I disappeared into the cavernous grocery store just as Bobby Abreu's blast left the park in the top of the eighth, giving the Angels a 2-1 lead and, in my mind, virtually assuring an Indians loss. I exhaled deeply and headed to the produce section, deep in the belly of the cinderblock store, where my cellphone would lose coverage and I'd lose touch with the game. Abreu's no doubter had come on a Vinnie Pestano fastball and ended Vinnie's consecutive scoreless innings streak at a measly four, although he did strike out eight over that span. The two runs were the Angels first of the evening, but they had threatened Fausto Carmona all night—Carmona went six scoreless while he allowing seven baserunners. Carmona had only two innings in which no Angels reached base.
Dan Haren's dominance was a sharp contrast to Fausto's, in that it appeared legitimate. Haren could be described as a crafty righty at this point in his career, in that he works consistently south of 90 mph yet still makes hitters look foolish with terrific sequencing and a devastating cutter. Haren made every Indian, save Michael Brantley, look relatively foolish, with a little help from a generous strike zone. Kipnis and Chisenhall, seeing Haren for the first time, looked particularly overmatched and accounted for six outs and four strikeouts against the starter—meaning Kipnis entered the late innings still searching for his first major league hit, six plate appearances into his maiden big league campaign.
The Tribe did do a nice job working the count against Haren—Brantley deserves special mention for the 18 pitches he saw in three PAs, collecting a walk, a double, and a loud flyout along the way. After Haren's pitch count topped 120 with two outs in the eighth, Mike Scioscia went to his bullpen with two outs in the eighth to protect his freshly minted lead. Scott Downs ended the eighth when he caught an Austin Kearns screamer as an act of self-defense and the Indians headed to the ninth to try to win the game against Jordan Walden, the Angels young and effective closer. Walden generally works closer to 100 MPH than he does 90, meaning he was quite a gearshift from Haren and Downs. The top of the Indians lineup liked the velocity. Brantley stroked a single to center and, after Asdrubal struck out, Hafner drove him home to tie the game with a double—a drive to left field that was a reminder of just how strong the Indians DH is when he's right. Santana walked, Hannahan reached base when he was hit by a pitch, and Walden left the game with one out and the bases loaded. The Angels turned to another soft-tosser, Hisanori Takahashi, to try to salvage their evening.
All Travis Buck needed was a medium deep flyball to win the game—instead, he grounded into Scioscia's extreme shift, and Orlando Cabrera, running for Hafner, was out at home on a throw by Torii Hunter—an outfielder in name only by this point. So, with two outs and the bases loaded, Jason Kipnis stepped up, still searching for his first major league hit, and now facing a lefty. Kipnis has pounded lefties this year in Columbus, a 923 OPS, but it was still a lefty-lefty matchup, and one that Acta might have avoided had he not already burned his right-handed bench bats, Kearns and Cabrera. Regardless, Kipnis had the big stage all to himself and he delivered.
The stout second baseman took a fastball for a ball and then drove the second pitch he saw, a chest high fastball, into right field for a single. Santana trotted home, the four game losing streak was snapped, and Kipnis' first major league hit is one for the ages.
I discovered all this only after I left the grocery store. I was shocked, to say the least—perhaps the magic is coming back, or whatever the slogan was?
Elsewhere, the White Sox defeated the Tigers tonight and the Twins lost to Texas by a score of 20-6. The Indians are now a game back of first and lead the White Sox by 2.5 games in the race for second place. Tomorrow night, Josh Tomlin will face probable Cy Young winner Jered Weaver and his 1.81 ERA. The pitching matchups for this series meant that the Indians would've been lucky to win one game against the Angels but now, if the Indians can get to either Weaver of David Huff's Wednesday opponent, Ervin Santana, they have a chance to win the series.