June 14, 2013
The Indians still haven't beat Gio Gonzalez, but at least they won a game that Gonzalez started.
The Indians drew Washington's best starters, including a pitcher that has owned the Indians down through the years. Going into tonight's game, Gonzalez had pitched 30+ scoreless innings against the Tribe, and early tonight it looked very much like that streak would continue. Tribe hitters couldn't lay off Gonzalez's high fastball all night.
But Justin Masterson was just as good, with the exception of one mechanical hiccup in the third inning. And in that third inning, he wasn't hit hard, as the only hit of the inning was a seeing-eye single back up the middle. A wild pitch scored what would be the only National run of the evening.
Masterson's slider was particularly effective tonight, getting hitter after hitter to either chase it or give up on it. Justin struck out 10 again tonight, and got through seven innings even with that tough third inning driving up the pitch count.
Ryan Raburn was for more most of the game the offense. His opposite-field homer in the fourth tied the game at 1-1, a score that would remain in place until the bottom of the ninth. I mentioned this on Twitter, but I'll mention it here as well: when Lonnie Chisenhall re-joins this club, I think Raburn should get more at-bats that Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is flailing at everything remotely close to the strike, as evidenced by his three-pitch strikeout in the eighth with the bases loaded.
Terry Francona did something a little different in the ninth inning. Usually when tied at home you bring out your closer to pitch the ninth, but instead Francona opted to go with Joe Smith instead. I think one of the reasons he did that was because Smith had warmed up earlier, so he didn't want to "waste" Smith. And then there's the matter of Smith being a much more effective reliever than Vinnie Pestano right now. Both Allen (eighth) and Smith (ninth) had little trouble in their innings, setting the stage for the bottom of the ninth.
The Nationals sent to the mound Fernando Abad, a left-hander who over the past couple weeks is pitching the best baseball of his life. But tonight he wasn't quite that good. After Mike Aviles lined out, Drew Stubbs (facing a left-hander) hit a solid single. Then, with Michael Bourn up, Stubbs took off, and Bourn hit a weak grounder that went through because second baseman Steve Lombardozzi vacated his position to cover second base. That allowed Stubbs to go to third with just one out and Jason Kipnis up. Bourn would quickly take second base to take away the possibility of a double play, and the Nationals brought all their infielders and outfielders in. It almost worked, as Kipnis hit a screamer right towards first baseman Adam LaRoche, who got up and threw to home plate. The ball was a couple feet off-line, and that made all the difference, for while catching Kurt Suzuki was lunging to his right to grab the ball, Drew Stubbs was sliding in safely with the winning run. Stubbs is one of maybe three players on this team (Bourn and Kipnis being the others) who would have been safe on the play; even a player of above-average speed would have tagged out.
So now the Indians have won three in a row after losing eight in a row. They are back at .500, and still are in contention in what has become a very contentious AL Central. Are we at the point where we can say that the Indians have weathered the season's most difficult storm, or are there still choppy seas ahead? This being Cleveland, I would answer that the latter is more true, but I also believe that this club is built to handle them. On Tuesday, Corey Kluber was the hero, on Wednesday the bullpen, and tonight Justin Masterson, Ryan Raburn, and Drew Stubbs, quite a motley group of contributors, especially when you consider their outlooks at the beginning of the season.
Roll Call (23 Commenters)
|6||Mr. Bad Example||44|
|15||new zealand tribe fan||7|