After the Indians swept the Red Sox, you wondered if their winning ways would continue on the road. No problem so far. A ten-run fourth inning, capped by a Travis Hafner three-run bomb, put the game way out of reach — and the Indians in sole possession of first place for the first time in a very long time.
Jason Vargas made the start for the Mariners; the southpaw had had fantastic success at Safeco Field (146.0 IP, 2.24 ERA) in the past. But tonight, that history was countered, and Vargas's friendly confines became a house of horrors. Asdrubal started things off with a home run in the first inning, but the real fun started in the fourth inning.
The rally started with four singles (two runs in), then a double (one run), and sacrifice fly (one run). Vargas was removed at that point, and the Indians loaded the bases in preparation for the next phase of scoring. Carlos Santana got his second hit of the inning, driving in two, and then Travis Hafner provided the final punctuation to the inning, a massive three-run homer that bounced off the right-field restaurant.
Most of our preseason prognostications downplayed Travis Hafner's potential contributions. The assumption was that Hafner would be just a decent hitter, not a focal point of the offensive production. What if we're seeing Hafner as he was in 2006? What if that means pitchers have to pitch to Carlos Santana? The longer Hafner mashes the ball, the less ludicrous these hopes become.
Carlos Carrasco had a perfect opportunity to rebound from his shaky first outing, and he managed well enough. He wasn't that sharp (three walks and a hit batter), but he didn't need to be, given the lineup he was facing and (after the fourth) the large run margin he had to work with. He struck out six, mostly on his off-speed pitches.
It was a reunion for a lot of players and coaches. Practically the entire Seattle coaching staff (Jeff Datz, Robby Thompson, Carl Willis, Chris Chambliss) has either coached or played in Cleveland, headlined by former Indians manager Eric Wedge (and his substatntial mustache). Aaron Laffey, Jamey Wright, and Milton Bradley, all LGFT, played in tonight's game. And of course Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo are former Seattle farmhands.
Next Up: Seattle, 9 PM. Masterson vs. Fister.