The Cleveland Indians are guaranteed to play more than 162 games in the 2013 season. On the heels of a brilliant outing from Scott Kazmir and some of their classic two-out magic, the Indians clinched at least one game beyond today as even with a loss today they would at worst be playing baseball on Monday. After their ninth straight win, however, it’s time to make it a perfect ten to end the regular season. Doing so will clinch the Wild Card game being at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.
You have to start with Scott Kazmir, who turned in just a phenomenal performance. Kazmir got into some trouble in multiple innings, but the strikeout was his best friend. Kazmir put two runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, yet he allowed only a single run to score in the fourth. In the third and fourth, Kazmir got fly balls to end the threats (Michael Brantley got a huge jump on the one to end the threat in the left-center gap in the fourth), and in the fifth, it was a strike ’em out, throw ’em double play courtesy of Yan Gomes firing it down to third and erasing Brian Dozier. Kazmir struck out 11 in his six innings of work, including striking out the side in his final inning of work. One would have to think that should the Indians get into a series that Kazmir would be awarded a start ahead of Zach McAllister, provided that Justin Masterson would stay in the bullpen. Kazmir’s had swing and miss stuff most of the year, but it’s that ability to avoid the big inning and work out of trouble that he needs to have to be the guy he’s been for most of the season. In his last two starts, it appears that knack is back.
On the other side, Cole De Vries was doing his early best Seth McClung impersonation, fanning Tribe hitters left and right. The Indians’ approach against the slow-throwing righty the first time through the order was downright pathetic. 7 of the first 11 batters struck out, but the two-out magic got going with the Tribe’s All-Star slugger. Jason Kipnis sent a two-out single into center, which brought Carlos Santana to the plate. Santana figured out the mystery of the 88 mph fastball when he crushed one on a 1-1 count and deposited on the right field concourse in Target Field.
Kazmir gave one run back in the bottom of the inning on an Eric Fryer RBI single with two outs. But, the Tribe came back with three more in the fifth. Again, it was two-out hitting that started with singles by Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. Then, Michael Bourn, returning after a two-game absence due to a wrist injury, sliced a triple into right that hit the wall in right and popped straight up in the air. Gomes scored, and there was a play at the plate with Aviles. Fryer appeared to sweep the tag on Aviles’s foot before he reached the plate, but Mike was called safe. After a Swisher walk, Kipnis added another two-out hit to score Bourn and make it a 5-1 game, the final score.
In a four-run game, Terry Francona took no chances, using his bullpen core to get the final nine outs after Kazmir’s day was done. Mark Rzepczynski was called upon for the seventh, Cody Allen was used in the eighth, and Joe Smith worked the ninth. Rzepczynski walked the first hitter, but the three together faced the minimum and kept the Twins offense silent.
Today, it’s simple. You have your number one starter on the hill in Ubaldo Jimenez. Win, and I’ll see you on Wednesday in Progressive Field for the Wild Card game. Lose, and it’s much more likely that we could be hosting a tiebreaker tomorrow against either Tampa (if we lost and both Texas and Tampa won). What we all should be rooting for is a Tribe win and losses (or wins) by both Texas and Tampa. That sets up a tiebreaker for those two teams in Texas, where Tampa Bay would be forced to throw David Price, keeping him out of the potential Wild Card game. The Twins send Scott Diamond to the hill in the regular season finale for them.
Ubaldo and the Tribe have a real golden opportunity to end the regular season with a 10-game winning streak and cap off September with a 21-6 record. Let’s hope they can do that and set us up for a thrilling home game on Wednesday.
(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)