The possibility of yet another Tribe win against the Seattle Mariners suddenly looked a lot tougher considering who was pitching for them. Felix Hernandez, ace and former Cy Young Award winner, looked to halt the surging Indians on Sunday. However, Cleveland would be throwing an ace of their own, as Justin Masterson looked to get his seventh win. Both pitchers have been enjoying successful seasons, but a pitcher of Hernandez’s caliber is not easy to beat. A key to beating strong pitchers like King Felix is getting runs early and often. This has been a crucial aspect to the Tribe’s recent success, and something that needs to continue in order to have sustained success. As a leadoff man, Michael Bourn understands the importance of this, and showed exactly how in the first and second innings.
In the bottom of the first inning, Bourn ripped what looked like to be a single up the middle. The ball fell in an awkward spot between the center and right fielders, and Bourn turned the burners on and was able to get to second for an unlikely double. Getting to second paid off for the Tribe when Michael Brantley singled to score the first run. Justin Smoak giftwrapped the second run for Cleveland, as he couldn’t field a Nick Swisher hit to first. After Masterson cruised through his sixth out, Bourn and Brantley would again team up to play integral pieces in the Tribe’s 3 run second inning. With two outs, Bourn bounced a grounder to second, but once again showed off his amazing speed by beating out Dustin Ackley’s throw to first. Jason Kipnis would follow that up with a single, and then Brantley blasted a three-run homerun over the center field wall.
It’s amazing how far Michael Brantley has come in becoming such a professional hitter. Ever since being the PTBNL in the C.C. Sabathia trade, he was never counted on to make a major contribution at the major league level. He has gone to great lengths to prove his doubters wrong, and is a very important piece in the Tribe’s lineup. He has come up with numerous hits in clutch situations for the Tribe. Not to mention, he also plays great defense and provides speed. Cleveland will almost surely look to sign him to an extension.
In addition to some great hitting, Justin Masterson came out and pitched yet another gem. In seven innings, Masterson struck out 11, gave up only 3 hits, and has now pitched 19 straight scoreless innings. It’s great for this team to have a dominant, clear-cut leader in a rotation that entered the season with so many questions. If Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir can maintain their recent success, the Cleveland pitching rotation could evolve from a weakness to a strength.
Looking ahead, I think we’ll finally see if the Tribe’s winning ways are for real with the teams they will play in the next few series. After tomorrow’s game against Seattle, they play Detroit, Boston, and Cincinnati.
-In the bottom of the 4th, Mike Aviles showed some hustle and great awareness as he scored from second on a Drew Stubbs weak grounder. Jesus Montero showed some not-so-great awareness when he couldn’t get back to home plate in time.
-Montero had a rough series behind the plate, as he had the previously mentioned defensive blunder today, and the fact that he failed to keep his foot on the bag on yesterday’s walk off hit.
-Having a backup guy like Aviles who can step in and hit and play solid defense makes life easier for Terry Francona.