AL Central Standings
June 24, 2013
The expectations going into tonight were as follows: Ubaldo had to at least go five innings, and the Indians were going to have to score a bunch of runs. Baltimore has a prolific offense, and with the game played in Camden Yards on steamy early summer evening, the scenario was ripe for home runs. Ubaldo did go (barely) five innings, but he confined the damage to two solo homers and wriggled out of some ticklish jams. I think this outing qualifies more as a "tiptoe" through five innings than a "struggle through 5+ innings", as he only walked two batters, and in certain situations looked very good (for instance, the three times he faced Chris Davis).
For almost six innings, the Indians did practically nothing against Baltimore starter Zach Britton. Baltimore's major weakness is its rotation, so when the sixth inning began with Baltimore up 2-0, the chances of winning seemed rather poor. But all of a sudden, the Indians solved the southpaw, starting when the white-hot Jason Kipnis doubled down the right field line to lead off the inning. Nick Swisher then singled him home, and that really got things going. Buck Showalter quickly got the bullpen up, but not before Carlos Santana doubled and Michael Brantley shot a ball up the middle to score two and give the Indians a 3-2 lead. Had Britton gotten his glove down a bit sooner, he would have started a 1-2-3 double play, but he didn't, so his night ended right then and there.
T.J. House was summoned from Columbus in case Ubaldo got run from the game early, but although he wasn't needed, the Indians still needed to wring another 3.2 innings from an already tired bullpen. That meant relying on the front end of the bullpen to pitch some high-leverage innings, and that all started when Rich Hill replaced Jimenez with one out in the sixth inning and a runner on first. Hill, charitably speaking, has struggled most of the year, a lot of it having to do with a flat breaking pitch. As explained on the broadcast, each time the opposition got a hit off Hill, the Tribe southpaw would lower his arm slot bit. It had gotten to the point he was almost a sidearmer, and that meant his usually sharp-breaking curve didn't break much at all. Well, recently, he and pitching coach Mickey Callaway decided that a more conventional arm slot was the right fit for him, and at least in the last couple outings that tweak has worked. Hill retired the three batters he faced, and got the game into the seventh.
Michael Brantley not only gave the Indians a lead with his two-run single in the sixth, he gave the Indians a couple insurance runs in the eighth. After a lengthy at-bat against Orioles reliever Darren O'Day, he turned on an inside pitch and easily cleared the fence in right-center. That made the score 5-2, and made things much easier on both Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano.
Pestano, like Hill, has not looked right over the past 3-4 weeks. Pestano's velocity had fallen, and his slider didn't have its characteristic bite. Well, tonight, just as Hill's curve returned to form, so did Pestano's slider. He disposed of Matt Wieters in four pitches (all three strikes were sliders), and got a quick popup from pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson. But then he couldn't put away Ryan Flaherty, and he eventually walked the #9 hitter. Then he gave up a single to McLouth, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of young phenom Manny Machado. Machado hit a liner, but it was right at shortstop Mike Aviles, and the Indians won the game.
Roll Call (43 Commenters)
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