The box score says this was one game, but I’m still not sure. Remember that time Mike Clevinger had to change his glove for some unknown reason? Hell, remember when Mike Clevinger existed? All of that seems so far away now.
The first handful of innings were electric. Bradley Zimmer hit his first-career grand slam, Michael Brantley followed it up with a solo shot of his own, and the offense rolled to a 7-0 lead as the decimated Los Angeles Angels rotation couldn’t keep up with a Cleveland Indians offense that actually worked for once. Mike Clevinger was great, then he collapsed. But it was still okay! It was exciting to watch, if a bit excruciating.
If the first few innings had a theme song, it would be one of those over-enthusiastic jingles from ‘90s commercials with some hip teenage kid doing something cool before looking to the camera and letting you know how cool he is. If the second half of this game had a theme song, it’d be the same thing but slowed down to a quarter speed and injected with the sound of disinterested fans aimlessly ‘wooing’ in the background.
A lot of those ugly middle innings were made ugly because of Zimmer, let’s be honest with each other here. First, he had a rare misplay in the outfield that led to the tying run, and later on he tried to steal of one of the best gun-slinging catchers in the majors. But, overall, Zimmer did a lot more good than bad.
His aforementioned grand slam was an absolute monster, and the hardest-hit ball by an Indians player in the Statcast era.
Even with the one caught stealing, Zimmer still used his speed to put pressure on the Angels all night long, including a stolen base in the 11th inning that eventually set him up as the winning run at third base with no outs.
For as long (did I mention this was the longest game of the season? It was really long) and sometimes boring as this game was, the way the bottom of the 11th played out made it all worth it.
After Zimmer’s walk, steal, and scamper to third on a wild pitch, Francisco Lindor drew a walk of his own. Then, to get the bases loaded and have a force out at every base, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia intentionally walked Michael Brantley. In order to solidify their defensive strategy, which included benching Ben Revere in favor of a fifth infielder, Nick Franklin, Scioscia and his team had a lengthy meeting on the mound.
The Angels had everything set. Defenders filling every gap of the infield grass, with an ever-so-slight shift leaving a small hole along the first base line — because Edwin probably isn’t going the other way on the ground in this situation, right?
He didn’t. But he killed the first pitch he saw. The ball “only” went 406 feet, which is nothing compared to Zimmer’s 435-foot moonshot, or even a bomb that Cole Calhoun hit off a struggling Clevinger in the third inning.
It was a no-doubter either way, though; Edwin admired, I admired it, and every screaming fan at Progressive Field who stuck through almost four-and-a-half hours of topsy-turvey baseball admired it. Best of all, it instantly laid waste to all that hard work the Angels did to prevent a single run from scoring.
Watching bullpens wipe out mediocre offenses for seven innings is pretty boring baseball, but watching a manager take nearly five whole minutes to set up his intricate defense, only to have the Very Large Man at the plate obliterate a baseball is just good sport.
It gave the Indians their second walk-off of this homestand (and just their third of the season), but most importantly it fended off some level of panic from Indians fans. Even before this game was over, even before the Angels even tied it, you could see it seeping in.
This team isn’t perfect, but they won tonight. And winning fixes everything.
THE MICHAEL BRANTLEY BONUS APPRECIATION SECTION
Considering he didn’t play into the final outcome of the game, it’s hard to squeeze Michael Brantley into the general narrative of the game, but he deserves a ton of credit for tonight. Not only did he he homer to give the Indians their seventh run, but he made a pair of incredible catches in the outfield, even if one of them was only made incredible by his own snake-like route.