The first of two times the benches cleared tonight.
Shin-Soo Choo's reaction to getting hit by a pitch in the third inning started a chain of events that seemed to be leading towards a gut-wrenching loss, but his two-run double in the tenth turned the game around.
So why did Choo react the way he did to getting hit Jonathan Sanchez? As hit-by -pitches go, it was fairly benign; the pitch was below the below, and anyone who has seen Sanchez pitch before knows how wild he was. I would say that his reaction was brought on for two reasons: one, that Sanchez was the one essentially ended his season in 2011, and two, that Choo had endured several plunkings and close calls in the young season. So even though Sanchez did not mean to hit Choo, and the pitch itself was not worth a reaction, those two reasons caused a reaction. Choo didn't start towards the mound, but he turned towards Sanchez and said a few choice words, the benches cleared, but nobody was tossed. The Indians would score five runs before the inning was over, and Sanchez would be pulled before making it out of the inning.
Between innings, the home plate umpire warned both benches, but Jeanmar Gomez retaliated anyways, hitting the first batter he faced in the bottom of the third, and causing another bench-clearing incident, this one much more heated than the first one. We'll probably never know whether this was due to his own initiative, or came from Manny Acta or his teammates, but regardless, the Indians now had to finish the game without Gomez, who was tossed along with Acta (the manager always gets tossed if his pitcher intentionally hits a batter after a warning) along with Jack Hannahan, who was the most vociferous participant in both bench-clearings. I think the overwhelming attitude in the dugout was that they had to have Choo's back, and make sure that Choo knew it; he's going to have to be a vital contributor if the Indians are going to compete this year, and it's important that he be concentrating on hitting and not be thinking about when he's going to be hit next. So the sacrifice was made.
Those ejections almost resulted in the Indians losing a game that seemed well in hand. Gomez had looked very good through two innings, and with the Royals having to go to their bullpen early in their second straight game, the Indians had a decided advantage in the pitching department in addition to the five-run lead. Thanks to all the early-season rain-outs and off-days in the first week of the season, the Indians had Josh Tomlin available as a long man, so even with Gomez's ejection they seemed to good shape. But Tomlin had to be pulled in the the sixth after giving up 5 runs (plus one run charged to Gomez), and the late-game relievers didn't fare much better. Jason Donald, who had moved to third base to replace Hannahan, made several defensive miscues; his throwing error in the sixth led to a run, and should have caught what was scored a double in the seventh. So even though the Indians had extended their 5-0 lead to 9-2 by the fifth inning, the Royals had clawed back into the game, having scored eight runs since Gomez left the game.
The score was 9-8 when Vinnie Pestano entered the game in the eighth, but it didn't remain that way for long. Yuniesky Betancourt, the first batter of the inning, hit a solo home run, and the comeback was complete.
But the tide seemed to turn after the Jairo Asencio walked Jarrod Dyson. The speedy center fielder attempted to steal second after Jeff Francouer struck out, and Carlos Santana made a perfect throw to nab him. In the tenth, Shin-Soo Choo, who had to that point gone 0-for-4, hit a two-out, two-run double to give the Indians the lead, and Chris Perez restored order by retiring the Royals in order.*
*Jason Donald made another poor throw on the first out of the inning, but Casey Kotchman made a very good scoop to make the out.