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Indians return to form, at least for a night

The Indians found a way to hit Lance McCullers Jr.

Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians

The Jason Kipnis redemption tour is setting to kick off. If tonight is any kind of indication, the Cleveland Indians’ resident dirt bag may finally be ready to enter the 2018 season with the rest of us. His big contributions (that’s right, plural) were only of the many positive things about tonight’s close win.

The bullpen did their part well enough, even if Zach McAllister showed the usual cracks of an Indians reliever in the year of our Lord 2018, Carlos Carrasco had an okay outing until it went less than okay, and — maybe the most underrated aspect of the game — Terry Francona used his pitchers in a way that made sense.

There was no Cody Allen and Andrew Miller trying to each pitch two innings tonight. For one, Miller is injured and I don’t think Tito could get him to wear a mustache and come out as “Andrew Smither” in time for the game. Instead, the bullpen was (mostly) vintage. Tyler Olson threw exactly one pitch, but it was against a lefty and got the out the Indians needed. That’s exactly what he should be used for. Cody Allen was even able to come into a clean ninth inning for once and work a save, something he hasn’t done successfully since April 25 He’s had saves since, but they’ve been the 1.1-inning-or-more variety. I get saves are the enemy and kill the closer and all that, but it has to feel nice to get just back into an easy 1-2-3 inning instead of having to come up the burning dumpster that is the rest of the ‘pen every night.

Offensively, what more can you say other than the Indians killed the ball? Heck, Michael Brantley nearly literally killed a Houston Astros fan with towering 422-foot home run that some poor guy couldn’t catch. He appeared to be okay after the hit, but he took a high, fast, home run right off the cheek. That can’t feel good on the face or the pride.

And my favorite part of the whole thing (and maybe the whole game) was the Indians social team either a) realizing someone was actually hit by a ball after tweeting Smooth Criminal lyrics or b) being told by someone important that they couldn’t jokingly use Smooth Criminal lyrics when someone was just hit by a ball. Either way it resulted in them quickly, and rather sloppily, clipping out the section that references being struck because someone was, well, struck.

They should have left it.

Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jason Kipnis all added homers as well (luckily none of them hit anybody in the face), but one of those three needed it more than most. Kipnis has been struggling something fierce to this point, but he went 2-for-4 tonight and capped off his night with a solid defensively play for the second out of the ninth — do that a few dozen more times and we’ll quickly forget about April and the first three-fourths of May. As Kipnis’s struggles will tell you, he doesn’t have a lot of great results early in the season, but he’s been hitting the ball hard all season and the absolute meatball served up by McCullers was right over the middle of the plate.

While it wasn’t contextually impressive as Jason Kipnis emerging form his suck-cocoon, Yonder Alonso’s rocket home run was outstanding on its own. He used every ounce of those centaur-like legs to hit a ball 108.3 miles per hour, 411 feet to right-center field and gave the Indians a fourth-inning, 3-2 lead they were would never give up.

One pitch in a not-great place: destroyed.

The only Indians batters to not reach base were Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor. Which stinks, but if you can score eight runs and not even have your lead-off hitter — who also happens to be Francisco Lindor — get on base, you are clearly doing something right. As a team they didn’t even hit that well with runners in scoring position (1-for-9), but the sheer amount of dingers was enough to double Lance McCullers Jr.’s season total and keep the Indians ahead of some questionable starting pitching of their own.

Which isn’t to say all of Carrasco’s night was terrible, but... I mean, five runs allowed is five runs allowed. Like Mike Clevinger’s not-awful outing a couple nights ago, Cookie look pretty darn good through a few innings. He struck out eight, only walked two, and scattered a couple home runs. Carrasco’s third home run allowed was the back-breaking, though, maybe made a little worse by the fact that it came off Tony Kemp, who had not homered in his previous 195 plate appearances. I don’t know, that probably doesn’t do a lot of good for one’s psyche.

This is the team I know and love. Please don’t leave me again.