game season, but the Indians certainly could use a game like this. This win alone won’t get the Indians back into contention, but hopefully it can serve as a stepping stone to get this ballclub heading in the right direction. For now however, the players and fans alike can celebrate one of the most exciting victories of the season.