The Cleveland Indians edged out the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 tonight on Sunday Night Baseball in a game that would have felt perfectly at home in the middle of October. The game pivoted around back-to-back home runs from Roberto Perez and Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the 6th, giving the Indians a lead they would not relinquish. Trevor Bauer earned his 16th win of the season, tying Chris Sale for the lead in the American League.
While the Indians offense didn’t look sharp tonight, they managed to take advantage of the opportunities that arose, both created and gifted. Lindor doubled off of Jeremy Hellickson to lead off the bottom of the 1st after a scoreless top from Bauer. Chisenhall followed it up with a pop-up to shallow left. Tim Beckham trekked back, decelerated, then lost the ball in the sky. Did he get distracted by the blimp? Maybe. I’d like to think he gazed deeply into the empty night sky and experience the shock of ego death, realizing that nothing truly matters, including easy outs. Lonnie got awarded a hit because errors are usually only scored in the outfield (EVEN TO INFIELDERS APPARENTLY) when you get eviscerated by a pack of raptors while trying to catch the ball.
Lindor scooted to third on the not-error, and then scored when Jose Ramirez grounded out on a soft ball to second base. Chisenhall advanced, but would go no further, as Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce transformed into outs.
For the next five innings, Hellickson pitched like Greg Maddux. If I recall correctly his pitch count through four put him on pace to finish the game on ninety-ish pitches. He didn’t do it by dominating hitters, but by baiting them. After Edwin’s strikeout, thirteen consecutive hitters generated outs by hitting the ball. Only two were foul outs. A few were liners, and several were long fly balls that died on the warning track.
The Indians finally broke through again in the bottom of the sixth inning. Roberto Perez lined a full-count offering into the bleachers in left field, breaking a 1-1 tie. Lindor stepped to the plate and also worked the count full. He lined one pitch directly at the first base umpire, who pulled off the greatest dodge roll in MLB history.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, there is no dodging the bat of Francisco Lindor. Hellickson left an 89 MPH fastball over the plate — a meatball so meaty that Lindor grinned as it came to the plate. He blasted it deep into the bleachers, and as soon as it left his bat he turned to the Indians dugout and grinned.
I think I prefer that to bat flips, honestly.
The Indians had a chance to put up a few more runs in the innings courtesy of the worst error I’ve ever seen. Remember how I said you need to get mauled by raptors in order to get credit with an error in the outfield? Well, Adam Jones experienced something worse. Encarnacion popped the fluffiest fly ball to right center field. Right fielder Seth Smith started toward it, but Jones leisurely called him off and jogged under the ball. He reached out to grab it, and it bounced off of the heel of his glove. Statcast suggests that the catch is made 99% of the time, but I truly believe it lists that number because the fine folks who invented it did not foresee a reason to show 99.999%. If Adam Jones didn’t experience ego death before attempting the catch, I imagine he did immediately after dropping it. It is easily the worst error I have ever seen a Major League Baseball player commit.
Well. At least since Game Six of the World Series.
Bruce grounded out to end the inning, but the runs were enough to carry the Tribe to victory.
Did you ever think you would see Trevor Bauer tied for the league lead in wins?
The reason Bauer sits at sixteen wins is due to excellent command of his curveball and fastball, while mixing in secondary offerings depending on hitter handedness. He struggled with that command early today, and as a result his pitch count rapidly grew. As we’ve seen from Bauer before, however, it just took him a little bit of time to settle into the game. I like that he can do this now without giving up three run bombs.
At one point, Bauer bested Manny Machado in a lengthy battle, eventually striking him out. The peak of Bauer’s filth came at the close of the fourth inning, when he struck out Chris Davis on three consecutive knuckle curves, each one more inappropriate for the eyes of children than the last.
Both Machado and Davis (somewhat) avenged themselves. Machado doubled in the sixth and later scored, while Davis yanked a homer down the left field line, just fair. It’s probably the shortest home run hit at Progressive Field all year. This brought the Orioles to within one, where they would remain for the rest of the night.
Joe Smith and Nick Goody shut down the Orioles for the rest of the 7th and 8th. Cody Allen retired the side in order in the top of the ninth, capping two strikeouts with a lineout to Jay Bruce.
So everything is beautiful and nobody got hurt?
Well, the streak lives, but tonight it demanded a sacrifice. On one of the more unusual plays at first that I’ve ever seen, Bradley Zimmer raced Davis to the bag after a grounder. Davis lunged to tag a diving Zimmer, and just out-touched him. Zimmer then laid face-down on the ground for a few moments, clearly in tremendous pain. As it turns out, he has a broken bone in his hand, which will be further scrutinized later this week. His status for the rest of the season is uncertain.
Regardless, the Indians own the longest winning streak in baseball since 2002. Whether or not they continue to win, the fact of the matter is that they own the best record in the American League and can still catch the tailspinning Dodgers for the best overall record. And the fans? They’re fired up. Leaving the game tonight, the atmosphere reminded me of leaving the Horseshoe after the Buckeyes beat Michigan.
The Indians face the Tigers tomorrow night with nineteen straight on the line