Hey there. You’re probably reading this in the morning, or maybe late at night after the Cavs game, or maybe even during the Cavs game if you’re a hardcore Let’s Go Tribe recap reader. Either way, no matter what the Cleveland Indians did tonight, they probably were not going to overshadow the Cavaliers’ efforts to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
And for the most part, the Indians played like they knew it. A lot of missed opportunities early, Bradley Zimmer couldn’t find his footing in center field, and Corey Kluber wasn’t quite the cyborg batter-killing machine we’re used to. Close, but not quite there yet with his three earned runs over six innings of work. He was far from a disappointment, though, and in his two games back from a lower back injury he’s pitched 12.0 innings and struck out 16, which is incredible.
But the main source of goodness of this game came from Andrew Miller, who relieved Kluber to start the seventh inning and held down the fort for two full innings, striking out four of the eight batters he faced. His only hit allowed came against Adam Engel with a leadoff single in the seventh, but from then on Miller was flawless. And most of you missed it when he opted to watch the Cavs set an NBA record for points in a first half. Shame on you.
And if you jumped over to basketball when the Cavs-Warriors game tipped off, you might be wondering how the hell this game turned into a four-run blowout. It all comes down to the eighth inning.
Prior to Jake Petricka getting lit up with no outs in the eighth, runs were hard to come by for the Tribe. Their first came courtesy of a first-inning single from Michael Brantley, but bats were silent until the fourth. It was then that White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez walked Yan Gomes to load the bases then walked Bradley Zimmer to score a run. The Indians would fall behind immediately in the next inning, then take a shaky one-run run lead off a two-run Edwin Encarnacion bomb in the fifth.
Before I get to the electric eighth inning (I will, I swear), just look at how good this at-bat was for Zimmer:
All four balls came after Zimmer was down 0-2 in the count. At a time when the offense has struggled overall, the offense is relying heavily on him, most rookies would be pressing. Zimmer especially is a batter who likes to take big hacks at balls out of the zone, which Gonzalez and his catcher were clearly attacking with two strikes. But Zimmer didn’t buy any of it — he adjusted.
After Zimmer struck out three times on ugly pitches in his debut last month, he’s slowly stopped swinging at such egregious pitches. It’s one of the big reasons he’s outperforming his projected strikeout rates — Steamer has him whiffing 31.4 percent of the time and ZiPS has him at 35.1 percent. In reality, he’s striking out “only” 29.5 percent of the time. Still not great, but given the rest of his tools, it’s manageable.
Zimmer showed off one of those tools with an absolute laser to preserve what was, at the time, a 1-1 tie. Unfortunately, the fumbled the ball the next batter and a run scored, and later in the game he seemed to get his cleat caught on another potential throw. But the potential for greatness from center fielder was on displayed tonight.
Anyway, yeah, the eighth inning. The Indians entered the inning with a one-run lead, Daniel Robertson entered the game, some things happened, and suddenly they had a four-run lead. One of those things was Jose Ramirez singling, while another was Lonnie Chisenhall swinging at a ball so hard he dropped to his knees and still got up in time to leg out a double. Cody Allen allowed his customary baserunner in the ninth then locked it down, as per usual.