July 29, 2013
Admit it, when you saw this series on the schedule, mentally you thought the Indians should win it rather easily. The Chicago White have started to rebuild, with players like Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain already gone and Jake Peavy and Alex Rios perhaps to be dealt by the time the series is over. The Indians were also facing a pitcher (John Danks) who for whatever reason has been awful on the road.
But this game was not easy, partly because of Danks and partly because the Indians blew some scoring opportunities. I suppose you could also say, if you were looking at things from Chicago's perspective, that the White Sox allowed the Indians to stick around in this game. For most of the game the Indians had only two hits, with the first coming on what could easily have been scored an error and the other on a bunt base hit. Even so, thanks to another very nice performance by a Cleveland starting pitcher, the Indians were in a position to win this game. Zach McAllister, making his second start since coming off the Disabled List, went seven innings, and allowed two runs on five hits, with most of the damage coming in the sixth inning.
After the White Sox took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, two walks, a bunt single and sharp grounder (that Alexei Ramirez made a fantastic play on) pushed across the tying run. The Indians then could have taken the lead, but both Ryan Raburn and Carlos Santana grounded out, leaving the go-ahead run on third base.
Thus began several team at-bats in which the clubs bobbed and weaved in attempts to score but could not. In the bottom of the seventh, the Indians got the go-ahead run to second, but neither Michael Brantley nor Nick Swisher could drive him home. The White Sox got the go-ahead run to second in the eighth, neither Alex Rios nor Adam Dunn could do the job*. The Indians got a runner to second in the bottom of the eighth with one out, but again, nobody could drive him home. And in the top of the ninth, a brutal misplay by Ryan Raburn in right field allowed Dayan Viciedo to get to third with two outs, but Gordon Beckham's liner to deep left was corralled by Michael Brantley to save a run and perhaps the game.**
Then Giambi pinch-hit for Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the ninth and said "[redacted] this, I'm winning this [redacted] right now" and proceeded to win the [game] with a walk-off homer that flew over the center field fence. He chose not to slide, not because he thought it would show up the opposing team, but because he feared that if he did so, his 42-year-knees might not be to get him back upright. So he instead chose to cross home plate in the normal fashion, giving punishing celebratory hugs to anyone in his vicinity.
Now the announced attendance tonight was 14,000 (give or take), which has reopened many old arguments regarding the interest in this baseball team. There is compelling evidence that Cleveland is not a baseball town, and this should not be a controversial statement. And yes, it is frustrating to see a genuinely good team not getting at least near-capacity attendance during weekend summer dates. That being said, this team and this organization can't win back fans overnight. Changing a deep-seated attitude is going to take several years of contention to change. Even though the organization has done a lot of things right over the last 10 months, they can't stop now.
*Rich Hill was the one who retired Adam Dunn. With so much speculation about the Indians acquiring a left-handed reliever, it's very possible that that was his last appearance as an Indians. If so, it was a nice way to go out.
**Raburn had played most of the game in left field, and moved to right only because Drew Stubbs was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh. If he was playing left in the ninth, Beckham's ball gets over his head. Although in that case Viciedo would probably have been on first, not third.
***Not really, but I do reserve the creative right to place colorful speeches into the mouths of the participants of this game. If Thucydides did it, why not a baseball blogger?
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