After seemingly weeks of one close game after another, nail-biters that have kept us on the edge of our seats, your Cleveland Indians finally made it easy on all of us. Make no mistake about the Kansas City Royals – that team can play. They have hitters all up and down their lineup, a rock solid rotation, and one of the best back ends of a bullpen in baseball. The same cannot be said for the Chicago White Sox.
The South Siders are closing up shop on their worst season in more than a decade. They sit 30 games under .500 and are in full rebuild mode. Their pitching staff, both starters and the bullpen, leave a lot to be desired. More good news – entering last night, the Indians had six more games with the White Sox on their schedule. There is no better tonic for a struggling offense than seeing some Chicago pitching.
After losing two of three to the Royals, the Indians came in game and a half back of the second Wild Card, knowing what they had to do. Right from the start, they jumped all over lefty John Danks, who ironically has never beaten the Indians in his home park U.S. Cellular Field. Nick Swisher hit his 18th homer of the year to give the Wahoos an early lead. Jason Kipnis followed with a single and Carlos Santana walked. Hitting in the five hole against the lefty was Ryan Raburn.
The Tribe’s biggest bat surprise in 2013 has sorely been missed over the past three to four weeks. He spent time on the DL with a calf injury and in general continues to battle Achilles and heel problems. Francona has only been able to pick and choose spots with him every week or so. But in his career, there has been no team he has dominated quite like the White Sox. In another big spot, Raburn delivered a three-run bomb to left and the Tribe had a four run lead just like that. It was Raburn’s 17th career homer against Chicago.
“We said coming into this series that Raburn would hopefully play a big part, because we were going to face three lefties,” manager Terry Francona said. “But he did what he’s done so often this year. He not only gets hits, but he gives us a lot of production for a guy that plays maybe half the year or not even [half]. He’s given us a lot of production out of that bat.”
It was only just the beginning for a Tribe offensive attack that exploded after a frustrating series with KC.
Kipnis added a two-out RBI double in the second. Mike Aviles’s third inning sac fly extended the Tribe’s lead to 6-1. Another sac fly in the fourth from Kipnis was the Wahoos seventh run. But it was the fifth inning that really sealed the deal.
Danks was lifted after four innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on nine hits. He was replaced by Charlie Leesman. Everyone’s favorite shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera greeted the rookie with a solo homer (of course this comes of the solo variety with a five run lead). Leesman then couldn’t find the plate, walking both Yan Gomes and Aviles. That’s when the rains came and the umpires called for the tarp. It was one of the shorter rain delays I’ve ever seen as just as the tarp was called for, it was taken off the field.
Leesman came back out and issued his third straight free pass, this one to Drew Stubbs to load the bases with nobody out. It came back around to the top of the order where Michael Bourn singled home Gomes. Swisher kept the line moving with another RBI single, this one bringing in two Indians. Leesman then walked his fourth hitter in the inning, Kipnis, to again load the bases. That was all for him as Sox manager Robin Ventura called for Dylan Axelrod. New pitcher, same results.
Santana would single in Bourn. Raburn would bring home Swisher and Kipnis with his third hit on the night. At that point the Tribe had sent nine men to the plate in the fifth without recording an out.
“If we’re going to get where we want to go we’re going to need contributions from everybody just like this,” said Francona.
At 14-2, the Tribe would be able to cruise home to an easy victory. Corey Kluber wasn’t sharp but pitched five innings for the win. That will work against the sad sack Sox, but he is going to have to be better these next two weeks if the Tribe wants to get to October. However, pitching with a nice lead always makes things easier.
“I was a little sloppy to start out with,” Kluber said. “I didn’t have my best command early on, but the nice part about that is that the offense came out and put up a lot of runs. … I think I was kind of inconsistent with my delivery early on and I wasn’t getting my arm in a good slot, pitch after pitch. But, I kind of figured it out a little bit just playing catch during the delay and [pitched better after that].”
A real nice highlight was the return of right-hander Josh Tomlin, making his first big league appearance since August 12th of last year. “The Little Cowboy” missed a year after Tommy John surgery and pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
“Tomlin was as advertised,” said Francona. “He threw strikes and didn’t hurt himself. He’s beenn champing at the bit to get in there, but it’s been really tough to do when we’re fighting through all these games.”
Vinnie Pestano took the eighth and didn’t look too sharp. He was at 89-90 all inning and wasn’t fooling anyone. It is amazing to me that a guy can be so dominant for two years and just completely lose it a year later. I still think something is physically wrong with him.
More importantly, the 14-3 win kept the Wahoos just a game and a half back of Tampa Bay, who beat Boston 4-3 last night. The Yankees took down the Orioles 6-5, staying a half game in front of the Tribe. Baltimore fell a full game back of the Indians. Kansas City had an off day, but lost a half game in the standings.
As we’ve said, the Indians need to take care of their own business and the rest should just fall into place.
“We got to win, that’s the botton line,” said Swisher “We’ve put ourselves in a great position. The thing we’re stressing in here is that these years don’t come around every year. It’s not a guarantee that you’re going to be fighting for a playoff spot. We want to try and finish this off, regardless of how we do it. Whether it’s wild card of division. We’re going to keep fighting until the last out.”
The Tribe is now 12-2 against the Sox this year with five games still to play. This afternoon at 2:10 EST, they go for two in a row with rookie Danny Salazar (1-2, 2.92 ERA) taking the mound for most likely the first five innings. I’d expect Carlos Carrasco to be on the ready to follow him. The Sox will counter with lefty Hector Santiago (4-8, 3.44 ERA).