Indians advance to 14-12
The Cleveland Indians won tonight's game in the bottom of the first inning.
Every hitter who stepped to the plate offered an above-average contribution to the inning, excepting
Alice Carlos Santana. The singles by Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor sparked the offense. Michael Brantley drew a walk, and Mike Napoli plated a run on a groundout. Yan Gomes sat back on a 2-2 count and let Yordano Ventura -- league leader in walks -- build on that lead.
With the bases loaded and two out, Lonnie Chisenhall grabbed his bat and battled for nine pitches, grounding out to short. Ventura got out of the jam, but it cost him 34 pitches to escape the first inning. The second inning ended with a double play, but the Indians milked 17 pitches out of Ventura. It was quiet. It was methodical. Long-ball digging chicks would not have been impressed.
Still, the compounding pitch count paid off in the third. Let's take a look at the pitch-by-pitch chart this time, courtesy of ESPN:
|Francisco Lindor||Strike (looking), Ball, Strike (foul), Lindor singled to left center||0||1|
|Michael Brantley||Ball, Ball, Ball, Ball, Brantley walked, Lindor to second||0||1|
|Mike Napoli||Napoli singled to center, Lindor scored, Brantley to second||0||2|
|Yan Gomes||Strike (foul), Strike (foul), Gomes grounded into fielder's choice to right, Napoli out at second, Brantley to third||0||2|
|Lonnie Chisenhall||Strike (swinging), Strike (swinging), Ball, Ball, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Ball, Chisenhall walked, Gomes to second||0||2|
|Rajai Davis||Davis lined out to pitcher||0||2|
|Jose Ramirez||Ball, Ball, Strike (looking), Ramírez doubled to deep left center, Brantley, Gomes and Chisenhall scored||0||5|
|Carlos Santana||Strike (swinging), Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), Santana struck out swinging||0||5|
A shouldered bat is still a weapon; a patient lineup should be feared.
Brantley drew his second walk, and immediately after Napoli singled home Lindor. It is unfortunate that he got TOOTBLANed on what should have been a single by Gomes, but his baserunning error did not derail the inning. The energy quietly built again as Chisenhall worked through a nine-pitch walk.
By the time Ramirez cleared the bases with his double, Ventura hurled 75 pitches and had nearly been knocked out by a Rajai Davis line drive. Finally, the Indians seem to be able to put together big innings by stringing together good at-bats. In this case, they did it across multiple innings, and squeezed five runs from the Royals before the fourth inning. Ventura left the game with the following line: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 3 SO, 97 pitches.
The Royals surrendered two more runs in the fifth with Brian Flynn in mop-up duty on the mound, and from there the rest of the game felt like a formality. It would have been nice to knock Flynn out of the game and wear out some of the more valuable arms in the Royals' bullpen, but I'm not going to complain too much after beating the WORLD CHAMPIONS by six.
While the Royals spent much of the night pitching from behind, Danny Salazar dominated and continued his excellent 2016 season. Tonight he struck out nine hitters in 7.2 shutout innings of work, allowing only four hits and a single walk. In one way this was the worst start of the season for Salazar; this is the first time he's allowed more than three hits in an game. While everyone around here is shouting from the top of various local mountains about the merits of a Francisco Lindor All-Star vote, Salazar is quickly building a indisputable case of his own.
Also indisputable: Jose Ramirez had one of the best nights of his still-young career at the plate, going 3-3 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 5 RBI. For the season he is now batting .324/.361/.456, and if he continues to put up those numbers, I don't really care what position he plays. Can we start him in one of the games against the Reds? While it wasn't a flashy night, Lonnie Chisenwalked twice and scored both times, seeing a total of 28 pitches. It's encouraging to see the Indians lineup growing a bit more patient after a flurry of strikeouts the last couple of weeks.
Tomorrow, the Indians send Cody Anderson back to the mound. May the bats struggle to find his pitches, the balls break mercilessly, and the fans actually show up for a Saturday afternoon game.
Parting thought: why are walks always drawn?