Like me, you may have been calling the Tribe a variety of names so far this season. But today, we certainly can’t call them quitters. Instead, it’s a breath of spring air to call them winners, coming out on top of a roller coaster 10-7 contest.
The lyrics in a song from the musical Camelot say, “Everyone makes divine mistakes/The lusty month of May.” After the first 4.1 innings at Progressive Field on this sparkling May day, Cleveland seemed to be as far away from Camelot as possible. And it was because of mental mistakes that Tribe fans would call anything but divine.
The fourth inning brought 10 Blue Jays to the plate. Six would cross it, but that shouldn’t have been the case. With one run in and runners on second and third, Carlos Santana fielded a high chopper from Ryan Goins and caught Kevin Pillar trapped between third and home. Santana started to do the right thing — he charged straight at Pillar until the runner turned back toward the bag. Unfortunately, Carlos never made the throw, opting to try tagging Pillar himself. Pillar dove back safely with no out recorded.
The next batter, former Indians player Ezequiel Carrera, hit another chopper, fielded this time by starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. Instead of changing Santana’s evil ways, and perhaps still flabbergasted by them, Bauer indecisively held on to the ball as he considered throwing home for a force out then was too late to get Carrera at first. Pillar scored, and the bases were loaded for Devon Travis to crush a grand slam.
The box score will show no errors for the Tribe this game. Those two mental miscues, however, opened the door to five runs that could have been avoided. The resulting frustration was amplified by the fact that the Tribe was playing with a lead, thanks to a third inning home run by Jason Kipnis. “Typical,” I muttered to myself. “Get ahead then give it away the very next inning.”
Fortunes started to turn for the Tribe in the fifth inning. After Bauer was chased by two singles, Marc Rzepczynski came in with one out to face Goins. Scrabble deflected a hot shot through the box by throwing his foot backwards, miraculously sending the baseball toward second base to begin an inning-ending double play.
Even an Indians’ ball boy got in on the mental mistakes in the bottom of the fifth. Lead-off hitter Lonnie Chisenhall scorched a pitch down the right field line, landing several inches fair, only to be scooped up cleanly in foul territory by the oblivious ball boy. Officially, a ground rule double but Lonnie would have had second anyway.
Determined not to be outdone by the Blue Jays on this day, the Tribe sent eleven batters to the plate and scored six runs of their own to take an 8-6 lead. Kipnis knocked in his second run, on his way to a 4-for-5 day. Jose Ramirez doubled to plate two more. Michael Brantley, who went 2-for-3 with two walks, added two RBIs. And Ryan Rayburn, who came in to pinch hit at DH for starter David Murphy when the Jays swapped out starting right-hander Drew Hutchison for lefty Jeff Francis, continued to come through in the clutch. Rayburn jumped all over the first pitch for a two-out, 2 RBI double which raised his season BA to a clean .400.
Cleveland added a couple of insurance runs in the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Santana and Brandon Moss‘ second sac fly of the game. But another highlight of this decisive comeback win was the Tribe’s bullpen. No lead is safe against the Blue Jays. Coming in to today’s game, they led the American League in runs scored with 137. In games where Hutchinson started this season, they had averaged 11.33 in run support, second highest in the AL (behind his teammate Mark Buehrle — so the dudes can score). A combination of Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, Scott Atchison and Cody Allen yielded only one more run. And that was a Russell Martin moon shot off of Cody Allen with two outs in the ninth.
It would have been so easy to get down on themselves after the disastrous fourth inning. After a very disappointing April, it would have been so easy to let May slip to a 1-2 start. But the Indians showed more true grit than John Wayne today and are off to a 2-1 start in the new month. Let’s hope this kind of comeback sparks the confidence to start the first winning streak of 2015.