The Indians won last night. However, that’s not to say they actually stopped the bleeding. Not even close, but not because Manny Acta didn’t try. We saw a new lineup with a new batting order and an all new approach, but still it was the same old thing. The Indians won, but once again it was a struggle highlighted not by clutch hitting and monster home runs, but rather missed opportunity after missed opportunity.
Things got going early for the Indians. Shin-Soo Choo doubled off the wall in deep left center (it was initially ruled a home run) and later scored on a passed ball by the usually sure-handed Jose Molina. It’s a good thing too. After doubling, Choo was nearly stranded thanks to a weak groundball outs by Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. Either way, the flubbed pitch gave the Indians a 1-0 lead and gave Zach McAllister a small cushion to work with.
The Indians added their other two runs of the game in the top of the third. After back-to-back doubles by Johnny Damon and Choo pushed the score to 2-0, Kipnis came to the plate and nearly homered to right-center. It ended up to be yet another double to plate Choo and give the Tribe a 3-0 lead. More importantly, the offense seemed like it was operating on all cylinders and the Indians were headed for a big night. They would get plenty of opportunities to add on to their lead, but once again getting hits at key moments would be challenging.
In the top of the fourth, a walk, single, and walk to the Indians’ new Nos. 6, 7, and 8 hitters, Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, and Casey Kotchman respectively, loaded the bases with no one out. But once again, the Indians found a way to put up a goose egg as Damon struck out, Choo popped out, and Cabrera struck out. Inning over, threat extinguished, palm…meet face. Meanwhile Tampa chipped away at the lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to an RBI single by Jeff Keppinger. In the fifth the Indians managed to squander a leadoff double by Kipnis and walk from new cleanup hitter Michael Brantley, and Damon and Choo were stranded on the basepaths in the sixth.
Thankfully, the Indians pitching staff came to play. McAllister was phenomenal, picking up the win and moving to 4-1 on the year. He allowed only one run over the course of six innings and also survived a scary line drive off the bat of Jeff Keppinger in the fourth. The relief corps was also great despite the fact that Esmil Rogers surrendered a run in the seventh. Vinnie Pestano who bent but didn’t break in 1.1 clutch innings and Chris Perez worked a picture-perfect ninth to earn his 26th save of the season and ended the game on an absolutely wicked slider to Hideki Matsui.
The Good: First off, Zach McAllister was great. Since he was called up to replace Jeanmar Gomez, McAllister has been close to unhittable. He was lights-out again last night and is beginning to look like a real diamond in the rough for this rotation.
The other good thing to come out of last night’s game was Manny Acta shuffling the lineup. It appears he’s no longer content to sit back and watch his supposed big boppers stink it up in the middle of the order. In an attempt to wake everybody up and better utilize his hot hitters, Acta moved Brantley into the cleanup spot and Hafner and Santana down to sixth and seventh. Translation: Start hitting, or else. It’s hard not to like the move just because the status quo just isn’t getting it done.
The Bad: Asdrubal Cabrera is in quite a funk. He was 0-for-4 on the night and is 1-for-24 over the past six games. more alarming is the fact that he’s struck out 11 times and walked only twice during that stretch. Going even further, since his batting average hit .300 after their game on July 1, Cabrera is batting a paltry .128 and seen his overall batting average plummet to .278. What’s wrong with him? Why is he striking out so much? How much longer can the Indians continue to allow Cabrera to kill them out of the No. 3 hole before Acta makes a move?
The “Huh?”: In the top of the first, Choo’s home run was overturned and ruled a double. That’s fine. The replay clearly showed it wasn’t a home run. The real question, though, is why was it ruled a double? The ball clearly ricocheted away from both Tampa outfielders and Choo was showing no signs of slowing down. That play had triple written all over it and Choo clearly intended to head for third. Rather than place Choo at third, though, the umpire sent him to second. Everyone flipped out… except for Manny Acta.
Why? With your team struggling to score runs, every base is important. Why not go out and fight for that extra base? Make a case for it at least. Instead, Acta just sat in the dugout waiting for play to continue. Luckily for the Indians Jose Molina bailed them out with a passed ball and Choo scored, but it was almost all for naught.