Tonight wasn’t the most fun game of the season, nor was it the most dominant. However, the combination of hitting, pitching, and fielding led to a complete team win that stands out to me as perhaps the best overall game played by the team this season.
The Cleveland Indians combined a solid start from Mike Clevinger, contributions from every member of the lineup, and several excellent defensive plays to top the Toronto Blue Jays 7-3. Tyler Clippard worked two innings of perfect baseball to close out the game and send the Indians to a 58-41 record.
Excellent contributions from everyone in the lineup
Let’s start with Jason Kipnis.
He went 2-3 with two walks tonight, while also scoring a couple of runs. To top it all off, he recorded the last out of the game by invoking the range of Roberto Alomar while tracking down a humpback liner.
José Ramírez went 2-4 with double and a sac fly RBI. He continued his curious no-walk streak, but it’s hard to hate the process when the results continue to come.
Oscar Mercado tripled thanks to a bad misplay by Billy McKinney. He later homered to left field to tie up his two-hit, two-RBI game.
Those were the most important performers in the Indians’ lineup tonight, but again—every player reached base at least once. Even Greg Allen, who pinch-hit for Tyler Naquin in the seventh. The only player without a hit tonight was Jordan Luplow, but he walked twice.
Great team defense
Whenever Mike Clevinger allowed baserunners tonight, the Indians did their best to erase them. They turned three double plays tonight, one of which came on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out capped by a bullet from Roberto Pérez. That play finished of a fantastic defensive inning for Pérez; earlier, he stole a strikeout by framing a low strike against Cavan Biggio.
He wasn’t the only defensive star tonight. Tyler Naquin made a fantastic throw to nail Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Carlos Santana ranged far into foul ground to wrangle a ceiling-scraper in the late innings. And again, Kipnis made a silly, silly play to end the game.
Clevinger finished tonight with 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO. All three of these runs came on the longball, one off of the bat of Justin Smoak in the third, and another immediately after a HBP by Billy McKinney in the fifth.
The defense did its part to help Clevinger avoid trouble, but Sunshine did a fine job on his own. Like Plesac yesterday, a somewhat-high early pitch count was wrangled into submission. After two innings he’d already thrown 37 pitches. He rebounded by throwing only ten to complete the third, and stretched his start out when he used only eleven to complete the sixth and seventh inning.
It’s hard to complain with two perfect innings from Tyler Clippard. He, too, enjoyed defensive help, but that’s just who he is. Clippard continues to induce more weak contact into the air than anyone else in baseball, and the Indians continue to float underneath those popups. Five of his six outs tonight were in the air, and only one of them was hit particularly well.
Diversified Tribefolio of Tidbits
- The Indians racked up seven extra-base hits tonight, and only one of them was a home run.
- The runs in the top of the second came somewhat unconventionally. Bauers reached on a fielder’s choice only after the call was reviewed. Naquin moved he and Kipnis over on a groundout, and they both scored when Lindor singled.
- Mercado had a shot at an inside-the-park home run on his triple, but wisely held at third base instead. Even if it was the right decision, I always feel a little bit cheated when an inside-the-park dinger opportunity is denied.
- José Ramírez stole his 21st base. He’s on pace to at least match his career-high of 34 from last season, and is fourth in the league after tonight.
The Blue Jays and Indians face off again tomorrow night with Aaron Sanchez and Trevor Bauer on the mind. If you believe national baseball media this is nothing more than Bauer auditioning for other teams.
Perhaps in sharper focus during the last week especially: don’t always trust national baseball media.