It was quite the double dip yesterday down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The weather was dicey. The fact that they were able to get two games in was a borderline miracle. At noon, it was dark and a torrential downpour at Progressive Field. Yet at 1:05, the sun was out and the tarp was lifted. The first pitch came at 1:30.
The afternoon tilt was literally a tale of two games. The Indians offense absolutely erupted against Phil Humber, he of the recent perfect game. Travis Hafner got things started with a solo blast to the right field seats to tie the game at one. Carlos Santana followed with a double into the right field corner. Shin-Soo Choo then singled to shallow right and stole second, putting two runners in scoring position for Michael Brantley. Brantley, who has looked more comfortable at the plate of late, delivered in a big way, singled in both Santana to put the Tribe on top. Casey Kotchman’s fielder’s choice — which should have been a double play but was thrown away by shortstop Alexei Ramirez — scored Choo.
But they were far from done.
In the third with the score now 3-2, the Indians would get to and eventually knock out Humber. Asdrubal Cabrera, who is in the midst of an absolute tear at the plate (.408 BA in his last 18 games), singled to start the big inning. An out later, Santana singled. Choo then walked to load the bases for Brantley. In his second straight RBI chance, the man they call Dr. Smooth doubled to right, scoring Cabrera and Santana with ease. Up next my socks were completely blown off when Kotchman doubled in Choo and Brantley, breaking the game open at 7-2. Humber would be lifted after walking Jack Hannahan.
Sox Manager Robin Ventura went to rookie Jose Quintana who was making his Major League debut. The lefty would walk Jason Kipnis and Cabrera, forcing in a run, but this is where the game completely turned. Hafner grounded out to end the inning.
The Tribe wouldn’t score again. In fact, all they could muster was one more hit, Hafner’s two-out sixth inning triple. Quintana completely shut the Indians down, saving the Sox bullpen for the nightcap. We’ve seen this so many times over the years with the Wahoos. Just call it the “obscure lefty” factor.
Luckily for the Tribe, they already had eight runs in the bank. They would need them. Zach McAllister, recalled for this spot star, gave Manager Manny Acta about as good as he could expect. The Attack went six innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out five and walked just one. He really only struggled during a two run Sox fourth, but gave Acta what he needed; length to save a tired bullpen.
“I thought I was able to make some good pitches when I needed to,” McAllister said. “I was definitely happy to give the team some innings. And I was definitely excited to get the win.”
That win almost didn’t happen. Acta turned things over to Jairo Ascencio for the seventh and eighth, and got his money’s worth as Jairo pitched two scoreless innings. Manny then decided to press his luck and send Ascencio back ot for a third inning. It was clear from the first batter, he had nothing left. Two walks, a wild pitch, and an RBI single later, the score was 8-6 and Acta had seen enough.
With Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez both in need of a day off, Manny turned to rookie lefty Nick Hagadone. The hard-throwing lefty danced around a two-out walk to get the final three outs and earn his first career save.
The evening affair was interesting and aggravating all at once. The “obscure lefty” factor was in full effect as the Sox started journeyman left-hander Eric Stults. Acta sent out his right-handed heavy lineup that has quantity more than quality. It showed. The Tribe made Stults look like the second coming of Tom Glavine for the first four innings. They couldn’t touch the guy until the fifth when they finally woke up, again with two outs. Lou Marson drew a walk and stole second base on the first pitch to Brantley, which caught everyone completely off guard. Brantley, for the third time on the day, came through with a clutch two-out RBI single to tie the game at one. He would smartly advance to third on the throw home. Kipnis, the Tribe’s Mr. Everything, put his team out in front with an RBI single of his own.
That is still all they could muster against Stults. Luckily for the Tribe, Josh Tomlin was matching Stults pitch for pitch. “The Little Cowboy” as Acta likes to call him, was brilliant for seven innings, striking out a season high eight batters while allowing just one run on four hits. However, the rains that had held off most of the evening but started to drizzle a little during the fifth and sixth innings, got progressively harder. It was borderline ridiculous that they were playing in this downpour, but the umpires started the eighth inning. After getting Brent Morel to pop out, he walked Alejandro De Aza and gave up a single to Gordon Beckham. Acta emerged from the dugout to call for right-hander Dan Wheeler.
Wait…he called for Dan Wheeler in a one run game in the eighth inning?
You read that correctly. With the bullpen so overworked from the Texas series, Acta was doing his best to avoid using Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez. But then, fate interceded. Wheeler never threw a pitch and the umpires called for the tarp. An hour and 25 minutes later, Joe Smith would become the new Tribe pitcher.
Smitty was immediately greeted by Alex Rios very rudely. Rios singled in the tying run, exacting some sort of mini-revenge after his incident with Chris Perez last Thursday evening. Smith would regroup to get a huge double play to end the inning, setting the stage for another batch of late inning Progressive Field magic.
Former Tribe skipper Eric Wedge was always a big “no-doubles defense” guy. I can’t stand it. In last night’s game, it burned the Sox. Cabrera blooped a Matt Thornton pitch into shallow right-center that would have easily been caught if the Chicago outfielders were in their normal positions. Santana followed with a bloop single of his own which Cabrera was able to get to third on. The Wahoos were in business. Hafner got behind in the count and eventually popped out to third, setting thr stage for Shelley Duncan. The Dunc Tank has really been struggling of late, but was in his wheel-house facing a lefty. Thornton grooved a pitch to Shelley’s liking and he dispatched it into the left field corner to give the Tribe a 3-2 lead.
It would stay that way into the ninth, where Acta called on lefty Tony Sipp for the save. This was a curious decision to say the least, considering how Sipp has had issues with right-handed bats. But Sipp worked his way through it. He got the first two men he faced before walking pinch hitting Tribe killer Paul Konerko. All he had to do was retire backup catcher Tyler Flowers. In the first pitch of the at-bat, Flowers hit a ball way out of Progressive Field, but it barely went foul. He would bear down and strike out Flowers for his first save in two years, clinching the doubleheader sweep of their divisional foe.
You’ve got to love this team’s grit. They took a double dip where they started McAllister, didn’t use Pestano or Perez, and got saves from Hagadone and Sipp. Great stuff from Acta’s crew.
(photo via Chuck Crow/PD)