Remember when the Indians played the Astros and the Yankees less then two weeks ago and looked like they would have to win every game 2-1 because the offense couldn’t string anything together? I know I do. So what do you make of them after yesterday’s 12-3 shellacking of the Los Angeles Angels?
Since that five-game losing skid, their worst of the season, the Indians have won five of seven and they have done it with the bats. Save for the 3-0 shutout Monday by one of the game’s best pitchers (Jered Weaver), the much maligned Tribe attack has averaged 8.8 runs per game during the span. Don’t even try to ask me to explain it.
“Good teams can forget bad games,” said yesterday’s starter Derek Lowe. “We were able to go out the last couple nights and score a lot of runs.”
Indeed they did. Yesterday’s series clinching win was a scorcher, and I say that as someone who sat in the shade the entire game with my wife and kids. Lowe was wearing long sleeves! The heat fron the Tribe bats was the thing that made the 92-degree game time temperature bearable. Right from the start, the Wahoos were all over Ervin Santana, a man who no-hit them last summer.
With two out and nobody on in the first, Santana walked Jason Kipnis. Back in the cleanup spot was Travis Hafner, returning from an almost six-week DL stint. If Pronk was rusty, he worked it all out in that first at-bat. He put together a great battle with Santana, fouling off pitch after pitch. On the 11th pitch of the at-bat, he walked, setting the stage for Michael Brantley.
“I was really happy with that at bat,” said Hafner. “I was down in the count, but was able to work him. It gave us an extra guy on base. It was a hot day and anytime you can make a guy throw extra pitches it’s a good thing.”
It was clear that the Hafner AB took something out of Santana. Brantley followed with a laser-shot to right that ended up in the Angels bullpen for a big three-run homer.
After the game, it seemed like everyone was crediting Hafner for putting Santana on the ropes.
“That was a phenomenal at-bat,” said Brantley. “He was up there battling really hard — fouling off some tough pitches. When you wear down a pitcher like that, it obviously makes them a little bit tired and maybe they’ll leave a ball up out over the plate. Hats off to Haf. What an incredible at-bat.”
“Haf’s at bat certainly helped Brantley get a good pitch to hit,” said Johnny Damon. “Santana knew his pitch count was getting up there. I’m not saying he laid a pitch in there, but at-bats like that make everyone else around you better.”
The best part about this was, the offense was just getting started.
In the second inning, Damon (three hits) and Laser Lou Marson (2-4 and is now hitting .295) led off with back to back singles. Shin-Soo Choo ripped a double down into the right-field corner scoring Damon and moving Marson to third. Asdrubal Cabrera’s groundout scored Marson. Jason Kipnis followed with an RBI single to center scoring Choo and the rout was on. Hafner kept the line moving with a single of his own, knocking Santana from the game. In came lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who retired Brantley for the second out.
Now there were two on and two out for Casey Kotchman.
When the Tribe’s first baseman, known for his glove, gets good wood on the ball, its a thing of beauty. Casey got ahead in the count 2-0 and was looking for a pitch. He got it and deposited it into the Angels bullpen for the Tribe’s second three-run jack of the game. Kotchmania was running wild at Progressive Field and it was 9-1 Tribe with two outs in the second inning.
The Tribe added three more in the fifth on an RBI single from Marson and a double-play ball from Choo.
The beneficiary of the offensive outburst was Lowe, who had come into the game 1-5 with a 7.33 ERA in his last eight starts. He was able to pitch comfortably with the huge lead and went six innings, allowing three runs on 11 hits. We all know the sinker-baller Lowe will put men on base, but again, he was able to work through it all thanks to the double-play ball. He induced three of them yesterday.
“It’s well documented how June went for me, so it was nice to get some early runs,” he said.
As up and down as he has been, Lowe is now 5-1 at home with a 2.86 ERA.
Meanwhile, the offense has all of a sudden become the thing that has carried this team through a real rough part of the schedule. After that five-game losing streak, it looked like real danger was upon us, instead, the bats have turned it on and the Tribe has won five of seven.
Here is how bizarre things got yesterday – the Tribe, a team that has spent the majority of the season failing to come through in the clutch, went 7-13 with runners in scoring position yesterday. Even more bizarre: Damon threw out Albert Pujols trying to stretch a single into a double! Yes it actually happened, I am not making it up. It is the first time he has accomplished this feat since 2010.
Even Damon couldn’t believe it.
“I got there and was a little slow grabbing the ball. When I threw the ball, a fan said, “Great throw.” I said, “No, it was a bad throw. I left it up.”
“The fan goes, “He’s out,”" said Damon. “I go, “You’re absolutely right.” I had absolutely no clue after I threw the ball because I started talking to the fan. That’s something I’ll definitely remember.”
With the win, the Indians moved to 42-39 at the official half-way point of their season (81 games). They sit two back of the Chicago White Sox, who also won last night against the Texas Rangers. Up next for the boys is a four-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays (43-49) before heading to the All-Star break. Josh Tomlin (4-5, 5,85 ERA), who has become somewhat of a question mark in the rotation, starts things off tonight for the Tribe. He will face off against right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-4, 3.44 ERA).
(Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)