If baseball games lasted only half as long as they do, Corey Kluber would have had a perfect game on Wednesday night. He retired 13 batters in a row, no hits, no walks, and four strikeouts, including striking out the side in the 2nd. His first half was a thing of beauty. His teammates backed him up admirably, scattering 10 hits for 4 runs over the first five innings, including Carlos Santana’s 5th home run of the year, a two-run shot in the 5th that also scored Michael Brantley, who led off the inning with a double.
Baseball is a weird game of comings and goings. Brantley had “mid-back tightness” after he hit his double in the top of the 5th. He was replaced in left field by Nyjer Morgan in the bottom of the 5th. And it was Morgan who couldn’t quite get to Adam Lind’s fly ball with one out. It was Morgan who ran and fell trying to make the diving catch that would have given Kluber 14 straight batters retired. Instead, Lind and his stupid billy goat beard got a double. Bret Lawrie doubled later that inning, scoring Lind and ruining the shutout.
Morgan strained his knee during that play, and was then replaced by Jose Ramirez, who came in to play 2nd base. Mike Aviles, who had started the game at 2nd, moved to left field (you still following this?). In the bottom of the 6th, the Blue Jays plated one run, making the score 4-2. With Jose Bautista on 2nd, Adam Lind hit a fly ball to the wall in left-center. Aviles made a spectacular catch to prevent a run and rally and to end the inning. At the time, this looked like a key play–possibly a game-saver. But then batting practice started.
After Asdrubal Cabrera followed up Santana’s home run with a single and it looked like the Indians’ rally was going to continue for the foreseeable future, Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan was pulled. He was replaced by Esmil Rogers, who, as we all know, was traded to the Blue Jays at the end of 2012 for Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. So it was an odd sort of deja vu all over against to see Gomes and Aviles batting against Rogers. Rogers got the better of them (and the rest of the lineup), allowing only 1 hit and striking out 2 in two innings. However, the Indians still got the better end of the deal. Maybe the Blue Jays should have left Rogers in. He was replaced in the top of the 7th by Marcus Stroman, who got lit up for 5 runs (4 earned) in 1.1 innings. But Stroman and McGowan didn’t even get the worst of it. Neil Wagner came in to pitch for Toronto in the 8th inning. He got out of the inning, then came the glorious 9th, when the Indians scored 6 runs on 6 hits, including a 3-run homer for Yan Gomes. Wagner became perhaps the only player to ever be pulled with two outs in the bottom of the 9th with his team down by 13.
The Indians entered the bottom of the 9th with the score 15-2. Carlos Carrasco took the mound for the Indians and gave up a single, a double, and a single, giving the Blue Jays 2 runs and there was a moment when I actually wondered if a 13-run lead was enough. Fortunately it was. Carrasco finally managed to slam the door on the game.
The Indians ended up with 22 hits on the night. Everybody got a hit except Nick Swisher, who slipped below the Mendoza Line but did walk twice. David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall each had 5-hit games. The last time the Indians had two players each get 5 hits in the same game was 1932 (and you have to go back to 1928 for the last time it happened in a nine-inning game). Kluber didn’t get a shut out, but he did strike out 9 batters–his third straight game with at least 9 strike outs. As Rick Manning puts it, he’s a strike-throwing machine, and we love him for it.
This was such a fun game to watch. The Indians have won their last three series, and given the beating the Toronto bullpen took tonight, they have a good chance of taking the rubber match tomorrow. (Blue Jay pitchers threw a total of 210 pitches tonight.) The only down side to the evening are the injuries to Brantley and Morgan. We’ll need them against the A’s and Tigers, who come to town starting on Saturday.