Indians "improve" to 16-23
After the Bruce Chen Experience, the Indians turned to another veteran to fill the fifth starters' spot in the rotation. Unlike Chen, Shaun Marcum was able to pitch effectively, and then some. His fastball only registered in the mid-80s, but aside from two mistakes, he was throwing them exactly where he intended them to go. And because of that, his changeup became a pitch that induced weak contact, whether it be a popup or a weak grounder. Marcum pitched as well as he possibly could, and continued a trend of outstanding starting pitching. He certainly doesn't have the stuff of the other pitchers in the rotation (his fastball may be slower than Danny Salazar's changeup), but the results were the same.
The Indians needed that kind of outing from Marcum because they were held scoreless until the sixth inning. They were facing their third straight left-handed starter in Carlos Rodon, and although they had some hits off the young phenom, couldn't string anything together until the third time through the order. Jose Ramirez, who is having his best series of the season, led off the sixth inning with a walk, stole second base, then went to third on a Nick Swisher single. Mike Aviles drove Ramirez home with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one.
Another fortunate walk led an offensive outburst in the seventh. Backup catcher Brett Hayes drew the walk off White Sox reliever Dan Jennings, and when Michael Bourn dropped down a sacrifice bunt, Jennings threw wildly to second, and the Indians were in business. Jason Kipnis laid down another bunt, pushing runners to second and third, which on the surface seemed a curious decision. Yes, Kipnis was bunting for a base hit, but you usually want Jason to swing away, especially with Ramirez batting behind him. The White Sox spent much of the Ramirez at-bat expecting some sort of squeeze play, but Jose never attempted a bunt, instead poking the ball through the drawn-in infield to give the Indians the lead. Michael Brantley then made it a big inning by turning on an inside fastball, driving it off the wall in right field to score both Bourn and Ramirez.
Earlier I mentioned that Shaun Marcum made two mistakes on the night. The first came in the third, when Adam Eaton hit a solo home run, The second came in the seventh, when Conor Gillaspie took Marcum deep. Gillaspie would be Marcum's final batter; he hadn't yet reached 90 pitches, but Terry Francona wasn't about to push Marcum, who had spent the last two years battling through various arm injuries.
Zach McAllister pitched an uneventful eighth inning, but Cody Allen's ninth was very eventful. Allen was impressive in a four-out save on Tuesday, but tonight he didn't have command of his fastball, something that plagued him earlier in the season. It almost cost the Indians the win. After allowing a one-out single to Jose Abreu, Allen walked both Adam LaRoche and Avisail Garcia to load the bases, pushing the tying run into scoring position. But the White Sox helped the Indians out twice: first, Gillaspie swung at Allen's first pitch, popping it up into foul territory, and Lonnie Chisenhall caught the ball for the second out. After Alexei Ramirez hit a dribbler that plated a run, the White Sox now had the tying run at third. That's when the White Sox helped the Indians out for the second time. With JB Shuck (yes, that JB Shuck) at the plate, Allen threw a pitch into the dirt, and it bounced off Hayes' chest to the right of home plate. Emilio Bonifacio, who had pinch-run for LaRoche, probably could have scored, but didn't even attempt it. Allen struck out Shuck on the next pitch to end the rally and save the game.
One postscript: twice the White Sox turned double plays that I thought they had no business turning. And it wasn't because the runner was dogging it. Second baseman Carlos Sanchez made the turn in the blink of an eye, and although it probably won't show up on tonight's defensive highlights, those turns were very impressive.
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