As Stephanie pointed out earlier, today was Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball. Fortunately, on a day when the Indians pitching was a tad erratic, the Indians hitters chose to pay tribute to Hank Aaron instead, as home runs by Shelley Duncan, Travis Hafner, Casey Kotchman, and Jason Kipnis helped propel the Indians to a 13-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals. The win gave the Tribe a three-game series sweep and brought the team to an even .500 for the first time this season.
Although the homers certainly played a big part in the victory, it must be acknowledged that the Indians benefited from a dubious call on a close play by first base umpire Lance Barrett in the top of the third inning. Down 3-0, with two men out, Michael Brantley hit an infield grounder which was scooped up by Royals second baseman Chris Getz, whose throw to first seemed to have arrived in the glove of Eric Hosmer a fraction of a second before Brantley’s foot landed on the base. But Barrett called Brantley safe.
Instead of being out of the inning, Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza now had a man on first with two outs. Mendoza then gave up a single to Asdrubal Cabrera and a 2-RBI double to Shin-Soo Choo (who didn’t get hit by a pitch today). After trying to pitch around Hafner, Mendoza gave him an intentional pass. Duncan, the next hitter, hit a first-pitch popup to foul territory that Hosmer seemed to catch, but then dropped (he was charged with an error on the play). Duncan then watched ball one go by, then sent Mendoza’s third pitch into the left-field stands, giving the Indians a 5-3 lead. Walks to Kotchman and Kipnis followed, and then Jack Hannahan singled, scoring Kotchman. Any tine you can score six runs after you’ve made what could have been the third out of an inning, you’ve got to figure that the Baseball Gods are smiling at you that day.
Despite his shaky performance (he allowed nine hits, three walks, and four runs, all earned, over five innings), Ubaldo Jimenez got the win, his first of the season. Tribe manager Manny Acta had hoped that Jimenez would pitch deep into the game, what with the Indians using seven relievers in Saturday’s game thanks in part to the ejection of Jeanmar Gomez. But Jimenez threw 112 pitches over five innings, so it was not to be (I suspect Acta might have taken him out after four innings, had the Indians not put up a 4-spot in the top of the fifth). Dan Wheeler and Tony Sipp pitched effectively in relief, with neither man allowing a baserunner over a combined two and one-third innings. I will be charitable and refrain from discussing the performances of Rafael Perez and Jairo Asencio.
Speaking of effective relief, the Royals threw in the towel at the top of the ninth. Down 13-5, and trying to spare their own bullpen, they had centerfielder Mitch Maier take the mound. His first two pitches to Tribe catcher Lou Marson were way off the mark, but he got the third pitch over the plate. Marson hit it deep into center field, but not deep enough, and the ball was caught for out number one. Brantley singled, but then Maier got Cabrera to hit into an inning-ending double play. I have to admit that I smiled when that happened (of course, with an 8-run lead, I could afford to be a little bit gracious).
The Indians have another off-day tomorrow, then head out west for three-game series with the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s. Winning even one of these series would mean at least 5 wins out of 9 road games, which wouldn’t be too shabby. Winning both of them would be even better. And if the Indians keep hitting like it’s 1995, well, that just might happen.