Indians advance to 7-7
I am not sure which idea would have sounded more bizarre just 24 hours ago: Terry Francona letting Carlos Santana bat leadoff for the Cleveland Indians, or Josh Tomlin completely shutting down the Detroit Tigers for almost seven full innings. Both happened tonight.
The Santana leadoff experiment got off to about the best start you can imagine when he homered to lead off the game, absolutely crushing an inside fastball from Justin Verlander to immediately put the Tribe up 1-0. Santana would later follow that up with a double and he finished the night 2-for-4.
Making a decision to stick with a new leadoff batter after one good game is generally not a great idea, of course, but Santana should have been there all along, so I am perfectly okay with making the switch if Tito's gut pushes him in that direction. Whatever gets us less of Rajai Davis in the leadoff spot.
As a fun fact courtesy of Jordan Bastian, Santana is the first Indians batter since 1984 (Joe Carter) to hit a home run in his first career at-bat as a leadoff batter. I don't have video of Carter's home run, but I bet it was not as pretty as this:
Outfielder Marlon Byrd, who was 6-for17 in his last five games coming into today, added the Indians' only other run -- a seventh-inning bomb that broke a 1-1 tie. Combined, Byrd and Santana were 3-for-7 with two home runs and a walk on the night, while the rest of the offense was whatever adjective you want to use for terrible. Awful. Bad. Gross. Woeful. Whatever.
Most of the domination was done by Justin Verlander, who can still throw a mean fastball even when the velocity is not in the triple digits like it used to be. Verlander carved the Indians lineup up for 10 total strikeouts and he allowed just four hits over seven innings of work. Mike Napoli was awarded a brand new golden sombrero with his 0-for-4, four-strikeout night, and Yan Gomes was just a strikeout away from doing the same, going 0-for-4 with three whiffs.
The idea of Josh Tomlin shutting down the Tigers does sound absurd, but if he is going to shut down any lineup anywhere, it'll probably be in Comerica Park. Tomlin does have a tendency to give up home runs, but seven would-be homers died in the spacious outfield. Terry Francona smartly pulled Tomlin when it was clear he was losing his edge, instead of waiting for his pitch count to go up.
Maybe even more impressive than Tomlin's great outing, based on recent events, was the cleanup job by the Tribe bullpen. Bryan Shaw came into the eighth and struck out two batters while Cody Allen battled Miguel Cabrera, Victory Martinez, and J.D. Martinez to finish out the victory.
Run expectancy chart
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