The rest of this season is all dependent on what happens elsewhere. Yes, the Indians can do themselves a nice favor by winning as many games as possible. However, with the Indians staring at the playoffs through a plate glass window at the moment, they’re going to need a little bit of help from elsewhere in order to sneak into October.
The Tribe did what they needed to do today: salvage an otherwise abysmal weekend against the Twins by winning 7-5. Shane Bieber struggled, but the bullpen and offense joined forces to carry home the win. It didn’t hurt that the Twins booted four balls, either.
What happened to Bieber?
He had a tough day. That happens sometimes, and despite his rapid rise as one of the Tribe’s best starters he’s still human. And young. He pitched 5 2⁄3 innings today, allowing 11 H, 4 ER, and 3 HRs. The sixth inning in particular proved to be the toughest for the starter, as he allowed a solo homer to Lamont Wade and a two-run blast to Eddie Rosario.
The Indians trailed 4-2 at this point, and things seemed hopeless. Given the rest of the weekend it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Twins would just cruise to a sweep.
Fortunately, they didn’t.
Heroics from Roberto Perez
First, the Indians needed a little bit of help. Jason Kipnis slugged a double to left field. Franmil Reyes walked, and then both runners advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. Jonathan Schoop bobbled what should have been an easy out, allowing Kipnis to score and Greg Allen to reach first. With runners on the corners, Perez connected on a low fastball and punched his 23rd home run of the season into the bullpens. It seems like every home run Perez hits goes to right center. If he keeps doing it close to 30 times per season I vote that we just name the damn section after him.
The Tribe took a 6-4 lead on the blast, but the Twins weren’t quite finished. Eddie Rosario took Nick Wittgren deep in the top of the seventh, because against the Indians he pulverizes baseballs with reckless abandon.
In the bottom half of the frame, Mike Freeman pinch-hit for Jason Kipnis. Or, more accurately, Freeman entered the game after Kipnis left with wrist discomfort. Tom Hamilton explained that Kipnis has been dealing with the issue for some time. Given how few games remain and the relative importance of Kipnis to the lineup, I think it’s fair to wonder whether or not we’ll see him again this season.
For today’s purposes, Freeman got the job done and drove home an insurance run with a single through the hole where the shortstop stands in non-shift situations. Hooray!
A fine finish from the bullpen
James Hoyt came on to pitch for the Tribe in the eighth. He quickly dispatched the Twins on seven pitches, inducing weak grounders from all three hitters. He returned for the ninth inning and struck out Jake Cave and Miguel Sano after issuing a walk to Luis Arraez.
Rather than give Eddie Rosario another opportunity to go deep off of right-handed pitching, Tito Francona called for Oliver Perez to record the last out. Perez got him to pop up to the catcher, ending the game and preserving the Indians’ playoff hopes.
- While Bebo delivered the most important hit of the game, several other Indians produced at the plate today. Oscar Mercado notched another multi-hit game and is slashing .281/.330/.439 for the season, now. He also drew a walk. Meanwhile, Allen poked a couple of singles of his own, driving in a run and coming around to score.
- This was only the fourth save of Oliver Perez’s career. Originally a promising young starter for the Pirates, he’s kicked around baseball as a full-time reliever since making the switch with the Mariners in 2012.
- The Indians only struck out four times today. I can’t imagine there are too many modern instances of a team striking out as often as the opposition committed an error.
- For what it’s worth, the Indians won the season series against the Twins 10-9.
The Indians trail the Rays for the second Wild Card spot by 2 games, pending the results from the rest of this afternoon.