Indians fall to 26-22
For a fleeting moment, it looked like the Cleveland Indians might get their first walkoff win of the season and maintain their place at the top of the AL Central. Unfortunately, Zach Britton, who has been virtually unhittable all season, slammed the door on the Tribe in the bottom of the ninth to give the Orioles the victory and the series.
The Tribe's woes started with Mike Clevinger, who had another short outing today as he only got through 4 innings and gave up 4 runs (again, none via the home run). Right out of the gate, Clevinger struggled with his command, giving up 2 walks and 2 hits on 33 pitches in the first inning alone. The big hit came at the hands of Mark Trumbo, who came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. In my game notes, I wrote "Bases loaded for Mark Trumbo. This will not end well"; sadly, I was right. Trumbo laced a bases clearing double to LF that was played rather poorly by Jose Ramirez. Had a more competent fielder been in LF, there's a good chance that only 2 runs would have scored (come back soon, Michael Brantley). If anyone needed evidence that the Angry Hamster should not be playing the outfield, today should have been more than enough to convince you.
Thankfully, after the first inning, Clevinger actually settled in and pitched fairly decently. The big difference came in that he began to utilize his breaking pitches a lot more, particularly his curveball and his slider. He couldn't command his fastball hardly at all, and his velocity on his fastball was down in the 90-91 MPH range, but he was able to utilize his breaking pitches to get some swings and misses from Orioles hitters. One strikeout of particular note came in the second when Manny Machado, who has terrorized the Indians all weekend, was made to look silly by a nasty curveball from Clevinger.
The Tribe bats would not wake up until the fourth inning when Carlos Slamtana launched a deep home run to right field to put the Tribe on the board. With that home run (his ninth on the season), he tied Napoli for the team lead. Not wanting to be shown up, Napster launched a home run of his own 3 batters later, this one of the two-run variety to put the Tribe within one. But Nap's home run was not the last of the day for the Indians; in the bottom of the sixth, Kip got his first hit of the day by scorching a ball over the fence in right to tie the game. Sadly, that would be the last of the Tribe scoring runs despite being presented with some phenomenal opportunities later in the game.
Jeff Manship, who had given up 4 runs in 13.2 innings of work on the year so far, lost the lead for the Tribe in the top of the seventh when he gave up a line drive home run to Hyun Soo Kim (which also happened to be his first home run in MLB). This home run was probably less on Manship and more on Hammy, who had been really digging into Kim just moments before Kim broke the tie.
The most frustrating inning had to be the eighth inning. Still down a run, Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a single, which was quickly followed by a double off the bat of Francisco Lindor to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Napoli, who is usually fairly good at seeing a good amount of pitches per at-bat, grounded out weakly to third base on the second pitch of the at-bat. Jose Ramirez was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Lonnie Chisenhall, who was pinch hitting for Juan Uribe. Some folks would say that Chisenhall, by virtue of seeing nine pitches, put up a good at bat; some folks would be wrong. After getting the count to 2-0, Lonnie fouled off 6 pitches, most of which were out of the strike zone and would have walked home a run. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Darren O'Day left a pitch right over the heart of the plate and...Chisenhall watched it go into the glove of catcher Matt Wieters to strike out looking. Gomes would go on to strike out to end the inning, prompting the camera operator at Progressive Field to pan over on one sullen-looking fan:
To add insult to injury, the Nolan Reimold added an insurance run for the Orioles in the top of the ninth with a homer off of Tommy Hunter, who has now given up 5 runs in 10.1 innings of work. Many believed that Hunter would help strengthen a shaky bullpen, but he has not looked good this weekend. Hopefully he will be able to turn it around going forward.
And finally, in a fashion similar to the eighth inning, the Tribe threatened to get their first walkoff win of the season but ended up falling short. In the bottom of the ninth, Zach Britton opened the inning by giving up back to back singles to Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis. Carlos Santana then hit a slow chopper to third that started a double play, but after a review of the play, the call was overturned and Santana was ruled safe at first. With runners at the corners, Jason Kipnis came to the plate and promptly struck out on a 96 MPH fastball in the dirt. Lindor then did the same thing, only he did it in three pitches instead of four.
With the Royals and the White Sox playing each other today, one of those teams will end the day 0.5 games ahead of Cleveland for first place in the AL Central. At the time of this writing, the game is tied at 4, but KC has the bases loaded with 1 out in the bottom of the eighth.
Tomorrow, Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers fly into town to take on Josh Tomlin, so we should hopefully see a win tomorrow.