Five, seven and nine were basically the magic numbers for the Indians today – they got their nine runs solely through two offensive outbursts in the fifth and seventh innings. I know that every game can’t be a 9-0 blow out, but this is what you love to see happen. Quality starting pitching that gives an overworked bullpen a chance to catch their breath, and that manages to shut down some of the hottest hitters in baseball. An offense that not only hits well, but has smart at-bats. There are so many times this season where it seems like if the Tribe’s pitcher is having a good day, the offense decides to have a bad day. Or if the offense finally scores some runs, the pitcher ends up giving them back up in the next half inning. Everything fired on all cylinders today to ensure that the Indians will at least have a split in this series with the Orioles.
Ubaldo Jimenez looked much like the pitcher that struggled through the 2012 season. He put a lot of people on base via walks early in this game, but only gave up one infield single (that was quickly erased through a double play). In two innings, he had already thrown 52 pitches and was nearing 100 by the time he finally departed with nobody out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. What made me happy about the offense today is that they took advantage of the fact that Jimenez throws a lot of pitches and worked to run his count higher. By the time Jimenez saw the bottom of the order for the second time, they started to hit him rather well. Baltimore has used their bullpen quite a bit over the past few days as well, so it was very beneficial to force Jimenez out early and get into the pen.
By the seventh inning, the Indians started to beat up on former Tribe prospect T.J. McFarland (claimed by Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft last year). I was at a Civil War re-enactment at the Lake County Historical Society this afternoon, and listened to part of the game on the radio. The cannon fire was so loud, I actually missed part of the scoring this inning (how often do you get to say that?) But once the dust cleared (literally, those things make a lot of smoke) the Indians were up on the Orioles by 9 below the Mason Dixon line.
As for some of the offensive highlights, there were a lot of positives. Every starter in the lineup today got at least one hit, except for David Murphy. Five of the starting nine had at least one RBI. And Carlos Santana managed to walk three times this game before hitting his two-run home run in the seventh inning. His batting average may be dreadful, but he is now behind just Jose Bautista in the number of walks this season. His .319 OBP barely seems to fit with someone who is hitting just .160. Lonnie Chisenhall continued to hit insanely well. What’s really impressed me so far this season is that he’s even hitting left-handed pitching well (although it’s a small sample size since he’s only had eight at-bats against lefties). But think about this – so far in 2014 he’s hitting .378/.440/.571 against righties, and .429/.500/.429 against lefties. Compared to 2013, when he hit .241/.286/.419 against righties and .158/.250/.408 against lefties, this year’s stats look even better.
What a difference a week can make. Last weekend I watched some dreadful games against the Oakland A’s, and fully expected the Indians to get swept by the Tigers as well. Then they sweep the Tigers and take two of three from the Orioles (so far) and all of the sudden they’ve won five of their last six. If only they could keep this up, we may end up with a pretty fun summer of baseball.