The Indians entered this four-game series against Kansas City with an 8-10 record, which isn't bad, but left them in last place in the tightly-bunched AL Central. It's too early for hysterics, but a loss in the opener would have created a very uneasy feeling for Tribe fans (an uneasier feeling than the default setting, that is). When a strong start by Zach McAllister was dropped on its head in the 5th inning, it seemed like a series-opening defeat was exactly where things were headed.
The Indians had first taken the lead in the 4th inning, when Michael Brantley hit his team-leading fourth home run of the season after Kipnis doubled to lead off the inning. Brantley also leads the team with 18 RBI, as he continues to take advantage of his opportunities. As the Indians have done far too many times though, they gave back thee runs they scored almost immediately, with interest.
McAllister got through the first four innings while allowing only three hits (and no walks), but he gave up back-to-back doubles to start the 5th, and then made a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt by the next hitter. By the time Eric Hosmer hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning, the Tribe's 2-0 lead had become a 3-2 deficit.
The next inning passed fairly uneventfully, aside from an error at third base by Lonnie Chisenhall (his second error of the game, which isn't helping his cause if he's looking to win back more playing time there). The score was unchanged in the bottom of the 6th until, following Nick Swisher's second double of the game, Jason Kipnis deposited an 0-1 pitch a few rows into the right-center field seats, putting the Indians back in front.
The Indians might have scored a few more runs, but Kansas City made a number of fine defensive plays throughout the game. You look at their lineup and their starting rotation and it doesn't seem like they should be a good team, but excellent defense can (and does) make a big difference.
McAllister departed after walking the first man in the 7th, but Marc Rzepczynski picked that runner off and made quick work of the inning, followed by Cody Allen working a 1-2-3 8th, and then John Axford sparring us the usual drama by using just 7 pitches to close out the win, picking up his seventh save of the year. That's nine outs from the bullpen without allowing a single baserunner. I'd like to see Tribe starters go 7 or 8 innings upon occasion, with 6 works just fine when you get relief work like that.
The win moves the Indians to 9-10, and with Chicago beating Detroit tonight, the entire AL Central is separated by only a game and a half. The series continues Tuesday night at 7:05 ET, with Danny Salazar facing off against Kansas City ace James Shields.
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