When a team is locked in offensively, even when they go quiet for a few innings, you have an overwhelming feeling that they’re just waiting for an opening to burst things wide open. The Indians had 10 hits in the first seven innings of this one with only two runs to show for it. But, in the turning point that was the eighth inning, Jason Kipnis had the biggest hit of the game with a two-run triple that rightfielder Josh Reddick misjudged that stretched the lead to three. The Tribe took the second game of the series 5-1, and they’re looking at going for a whopping 8-1 road trip this afternoon. This team has grown an awful lot on this road trip through Kansas City, Seattle, and now Oakland.
The Indians tacked on a first inning run after singles by Kipnis and Choo, a walk by Santana, and an RBI groundout by Travis Hafner. They added another in the sixth with Jason Donald coming home to score following a single, stolen base, and a RBI single from Jason Kipnis. Cleveland stranded 11 runners on base for the second straight night, but they finally broke through in the eighth inning. That’s when after two-out singles from Donald and Brantley that Kipnis delivered with his fourth hit of the night, a two-run triple that right fielder Josh Reddick misjudged at the wall. A wild pitch from Brian Fuentes let in the third run in the inning, and the Tribe took the 5-1 lead. Seven different Indians had hits in this one, with Hafner, Choo, Hannahan, and Donald collecting two each. Early in the season, when the Tribe was going right last year, their bread and butter was scoring with two outs. That seems to be happening again.
One area where my patience is wearing thin is at first base. Casey Kotchman has been a big upgrade defensively for the team, but his bat has for the most part been non-existent. Kotchman is hitting just .157 with an OPS of .526. Last night, Kotchman went 0-for-4 with a walk in his first at-bat, but he flew out weakly with the bases loaded in the fifth and grounded into a double play in the ninth. What I see happening once Johnny Damon makes it to Cleveland is either Damon or Shelley Duncan stealing some time from Kotchman at first base. Given Damon’s weak arm and age, I would prefer to put him at first, though he has played just 8 career games there. Another scenario I could see developing in time is Jack Hannahan getting some time there if Lonnie Chisenhall comes up and Jack Hannahan is still hitting like he is now.
We actually got to see Jeanmar Gomez pitch more than two innings tonight, and he kept up the solid work from this spring. Gomez, who had thrown just four innings this season prior to this start, had to be removed after just 88 pitches. He did go 5 1/3 innings for the win, allowing just one run and five baserunners. The sinkerballing righty kept the A’s hitters off balance all night, coaxing seven ground ball outs. He worked out of jams in the first two innings, stranding two in each. He exited with a runner on third and one out, after which Dan Wheeler let in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly. The one area where Gomez struggled was with holding runners on, letting up three stolen bases without giving his catcher Santana a realistic shot at throwing out any of them. Jamile Weeks tallied two steals, including a double steal with Yoenis Cespedes where he was halfway to third base before Gomez delivered the pitch.
With a four-run lead to start the ninth, manager Manny Acta went to Jairo Asencio to finish things off. Unfortunately, Jairo had other plans as he put two runners on (with a little assistance from Jason Donald at short) and forced Chris Perez to get warm in the Tribe bullpen. After recording the second out on a flyball, Asencio was pulled in favor of Perez. I thought it was a little unnecessary to bring in Perez once Asencio got the second out, but I suppose Acta felt that he might as well bring Chris in since he was warm. Perez threw two fastballs in the dirt before getting Kila Ka’aihue to flyout to center to end the game. Perez secured his third save in as many nights, and he has now converted his last five save opportunities. There’s no doubt that Perez’s velocity is back, and he’s in a good place right now. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t dislike Chris Perez. I just happen to think Vinnie Pestano is the best pitcher in the Tribe bullpen. For now, though, there’s no controversy at all with Perez getting the job done.
The Indians are now 8-5 on the season, sit just one game behind Detroit, and go for the sweep at 4:05 this afternoon with their ace Justin Masterson taking the hill against Oakland righty Tyson Ross.
(Photo: Ben Margot/AP)