A former co-worker posted the following on my Facebook wall yesterday: “I would talk smack about tonight, but since the Tribe is actually good and we totally blow, not quite as much fun.” Personally, I thought talking smack about our respective clubs’ current records would be all kinds of fun, but deferred. Why kick somebody when they’re down? I generally approach games against the Red Sox with some trepidation. Over the last 10 years, we have a .413 record against Boston. And why not? They can afford to field great teams on a consistent basis.
One incident gave me pause before last night’s game: I was handing out cups of ice cream at the end-of-the-year ice cream social at the elementary school. They were those little pre-packaged paper cups with the paper flip tops. And for some reason, all the paper flip tops bore the Boston Red Sox logo. The box didn’t say “Baseball-themed ice cream” or anything like that, but there was that stinking logo, staring me in the face every time I opened one of those suckers. Regardless of how poorly the Red Sox have been playing, it seemed like a bad omen. (It also seemed like child abuse to feed Red Sox-logoed ice cream to small children.)
As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about.
The first inning, we threatened, but it just sound and fury signifying nothing. Then Michael Brantley doubled to start a second inning rally that culminated in a Jack Hannahan two-run homer and a three-run inning. We scored another four runs in the second inning (including a dinger by Jason Kipnis) which made for some comfortable middle innings. Along the way, Boston scored a couple of runs and beaned a couple of our batters in a game we ending up winning 8-3.
The big story for the Indians was Michael Brantley, who went 4-5 with two doubles, two singles, two RBI, and one run scored. He raised his batting average from .233 to .256 in one night (and raised his OBP to .302). He was on fire. (There was a moment at the top of the 6th when it seemed as though his pants were on fire too. After Boston pitcher Scott Atchison made 4 pick-off attempts in a row, each of which sent Brantley diving head-first back to the bag, he actually had to take a quick time-out to fix his pants. It’s the only pants-adjustment time-out I’ve ever seen.)
After going hitless in the losses to the White Sox on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s nice to see Brantley have a big night. He hasn’t had many of those so far this season. Out of 30 games, he’s gone hitless in 9, with two 3-hit games and four 2-hit games. In every other game he’s been a one-hit wonder.
The Indians have been without a true lead-off man since Grady Sizemore started getting injured on a regular basis. Brantley looked like he might be the lead-off man of the future and started the season batting first. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. With the arrival of Johnny Damon, Brantley has moved down to 7th. Batting first, Brantley is hitting .247 with a .309 OBP. Batting 7th, he’s hitting .281 with a .281 OBP. His OBP is even better with runners in scoring position (.276/.344). And despite the speed, he only has 2 stolen bases this season. It kind of makes me think he ought to stay in the #7 slot even after Damon leaves/Sizemore comes back.
As for the ice cream, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. But I think I can stomach a little smack talking about the Red Sox.