Somewhere around 7,632,819,000 people didn’t show up to watch the Cleveland Indians play the Detroit Tigers tonight. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe they just thought it would be another 1-0 snoozefest in which Indians pitching makes the opponents look silly and Indians batters make themselves look silly by hitting nothing.
That wasn’t the case — instead, the 325 people that spent a chilly, rainy night out at Progressive Field went home happy. Which, sadly, includes that mysterious howling woman in the crowd who clogged the microphone all night.
For all you suckers that spent the evening playing checkers or something else in your warm homes with the TV off, you missed a rare showing of fun for the 2018 Indians. You missed Francisco Lindor making more than two great defensive plays in one game (not that rare), and the Indians offense recording 10 hits (super ultra mega rare) for the first time this season. Just to hammer home how sad it is that this is their first double-digit hit game more than a week into the season, they are in fact the last two to do so. They play in the same league as the Kansas City Royals and they still couldn’t get 10 hits before anyone else. But it happened, and I still wouldn’t blink an eye if they end the season with the most 10-hit games of any team. This offense can be that good.
I don’t mean to harp on the offense too much, they were legitimately great tonight, at least for a couple disconnected innings. Their first rally of the game (season?) came in the fourth, when Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley each singled, then pulled off a double steal to get things going. Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes, Tyler Naquin (yes, that Tyler Naquin), and Francisco Lindor all kept it rolling with hits of their own to put the score at 4-0. An absolute zinger of a hit by Leonys Martin gave the Detroit Tigers some semblance of life in the sixth, but Michael Brantley declared them dead in the seventh with a single to score Jason Kipnis.
Francisco Lindor led the way, exit velocity wise, with a 113.1 mile per hour double off Daniel Stumpf, but he was far from the only one blistering the ball in this, the first Cleveland game not in sub-zero temperatures. In total, 25 of the 48 balls were put in play hit over 90 miles per hour, per Baseball Savant, and four of the hardest-hit were off the bats of Indians players — Leonys Martin’s 107.1 mile per hour dinger being the only exception. The difference between tonight and other nights is that a lot of balls were line drives that found their spot in the outfield, or grounders that were just too hot to handle. A far cry from the endless supply of pop fly outs we’ve been subject to over the last week-plus.
Unfortunately, one such hard-hit ball found the wrong target. It wouldn’t be right to mention how great the Indians offense played tonight without acknowledging the terrifying reason why. In the bottom of the first inning, just two batters into the game, Jason Kipnis hit a comeback that zeroed in on Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman’s face. Luckily — and I use that term loosely — it only blasted him in the jaw. A few inches higher or lower and this is a whole other level of scary. By some miracle, he was able to get up and walk himself off the field; it was later revealed that he passed concussion protocols, but would be going in for x-rays.
Depending on how he feels about the situation, we might see some social media pictures tomorrow of Jordan with a basketball-sized swell on his cheek, and we should all be thankful it wasn’t in his temple instead. Even with the fortunate landing spot, it was brutal. Kip’s reaction to the whole thing says it all:
Obviously, Zimmerman was taken out of the game and the Tigers were left with having to get 25 outs with their bullpen. The result was the Indians’ big offensive output of the season.
Carlos Carrasco, who knows a thing or two about getting hit by comebackers, had the exact opposite kind of game. He went the distance, striking out six and walking two, utilizing a heavy dose of curveballs and sliders. He needed a little help from defensive wizard Francisco Lindor, but he finished with a well-deserved win.
Look, I’m sorry such a great performance from Carrasco is getting a single paragraph at the end of a recap, but this is the millionth great start by an Indians pitcher in a row and I’m running out of ways to say “he throw ball real good,” so let’s just all celebrate a fun offense tonight. Heck yeah.