The Indians held on to defeat the Rays 6-5 on Sunday afternoon, despite some scary moments in the latter innings. Tribe starter Josh Tomlin pitched a strong game to earn his 2nd win in just his second appearance of the season. Since John Axford's removal from the closer role, Bryan Shaw was the man chosen for the job today and he pitched a clean ninth inning to seal the series-clinching victory.
Tomlin pitched well in his second start of the season since his call-up from Columbus. He got off to a bit of a rough start when Matt Joyce hit a solo homer off him to put the Rays up 1-0, but Tomlin settled down after that. He was efficient with his pitches and maintained good control throughout, allowing zero walks. The Rays made him battle, often forcing Tomlin into a 3-2 count, but Josh was resilient and managed to escape from the majority of high-pressure situations Tampa forced upon him. He threw 102 pitches over 6 innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 runs, walking nobody and striking out 2. Overall it was a very good outing for Tomlin as he continues to perform well since his promotion to the big league rotation.
There were some notable performances today as a few Tribe hitters came through when it mattered most. Michael Bourn's double in the second inning was a turning point. With the game tied 1-1, Bourn's crushing double scored two and put the Indians ahead 3-1. Rays' starter Chris Archer never truly recovered from then on and the Indians never looked back. Yan Gomes smashed his 5th home run of the season in the sixth inning, putting the Tribe ahead 4-2 and giving them breathing space. A special mention must go to Carlos Santana as well, who put his awful slump to the back of his mind and amassed 2 hits (including a double) and 2 walks. An encouraging sign and hopefully an indication he can start turning his season around.
The real hero of the day was Nyjer Morgan, who had an extremely productive day. Whether it was with the bat, the glove, or on the base paths, Morgan made his presence felt. Morgan got the Indians back in the game in the second inning when he tried to check his swing but inadvertently hit the ball into the ground. The ball rolled down the third base line as if Morgan had laid down the best bunt you've ever seen, and Cabrera scored to tie the game 1-1.
In the top of the sixth, Morgan slid head-first into first base to earn an infield single on an overturned challenge, then moved to second base on a balk off the Rays' Brad Boxberger. He moved down to third base on a wild pitch before scoring on a Mike Aviles sac-fly. Morgan put his fancy feet to good use again in the bottom of the same inning, when he raced across left field to catch a sinking liner hit by James Loney. Morgan stretched and managed to hold on to the ball, despite a minor juggle.
For his final act of the day, Morgan saved the best until last, when he hit the first home run of his Indians career in the eighth inning. Morgan absolutely golfed the ball over the right field wall, stretching the Indians lead to 6-2. It was just the 12th home run of his career and a very fitting way to cap off a great day's work.
Morgan's homer proved to be the defining run, as the new closer-by-committee got off to a rough start. With a 6-2 lead to protect, the Indians bullpen conspired to make it a much closer game. Marc Rzepczynski and Cody Allen nearly handed the Rays the game in the eighth inning, as Tampa Bay clawed their way back to 6-5. Thankfully Allen gritted his teeth and got the crucial strikeout of Ryan Hanigan to end the inning. Bryan Shaw pitched the ninth and got the Rays 1-2-3 (thanks in large part to a spectacular defensive play by Asdrubal Cabrera) to end the game, earning his 2nd save of the year.
The Indians now sit at 18-20 and will feel confident off the back of a series win against a quality Rays team. The Tribe have tomorrow off before travelling to Toronto for a three game series beginning on Tuesday 13th. I am now going to sit back and watch Match of the Day on BBC One, as the mighty Arsenal finished the Premier League season in fine fashion today with a 2-0 win at Norwich. It's always a great day of sport when both my teams win.
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