The Indians found a way to come out victorious over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday night by a score of 7-5, securing their fourth consecutive road series win to start the season (1st time since 1961 ). Despite allowing 11 baserunners in 6.1 innings (8 hits and 3 walks), Justin Masterson was able to pick up his first win of the season due to some serious offensive production from the middle infield. After an RBI single in the 2nd by Casey “Botchman” Kotchman, Jason Kipnis tripled home Johnny Damon in the 3rd inning, making the game 2-0; Asdrubal Cabrera plated him soon after with an RBI single to push the lead out to 3-0. After the White Sox responded with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, Cabrera again provided run support, launching a solo home run (396 feet) to lead off the top of the 6th inning. After an Alex Rios RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, the game stood at 4-3.
This time Kipnis stuck gold at the plate, belting a three run home run in the 7th to make it 7-3. The game seemed to be pretty much over until Dan Wheeler allowed a two run home run to Adam Dunn in the ninth, cutting the lead to 7-5. Wheeler’s mistake broke a 17.2 scoreless inning streak amassed by the tribe bullpen over the last several games. With the score offering up a save situation, Chris Perez was rushed into the game to secure the two out save, which he did despite walking the first batter he faced (Paul Konerko). Ballgame!
A couple of things stood out for me in this one. First, Justin Masterson seemed to have more control over his sinker. He did walk three batters, but keep in mind that one walk (Konerko) came during a ten pitch at-bat, and the other two were issued to the same player (Fukudome- both walks were on 4 pitches). It may not have been pretty, but Masterson pitched well enough to secure the win and avoid issuing walks. I look for his next start to ultimately be the turning point of his May production.
In other news, Casey Kotchman had two hits tonight! It may not seem like a big deal, but considering that he had one multi-hit game in his first 18 games played, it means something. It is also worth mentioning that Kotchman drove a run in tonight, giving him his first hit with a runner in scoring position in 2012 (he was previously 0-14 with RISP). Take that Stephanie!
Finally, a word regarding outfielders. I must say a new Indian has taken over the title of “Most painful at-bat to watch” after tonight’s performance. The new champion is…Shelley Duncan! Why are his at-bats so painful to watch might you ask? Well, I just see what every pitcher in Major League Baseball is seeing right now: Shelley feels like he NEEDS to pull the ball. Each time I watch a Shelley Duncan at-bat, he is always attempting to pull off of the baseball and hit it to left field, no matter where the pitch is located. If you have not noticed this, please watch his at-bats in the upcoming Texas series, as I assume his approach will not change (since it has not all season). Of course he is successful on pitches on the inner half of the plate, but pitchers are shying away from throwing inside to him because they know they can get him to fish on a downstairs curveball or roll a grounder to short on a outside fastball. Bleh.
Tonight was also the first night I could watch Johnny Damon (I was stuck studying for my last college final last evening), and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how in shape he looked while in the box. He laced a double in the 3rd for his first Cleveland hit, and just seems like a better lead-off option over Michael Brantley at the moment. I will say that I am intrigued on what he could bring offensively to the club, and I am looking forward to him being in the outfield instead of Shelley.
Finally, how about Asdrubal’s defense in this game? The dive on the liner up the middle was fantastic!
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