With seemingly the entire top half of the American League on ridiculous winning streaks, it was important for the Indians not to drop the first two games of their series down in Miami before their pivotal four-gamer with the Tigers next week. Zach McAllister spun a no-hit gem for the first five innings, encountered some trouble in the sixth, and it took the team’s speed, the clutch hitting of Jason Kipnis, and some strong bullpen work to lock down a 4-3 victory.
Michael Bourn stole three bases in the ballgame 1 , raising his total to 16 on the season and essentially manufactured the first two runs of the game by himself as he hit a leadoff single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on an RBI single from Jason Kipnis. Kipnis said about the team’s leadoff hitter post-game, “He’s a table setter, natural leadoff guy. He’s a sparkplug, and he’s the guy that kind of gets us going and gets us moving in the right direction each time.” Kipnis added about his fellow speedster and top of the order threat, “He creates runs that other guys can’t do.” Bourn simply beat out a grounder to short in the third for an infield hit. After stealing second, he attempted to move up on a wild pitch and Brantly threw it into left field, allowing Bourn to score.
Kipnis added a really insightful comment about how this team uses its speed, “We knew we had speed coming into this year, and we’re just starting to utilize it. We’re not forcing the issue. We’re not stealing just to steal. Guys are picking their spots at the right time.” I couldn’t agree more. High stolen base totals are nice, but what really counts is being able to get them in key spots when you NEED to get runners in scoring position. It would be nice to see this team manufacture a few more runs with the wheels of Bourn (16), Kipnis (team leader with 21 steals), Brantley (11), Stubbs (13 after 2 last night), and even Mike Aviles (8 steals on the year now after one last night).
Zach McAllister has certainly shown some bits of rust to chip away as he’s return from his extended stint on the disabled list, but tonight, he was phenomenal through five. When McAllister gets hit, it’s when his fastball finds too much of the plate and gets crushed. A fourth inning walk to Giancarlo Stanton was the lone blemish on McAllister’s scorecard until the leadoff hitter in the sixth inning, catcher Rob Brantly, singled to leadoff the inning. That started the trouble for Zac Mac as following a popout, Christian Yelich and Ed Lucas plated runs with RBI hits to tie the game and chase McAllister from the game. McAllister allowed just three hits, walking one and striking out seven, throwing 99 pitches in his 5 1/3 innings. From time to time, McAllister like Jimenez can get his pitch count to run up there and prevent him from going more than five or six innings, but he’s been very effective all season long. When you watch McAllister work when he’s on, there’s nothing spectacular about his fastball, but it’s how he moves it, changes speeds (91 to 95), and works it all over the plate. It’s a little concerning that McAllister has been unable to finish strong in his last two outings, but I still like what McAllister is bringing to the table.
In the top of the seventh, it was Jason Kipnis who came through yet again as the bags were loaded off a Stubbs single and walks by Bourn and Swisher. Kipnis nearly took off the pitcher’s head as he scorched a two-run single up the middle to give the Indians the lead for good. “Instead of coming out of my shoes and swinging and missing more, staying the other way and staying through stuff,” says Kipnis, whose approach to take things back up the middle and opposite field has completely revolutionized his effectiveness at the plate. Bang-bang plays were a crucial part of this one as well. On Kipnis’s two-run single, Michael Bourn slid under the tag of Brantly on an absolute bullet from the centerfielder Marisnick. Even prior to that, Stubbs and Bourn did a double steal where Stubbs slid in under the tag as the throw had beat him.
The bullpen did their part in the high leverage situations of the final innings. Cody Allen, Joe Smith, and Chris Perez combined for 3 2/3 innings of scoreless work and did not allow the inherited runner from Zach to score in the sixth. Allen made things interesting as he struck out Stanton then allowed a single to Logan Morrison and walked Donovan Solano. With the bags juiced, Allen was able to coax a fly ball off the bat of Adeiny Hechavarria to retire the side. Allen came back out and got the Marlins 1-2-3 in the 7th, which would eventually earn him his 5th win of the year. A crucial leadoff bunt that Santana picked up just off the line and fired into right field prevented a leadoff hitter in the inning from standing on second base. Joe Smith cruised through the eighth inning on 11 pitches. Meanwhile, Chris Perez made for a heart-stopping ninth inning as he allowed the first three hitters to reach base before a sacrifice bunt moved the tying and winning runs into scoring position. The third hitter in the inning, Hechavarria put down a sac bunt, but Mike Aviles at third for some reason looked to second before throwing to first and did not get a single out. The key play was Brantly hitting one right at Swisher at first. Swisher looked the runner at third back, went to first for the out, and nearly picked Hechavarria who had ventured off the bag at second. Pure Rage then got Placido Polanco out on a ball to the outfield that hung up long enough for Michael Bourn to get under it.
The Indians go for the series win this afternoon in Miami with Scott Kazmir taking the mound against Nathan Eovaldi.
(Photo: Pedro Portal/Miami Herald)
Which can mean only one thing – Bourn read Jon’s recap earlier this week questioning his speed.