Baseball is such an amazing game. As I wrote yesterday, the beauty of the game is that there is no need to dwell on a loss because another game will be there before you know it. Last night at Progressive Field, 24 hours after looking like a they were attempting to hit a golf ball from Jeff Weaver, the Indians offense veered back into the Baltimore series mode and knocked around Angels starter Dan Haren, who entered the game undefeated with a 1.80 ERA in five career starts in Cleveland.
In front of 29,292 fans who were waiting to see postgame fireworks, the offense decided that would provide them earlier then expected for their faithful. It didn’t take long. Shin-Soo Choo, who is hotter than Kate Upton these days, greeted Haren with a leadoff triple. He came across on Jason Kipnis’s RBI single to center. It was just the beginning of a nine-run, 14-hit barrage that none of us saw coming. In the second, the Tribe added two more on a sac fly from Shelley Duncan and a two-out RBI double from Jack Hannahan. Duncan added more to the fun with an absolute titanic blast way up the bleachers in left.
Folks, we are in the midst of another Shelley hot streak. He is nine for his last 23 with three homers and six RBIs in his last seven games. The journeyman left fielder is so hot and cold, but it would behoove Acta to ride the hot hand, especially with Johnny Damon offering next to nothing.
Meanwhile, for the first four innings, starter Zach McAllister was cruising. Touching 95 on the gun with his fastball, The Zach Attack had allowed just two hits while striking out four. But in the fifth, the tables turned on him. Alberto Callaspo and Howie Kendrick opened the frame with back to back singles. Erick Aybar lined out for the first out. Next up for the Angels was backup catcher John Hester. He hit a tailor made double play ball to Hannahan at third. This should have ended the inning, but his throw to second sailed wide of the bag, allowing Callaspo to score and Kendrick to move to third.
“It was a routine ground ball — easy double play,” Hannahan said. “I just had a bad grip on it. Instead of placing my feet, I just threw it, and it just took off on me.”
The error proved costly as stud rookie Mike Trout took McAllister deep for a three-run, game-tying homer. An out later, Albert Pujols crushed McAllister with a solo shot to left of his own. Just like that, the Tribe trailed 5-4.
However, this was no ordinary night at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. In their next at-bat, the Wahoos attacked right back and knocked Haren out of the game. Choo led off with a double (again, can this guy be any more locked in right now?) After Asdrubal Cabrera popped out, Haren intentionally walked Kipnis to set up the double play and face right-handed hitting Jose Lopez. You knew what time it was…. It was Lopey Time.
The Tribe’s defacto cleanup man doubled into the corner in left, scoring Choo to tie the game. Lopez was 3-4 on the night and is 10 for his last 21. What a godsend he has been for Acta this season. And to think he was designated for assignment in April and went unclaimed.
Haren departed and was replaced by Hisanori Takahashi with two on and one out. Michael Brantley hit a ground-ball to Pujols at first. He stepped out first to retire Brantley but fired wildly to home in attempts to get Kipnis. This turned out to be a disaster for the Angels as the ball got by Hester, allowing both Kipnis and Lopez to score. The Tribe was now on top 7-5 and never looked back.
“These guys don’t quit and they don’t scare,” manager Manny Acta said. “They learned a lot from last season. They learned this is a long year and you just have to keep piling up wins.”
McAllister settled back in and got through the sixth unscathed before turning things over to Joe Smith for the seventh and Vinnie Pestano for the eighth. They would add insurance runs on a Michael Brantley seventh inning RBI fielders choice and an Aaron Cunningham eighth inning single (yes, you read that correctly).
Esmil Rogers pitched the ninth to preserve the 9-5. The end of the game might have sounded easy, but it wasn’t. The rains came and a monsoon-like storm occurred, causing two different rain delays, totaling an hour and 41 minutes. The worst was that crew chief Jerry Layne called for the second delay with one out in the ninth.
In the end, those who stayed were thrilled with the outcome and enjoyed their in-game and postgame fireworks.
The rubber match of the series is today at 4:05, an Independence Day celebration which will feature Sandy Alomar Jr Bobbleheads for the first 15,000 fans in attendance. I will be down with my family of four celebration in the most American of ways – eating hot dogs and watching the National pastime.
Derek Lowe (7-6, 4.42 ERA) will face off with Angels righty Ervin Santana (4-8, 5.12 ERA).
photo via Chuck Crow/PD