July 4, 2013
This might have been the worst-pitched game since April, and it came in a crucial game to both teams. The Royals are embarking on their most difficult stretch schedule-wise of their season, and the Indians were heading back home to play four against the Detroit Tigers.
On paper this one looked like the Royals had the advantage. They were sending James Shields to the mound, a pitcher that not only has outstanding pitching rates (8 SO/9, 8 H/9, 2.5 BB/9), but also goes deeper into games than almost anyone else in the league, averaging 7 innings per game. Ubaldo Jimenez had similar strikeout and hit ratios, but has pitched 34 fewer innings in just one fewer start. For the Indians to win today, the bullpen would need to on their game.
But for the first five innings, the roles were reversed. It looked as though Shields would be the one leaving early, as the Indians scored early and kept the pressure on. In the first inning, a Michael Brantley single plated the first run of the game, and Drew Stubbs cranked a two-run homer in the second to push the lead to 3-0. Shields would settle down for a couple innings, but the Indians knocked him out in the sixth when Stubbs again drove two runs on a single hit. This time the hit was a single that scored Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles, and with that the Indians would face the Royal bullpen over the last 3.2 innings. It seemed that the road trip would end with an easy victory, and at the very worst, the Indians would be going into the Detroit series down a half-game.
But Jimenez invited the Royals back in the game. Two walks and an error (on Jimenez) loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, and Lorenzo Cain didn't a four-seam fastball right over the plate. Just like that, the Royals were back in the game, which was reminiscent of Friday night's game. But this time the grand slam was just the beginning. Cody Allen was brought in, and he gave up a home run to George Kotarras, the first batter he saw. Now the game was tied.
The Indians would have one more offensive surge in the them. Carlos Santana plugged the gap in the top of the seventh, scoring both Jason Kipnis (who led off the inning with a walk) and Michael Brantley (who had followed Kipnis with a single). That set the Indians up to use Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez to finish the game, but Smith, of all the Tribe relievers, would give up the lead again. And once again, it started with a leadoff walk. Smith walked Alcides Escobar, bringing suddenly-hot Eric Hosmer to the plate. And Hosmer went deep to center to tie the game. The implosion was completed in the eighth, when Bryan Shaw walked (surprise, surprise) walked the seventh and eighth hitters in the lineup, then uncorked an inside pitch that Carlos Santana couldn't reach back to catch. Terry Francona ordered that Jarrod Dyson be walked, but that backfired when pinch-hitter Salvador Perez cleared the bases with a double down the left field line.
The Indians ended up outhitting the Royals 12 to 6, but 8 walks and a hit batter was crucial in the Kansas City comeback. The Royals had big hit after big hit in the late innings, but those were made possible by the wildness that preceeded them.
So the road trip ends with a very nice 7-4 record, but it ends with a lot of concern about this pitching staff. With their next four games against one of the best offensive clubs in the baseball, a lot of pressure is going to fall on this lineup to keep producing. But today, even though the offense did their part, the Indians still lost.
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