Games like Thursday night are why I love baseball and I why baseball frustrates the heck out of me at the exact same time. I mean what other game can one player completely shut down an entire team for the duration of regulation, only to be on the hook for a loss because of one of the worst and strangest defensive plays you will ever see? The highs were so high last night, and the lows were excruciatingly low—Cleveland-esque, dare I say.
It ended after 12:30 eastern time and went 14 innings. Starters Corey Kluber and Danny Duffy were long gone by then. I tweeted the following in the fourth inning:
This is impressive stuff by Duffy and Kluber. One run wins this game.
— TD Dery (@WFNYTD) July 25, 2014
It looked as though I would be prescient. The left-handed Duffy knifed through the weak Tribe lineup (more on that in a little) for seven strong innings. He gave up just two hits, both by Carlos Santana while striking out seven and walking two. Kluber was even better.
The Indians ace took a perfect game into the seventh and naturally had nothing to show for it. But man was he dominant. It was what we have been accustomed to from the stone-faced right-hander this year; he pounded the zone with fastballs while painting corners with his array of off-speed pitches. We’ve seen Corey look great, but nothing like last night in KC. He was near untouchable.
“We’ve seen Klubes pitch really well this year, but that was (impressive),” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I wish we had some runs, so you can sit back and really enjoy it, because that was pretty special, what he was doing. You can pick all the adjectives you want. He really pitched.”
Omar Infante’s one-out single in the seventh ended the chance at history, but he was quickly erased on a strike ’em out/throw ’em out double play.
“I felt pretty comfortable out there. I got in a good groove,” Kluber said. “For the most part, when they did get a runner on, I was able to make a good pitch, and then Yan made a good throw to throw him out trying to steal.”
Then came the madness.
KC reliever Wade Davis has been arguably the best set up man in baseball this season. He’s allowed just one earned run in since April 26th. One. Yet the little offense that couldn’t managed to load the bases on Davis with one out, thanks to singles from Jose Ramirez and pinch hitter David Murphy and a walk by Jason Kipnis. They had the perfect man up at the plate to finally break this scoreless tie, Michael Brantley. So guess what happened? He grounded into a 6-3 double play.
Kluber was still cruising and came out for the eighth. Murphy, who entered the game for Mike Aviles, took over in right, with Ryan Raburn moving to left. Raburn was due up second the next inning and KC closer Greg Holland, a right-handed pitcher, was going to enter for the ninth one way or another. Everyone knows that Raburn is a butcher with the glove. Chris Dickerson would be pinch hitting for him in the ninth, so why not replace Raburn for defensive purposes?
Nah, that couldn’t possibly come back to bite them could it?
With one out, Tribe killer Mike Moustakas hit a fly ball to short left near the foul line. Raburn charged hard and tried to make a sliding catch. The ball hit off of the wrist area of his glove and rolled for what looked like a double. However, when Raburn came up throwing, he spiked the ball. Literally. Watch.
Dude went full-on Rob Gronkowski. The ball went straight into the ground and rolled away from him. Moustakas just kept on running all the way home and a game that Kluber had dominated had all of a sudden looked like a 1-0 loss. It was a complete and utter fluke play.
“As I came up to throw it to the infield, my infielders started taking off toward third base, (I) tried to hold up, and (I) couldn’t hold up,” Raburn said. “I think I was more mad than (Kluber) was. … I don’t think there was anyone that felt worse than I did.”
Plays like that happen. I’m way more upset by the way Raburn swings the bat and why Francona continues to hit him fifth when he gets starts against lefties. Last year is over. It was the greatest run of the journeyman’s career. We have now seen almost four months of reality. This is the real Ryan Raburn, folks: .199/.249/.271 with two homers and 18 RBIs hits eighth or ninth, not in the middle of the order.
It still boggles my mind that the front office handed him a two-year in the middle of last season. Guys like him are a dime a dozen and can be grabbed each off-season for nothing. He jumped at that money and probably couldn’t believe his luck. When Michael Bourn returns from the DL, the Indians should release Raburn and keep Dickerson around, but they won’t.
Now back to the action.
On came Holland, the All-Star closer with just one blown save this season. Santana started the inning by working a walk. Down by a run on the road, the old baseball adage is to play for the tie at home and the win on the road. Francona said adages be damned, and called for the bunt. Now you know I can’t stand bunting, but it ended up working out in Tito’s favor. Dickerson, pinch hitting for Raburn, got ahead 2-0 and laid one down that moved Santana to second. I hate giving up outs, especially when your offense can’t score, but nevertheless Santana was in scoring position. Nick Swisher’s ground out moved Carlos to third, leaving it up to Yan Gomes. The Yanimal delivered with a rocket shot single right up the middle to tie the game, saving Raburn’s bacon.
The good news was that the Indians had tied the game at one, the bad news was it would stay that way for another hour and a half.
Kluber departed after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning. His line was sweeter than a bag of oranges: Nine innings, zero earned runs, two hits, 10 K’s, zero walks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Indians player to take a perfect game into the seventh inning since Charles Nagy in 1991, and the first Indian to take one 6 1-3 innings since Len Barker threw a perfect game on May 15, 1981.
Now, the rest of the way it was going to come down to who blinked first. The two teams have stellar bullpens and you saw that on display last night. Then again, both offenses are atrocious at times too. It was kind of hard to decipher. The Indians really never did much in extras to even talk about.
In 14th inning, lefty Marc Rzepcynzski came out for his second frame. Lorenzo Cain led off with a chopper to short that Ramirez had to make a tough play on. He couldn’t come up with it and Cain had himself an infield single. With the right-handed Danny Valencia called to pinch hit, Francona countered with John Axford. Cain would steal second on a close play that was reviewed, but upheld. After Axford K’d Valencia, speedy lefty Nori Aoki came to the plate.
Three innings earlier in the same spot with first base open, Francona elected to face the lighting-quick Aoki, a lefty, with the right-handed hitting Alcides Escobar on deck. He only got away with it in the 11th after a replay reversed Aoki’s infield single. This same situation was happened in the 14th. Aoki’s run means nothing, why not set up the force and let Axford face Escobar? You know where this is going. Aoki slapped a walkoff single to left and the Indians lost a heartbreaker 2-1.
I love this team more than any I follow, but even I know they are what they are; a .500 baseball team. When they build up the good will and make you think they are going to start the second half with a bang, winning three of four in Detroit, they give it all back losing two of three to the sad sack Twins and now losing a game they had to win with Kluber on the mound. When your ace gives you nine innings of near perfection, there are zero excuses for not winning the game. Zero.1
Now they must do what they can to salvage the rest of this 11-game trip, which now stands at 4-4. Josh Tomlin will take on the flame-throwing Yordano Ventura2 tonight at 8:10 p.m.
(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)