Indians improve to 59-42
On a night in which Charlie Jamieson, Frank Robinson, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome entered the Cleveland Indians' Hall of Fame, the 2016 iteration of the Tribe followed the example set by their predecessors by hitting four home runs to give the team an encouraging 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Early on in the game, it looked as if tonight may be a battle as the A's took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a couple of hits and a rare walk by Josh Tomlin. But thankfully, Jason Kipnis immediately responded in the bottom half of the inning with his seventeenth home run of the season that sailed halfway up the bleachers in right field. For Kipnis, tonight's home run ties his single season record (the last time Kip hit 17 bombs came in 2013). With a good two months to play, it's safe to assume that Kipnis will have a new season high in home runs once 2016 is over.
In the second inning, Jose Ramirez got in on the fun and did his best Jim Thome impression by launching a moonshot up the bleachers in left field to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead. By the end of the inning, Oakland starter Dillon Overton had already given up 2 runs on 5 hits; he would not make it through the fourth inning. The Tribe was knocking the young starter around pretty good, and it was almost disappointing that the Tribe didn't score more off of him, given how hard they were hitting him throughout the entire game.
In the fourth, something weird happened. Former Kansas City Royal and human embodiment of a breakfast meal Billy Butler came to bat. On a pitch that should have been called strike three and wasn't, Butler turned and started getting visibly frustrated with Gimenez. Maybe he was taunting him and saying that Lucroy would be taking his job soon? Maybe Gimenez said something unsavory about the joys of morning time meals? Who knows. Two pitches later, Butler made a lot of new fans in Cleveland as he launched a home run to left field, flipped his bat, and did a trot around the bases that made David Ortiz look like Usain Bolt. With the game tied at 2-2 and the anger of an over-sized man child upon them, the Tribe took it upon themselves to roar back in the bottom half of the inning.
Abraham Almonte started the party with a response home run of his own to put the Tribe back on top 3-2 (this was Almonte's first home run of the season). Next, Kipnis almost got his second home run of the night when he launched an RBI double off of the very top of the 19 foot wall in left center to tack on another run. And finally, to put a beautiful cherry on top of a delicious inning, Mike Napoli decided to take Cleveland to a party at his place with a laser beam shot over the wall in right center field to put the game effectively out of reach at 6-2.
What's notably missing from this recap is the stellar job that Josh Tomlin gave the Indians tonight. Through seven innings, Tomlin walked 2 (which is 1/7 of the total amount of walks he's given up all season), but he struck out seven. His pinpoint accuracy was on display again tonight as constantly stifled the Oakland hitters. Of particular note was his curveball, which had the bottom falling out of it all night long. My favorite had to be his strikeout of Jake Smolinski to end the fifth:
The final pitch of the AB looked like a meatball up until the last second when it fell out of the zone and made Smolinski look foolish. If this is what our #5 guy looks like, I worry about the rest of baseball because this pitching staff is a force to be reckoned with.
The A's did their best to start a rally in the ninth inning with a home run from Marcus Semien, but it was far too late as Cody Allen got Bruce Maxwell to induce a groundout to end the game. With tonight's victory, the Tribe has taken the series and will look to sweep Oakland tomorrow in day baseball.
Oh, and Jonathan Lucroy STILL isn't on his way to Cleveland.