What a long, strange trip it’s been. And that was just today’s game as the Indians hung in to defeat the Mariners 6-3 after 12 odd and grueling innings.
When you look at the stats, you wouldn’t think this victory would have been so hard to chalk up. Cleveland outhit Seattle 18-5. But the first 16 of those hits produced only 3 runs. In all, the Indians left 18 runners on base with 10 of those in scoring position. For most of the game, the Tribe just couldn’t muster hits that would score runs.
But let’s look at the bright side. The Indians got the W and took 3 out of 4 games for a good start to a 7 game road trip. Jason Kipnis collected his 50th and 51st hits and scored his 30th run in the month of May, while also knocking in a vital game-tying RBI with a sac fly in the eighth. Kipnis became the first Indians player to have 50 or more hits and score 30 runs in a month since Jeff Heath did so in 1938. It’s great to see Kip equal a 77-year-old feat. We are all Kipnises.
The Tribe’s right fielders were the biggest heroes of today’s game. After the Mariners scored all 3 of their runs in a bizarre fifth inning (more on that in a moment), they were poised to add even more when Nelson Cruz smoked a liner into the right center gap with a man on third. Ryan Raburn, who started in right, dove headlong into the gap and snagged the liner with his back to the infield for the final out of the inning. As you’ll often see happen after a stellar defensive play, Raburn led off the top of the next inning and delivered a critical hit — an opposite field solo homer to put the Tribe’s first run on the board. David Murphy pinch hit for Raburn in the seventh and stayed in right defensively for the remainder of the game. In the twelfth, Murph hit a crucial single that drove in 2 runs and gave the Indians a 3-run lead after Michael Brantley had pushed in the go-ahead run with a bases loaded walk in the previous at-bat.
Extra innings wouldn’t have been necessary if not for the weird aforementioned fifth inning. Tribe starter Danny Salazar cruised through the first four innings with 4 K’s, 2 walks and only 1 hit. But the Mariners’ lead-off hitter in the fifth, Logan Morrison, reached on a single. Brad Miller walked. Then things started to unravel. Dustin Ackley bunted down the third base line. Mike Aviles, who started at third today, fielded the bunt cleanly but his throw was a bit wide to handle, especially for vertically challenged Jason Kipnis who was covering first since Brandon Moss charged in for the bunt. Everyone was safe, loading the bases, with an error charged to Aviles. Austin Jackson followed with a single that plated 2 runs. Then a wild pitch AND a balk by Salazar set up a sac fly by Robinson Cano to score the Mariners’ 3rd run. I guess you could argue that the Tribe was fortunate to give up only 3 runs with 2 hits, an error, a balk and a wild pitch all in the same inning.
Kudos go to the Indians’ bull pen for holding the line over the next seven innings. The Tribe used six relievers to do so — Nick Hagadone, Ryan Webb, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Zach McAllister and Austin Adams. Collectively, the ‘pen gave up only 1 hit and racked up 6 K’s. McAllister got his first win and Adams got his first save of the season.
After this marathon game filled many times with offensive frustration, it feels good to leave Seattle with a series win, a Kipnis month for the record books and a well-deserved day off before beginning a 3-game series with the Kansas City Royals, who are only a half-game out of first in our division.