May 6, 2013
Chapter 29: Revenge is a dish best served long
The Indians now lead the American League in home runs. Let that sink in a bit.
Ok, time's up. The ability to hit home runs is more than an aesthetic positive; creating runs with one swing of the bat is the most efficient way of scoring, especially against good pitchers. And the Indians, up and down the lineup, are hitting home runs. Every batter who has more than 10 Plate Appearances has hit at least one home run, so although Mark Reynolds, the AL leader in home runs, is going to get the publicity, he's had plenty of help.
Of the four home runs hit last night, I want to key on one them, for it was special for multiple reasons. But first, let's back up to the first inning. The Indians hit two home runs in the first off Jarrod Parker, one by Jason Kipnis, the other by Asdrubal Cabrera. Later that inning Parker threw a fastball that hit Mark Reynolds on the top of the shoulder, just inches from causing much more serious damage. Reynolds, who had fell to the ground, lay there for a few second, then popped up and jogged to first, not even glancing at Parker.
Meanwhile, umpire Angel Hernandez warned both benches, which in my opinion is exactly the wrong thing to do. It not only handcuffed the Indians' starter (in this case Ubaldo Jimenez), but prevented them from retaliating during the course of play. Let's say an inning later Jimenez plunks Yoenis Cespedes on the hip with a fastball; that would not have hurt anyone, but would have sent a message to Oakland that it's not a good idea to throw high fastball at your players. End of controversy. Instead, with a warning being issued, not only could Jimenez not retaliate in kind without being thrown out and likely suspended, but it eliminates the freedom to pitch inside, leaving it up to the umpire to figure out intent. Either issue no warnings at all, or immediately throw out Parker for throwing the pitch.
But Mark Reynolds exacted revenge in the best way possible. In the bottom of the fifth, with Parker still pitching, Reynolds came to the plate for the third time that evening. On the first pitch he saw, he launched a ball into orbit, then leisurely watched it at home plate. After a couple of seconds, he spat, then started his home run trot. The ball landed just a couple of rows from the scoreboard at the top of the bleacher; I believe only Mark McGwire has hit a ball farther into the bleachers. It was the perfect retaliation, exacting revenge but at the same time helping your team win a game.
(if the embed doesn't show, the link in the paragraph above will take you to the home run replay)
But it wasn't just home runs that fueled the Indians offense. In the seventh inning, the A's walked Carlos Santana to get to Jason Giambi. With two outs, Giambi had a tremendous at-bat, and finished it with a line drive to center that fell in, plating two runs and essentially breaking open the game. Ryan Raburn then hit a double, making the score 7-2. The A's would score a run in the eighth, but that would be it.
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well against a potent offense; Oakland came into the game leading the AL in runs scored, and pitches seen per plate appearance, a combination that seemed an especial challenge for a pitcher who struggled to stay in the strike zone. But Ubaldo for the most part got ahead of hitters, striking out eight Oakland hitters in 5.2 innings. He ran out of gas in the sixth inning, but Nick Hagadone left the bases loaded when he came in and struck out Lance Reddick to end the Oakland threat. Reddick's at-bat was Oakland's best chance of getting back into the game, and Hagadone forcefully slammed the cracked door, dispatching Reddick in three pitches.