June 18, 2013
The pitching matchup featured Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Santana dominated the Indians the first time he faced them this season (7 IP, 0 ER), and the way he started the game, it looked like he would at the very least match his first outing. Through five innings, the Indians had managed just one hit off Santana, and didn't get more than one runner in an inning. But in the sixth, the Indians not only made Santana work, but actually got on the board. Drew Stubbs, who has struggled all season against right-handed pitchers, got on via a broken-bat single, and quickly stole second. That put him in position to score on Mike Aviles' single to left, and cut the deficit to 2-1.
How did the Royals score those two runs? Well, it wasn't on a base hit. The Royals scored two runs in the third inning without a base hit, stolen base, or error. Ubaldo Jimenez walked the first two batters of the inning, he uncorked a wild pitch, the two runners move up to second and third, Eric Hosmer hit an RBI groundout, then Ubaldo threw another wild pitch to bring home run #2. On the second one, Carlos Santana let the ball get under his glove in a play very much like the play in the ninth inning on Monday.
For much of the game, it seemed like those two tainted runs would be an insurmountable deficit. But, as mentioned above, the Indians actually scored a run off Santana in the sixth, and with Santana out of the game, one run over three innings didn't seem that difficult a deficit to overcome. But then the Indians gave a key run back, and that run was handed to the Royals on a silver platter. Eric Hosmer led off the top of the eighth with an easy grounder back to Cody Allen. But Allen's throw to first was wild, and Mark Reynolds wasn't in position to keep the ball from going down the line. Hosmer alertly ran all the way to the third, and scored when Salvador Perez singled through the drawn-in infield.
It was at this point that you not only lost all hope, but became completely disgusted with the team. They had blown the first game on a wild pitch, and they were about to lose a game in which all three runs were scored without the benefit of a hit. The Indians had six outs to go, but it was against one of the American League's best bullpens.
If you've followed a baseball team for any length of time, you've been humbled multiple times. For example, the Indians were up three runs in the ninth in Boston, and you were thinking that the Indians would get out of town with a split. Even though you've seen the worst happen, it still doesn't prevent you from making those assumptions again and again. But it works the other way, too. Tonight, for instance, I thought that there was not way this team could make up two runs against the Royals, and that they'd fall two game under .500, and 1.5 games behind the Royals, and perhaps 6.5 games behind the Tigers. But in the span of ten minutes, that disgust and despair turned to unexpected happiness.
Kelvin Herrera, he of the 100 mph fastball, started off the bottom of the eighth by walking Ryan Raburn, who went to second on a Drew Stubbs groundout. It was at this point that I got even more disgusted, because the Indians had given away a run the inning before, making Raburn's run unimportant. But then Herrera threw a "slow" curve to Michael Bourn, who flipped the ball down the left field line, scoring Raburn from second. Then Mike Aviles singled , moving Bourn to second. OK, now it's getting somewhat interesting, but here comes Tim Collins, who has owned left-handers all season (.163/.234/.186), to pitch to Jason Kipnis. But Kipnis doubled down the left field, bringing home the tying run and pushing the go-ahead run to third base with one out. Carlos Santana was then walked, setting up another lefty-lefty matchup, this time Michael Brantley, who has been awful over the past month (.229/.289/.265). But after falling behind 0-2, he got the ball to the outfield, and thanks to a poor throw, Aviles tagged up and scored the go-ahead run.
So then, all of sudden, the Indians were in a position to win, and Vinnie Pestano hurriedly got ready to come in to pitch the ninth. And he was really bad, allowing three hits and walk, but you know what? He didn't allow a run, and here's how it happened. Pestano allowed singles to David Lough and Mike Moustakas to start the inning, but then struck out Chris Getz for the first out. Then Alcides Escobar hit a sharp single to right field. With Lough, a speedy runner, at second, I thought there'd be no way he'd be held at third, and apparently Lough did, too. For although the Kansas City third base coach put up the stop sign, Lough ended up in no-man's land, and got caught in a rundown. Pestano ran him back to third, where Mike Moustakas was now standing. Moustakas was out on the play, and if Pestano had been a bit quicker, he might have tagged both runners out to end the game. So now there were runners at second and third with two outs. Pestano pitched around Alex Gordon, and then got Eric Hosmer to ground out to end the game.
So despite essentially giving the Royals three runs, despite giving up three hits in the ninth, the Indians escaped with the victory. And with that victory, they took back second place, and got back to .500.
Roll Call (27 Commenters)
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