Say what you will about the Cleveland Indians, but they might be the best team in baseball at avoiding a sweep. The Tribe has only been swept once all season and were 5-1 before today when facing a potential sweep in a three-game series. This afternoon was one such opportunity and the Indians responded as they have all year, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0.
Trevor Bauer was, as has been the case this season, filthy. The Pirates have been feasting on fastballs all series long, so Bauer kept them off balance all afternoon with his off speed pitches. Opposing batters could barely touch his knuckle curve and slider. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks and racking up ten strikeouts.
Bauer nearly came unraveled in the seventh inning — with the Indians’ stagnant offense only able to muster a couple runs of support — when he issued walks to Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell with one out. But he was able to work his way out of it, striking out David Freese and inducing a fielder’s choice to shortstop by Sean Rodriguez to end the inning.
Adam Cimber took over with a runner at first and no one out in the eighth inning, allowing a single of his own before inducing a double play. With Jordy Mercer standing on third, Brad Hand relieved Cimber to strike out Jordan Luplow and preserve the shutout.
Hand pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save as a member of the Indians.
In a change of pace from the first two games of this series, the Indians decided to take the lead, scoring two runs in the third inning. Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley delivered back-to-back singles with one out, before Jose Ramirez hit into a fielder’s choice to leave runners at the corners. Ramirez stole second, opening the door for Edwin Encarnacion to plate two runs with a single to center field and put the Tribe in front with a 2-0 lead.
With one out in the fourth inning, Jason Kipnis tripled to right field, sending a sharp grounder down the first base line and into the corner. It would ultimately be for naught — Roberto Perez lined out to third base and Tyler Naquin struck out on... wait for it... a high fastball to leave Kipnis stranded — but was worth mentioning here because, hey, you don’t see that every day.
The Indians were able to add a couple insurance runs in the eighth inning. With two outs and Jose Ramirez on second, the Pirates brought in closer Felipe Vazquez to face Yonder Alonso. Vazquez, who had only allowed one home run all season, offered up a low fastball down the outside corner of the strike zone and Alonso deposited it into the right field stands for a two-run homer.
And that was the extent of the Indians’ offense. The Tribe’s bats have been a bit too quiet after a blistering start in the first two games of the second half. Perhaps the Detroit Tigers’ starting pitching is the cure for what ails them? We can only hope.