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Indians Friday recap: Tribe rides long ball, Kluber to win despite 9th inning shenanigans

I think I'll keep this crystal ball handy for the rest of the season...

Brian Blanco

Game 36: Indians 6, Rays 3

Records: Cleveland 17-19, Tampa Bay 15-21

Box Score

In the game thread, I joked that even though Jake Odorizzi has been so crappy this year, he'd probably strike out ten guys tonight because that's how Cleveland baseball works -- my fault.

On the other hand, I also alluded to the superheroic powers of Mike Aviles, whose late three-run homer helped propel the Tribe to victory -- you're welcome.

Now, I've just got to work on a prophecy that sees John Axford being traded for Mike Trout.

The final score makes this look like an easy win for the Indians, but don't let that fool you. Early offensive struggles and late pitching antics made this game seems even longer than its already absurd 4 hour plus run time. Early on, wasted opportunities with RISP was the story for our boys. In the 1st, they failed to capitalize with two on and one out. In the 3rd inning, they wasted a runner on third with no outs. Odorizzi stumped Tribe hitters, striking out nine in just the first four innings. He finished with a career-high 11 K's, but left the game after just five innings having thrown what one esteemed commenter called "over 100 pitches of boredom." Seriously, this guy would make Rafael Betancourt look like The Flash.

Corey Kluber looked strong but somewhat hittable in the early going, giving up two runs on a sac fly from James Loney in the 4th and double by David Dejesus in the 5th. Down 2-0 to start the 6th, the Indians began to show signs of life. Asdrubal Cabrera continued his red-hot hitting spree with a solo shot to right, followed by a Yan Gomes single and a Lonnie Chisenhall hit by a pitch. After a Mike Aviles sac bunt, the Tribe had runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out. But the RISP demons reared their ugly heads again as Michael Bourn struck out pathetically and Nick Swisher flied out.

Kluber kept the Tribe in the game, turning his shaky early innings into a heroic effort of his own in the bottom of the 6th. With two on and no one out, the Klubot engaged his hyperdrive, striking out three Rays in a row to work out of the jam. Emboldened, the offense came out swinging. Michael Brantley led off the 7th with his seventh homer of the year. With two on and one out, a broken-bat Yan Gomes single subdued the RISP demons and put the Tribe in the lead for the first time. With two on and two out, Mike Aviles broke the game wide open with a three-run homer. It was all the Tribe would need, but this isn't a team known to make things easy.

Kluber left the game with two out in the 7th. The game seemed comfortably in hand by then. He finished with nine strikeouts and zero walks, allowing only two runs and earning his first win since April 24. The bullpen pitched two scoreless innings, and all was well until John Connor Axford pooped down his leg again.

After striking out the first two batters in the bottom of the 9th, Axford realized he hadn't yet done enough to sabotage another Corey Kluber start. A hard double, a walk, and a single put the Rays within three runs, and another walk loaded the bases. Thankfully, Cody Allen came on to induce the most stressful pop-up in the history of baseball to end the game.

The Indians have now won four in a row, their longest winning streak of the season. And with the Twins beating the Tigers tonight, winning this series would go a long way toward righting the good ship USS Cleveland Indians 2014.

Win expectancy chart (which in no way does justice to the stress of that 9th inning)

Source: FanGraphs

Roll call

Game thread

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Tomorrow's game

Indians (Zach McAllister, RHP) @ Rays (Erik Bedard, LHP)

7:10 p.m. ET (Fox Sports One, WTAM)