Then came the disastrous fifth. With two strikes, Jung Ho Kang flung his bat head down near the dirt and lifted a liner over the head of Francisco Lindor to lead off with a single. The next batter Pedro Alvarez bashed an opposite field home run to cut the Tribe lead from 3-0 to 3-2, with nobody out. Four of the next six hitters would get to Salazar for hits — three singles and a two-RBI double by Andrew McCutchen — to plate another three runs and knock Salazar from the game after such a promising start. No more scoring would come from either team as the Bucs took the game 5-3 and the series 2-1.
The Indians’ third run came on an RBI by Michael Brantley in the third, driving in Jason Kipnis who had led off the inning with his league leading 27th double (Michael Bourn and Roberto Perez each had an RBI on singles in the second.) After the Brantley single, however, Cole reverted back to his stingy ways. He shut down the next 16 Tribe hitters in a row, going 8 complete innings and notching his Major League leading 12th W.
The Tribe bullpen did their job as four relievers yielded no additional runs. That one inning did them in. That one lousy, stinking inning.
So, game-wise, this contest marked the halfway point of the season with 81 in the books. The Tribe stands at 38-43, a record that is far less than inspiring. But lately, the offense has been showing signs of new life. The kids from Columbus, Lindor and Giovanny Urshela, have injected some spark into the defense with exceptional plays and are holding their own offensively. (Urshela’s 13-game hitting streak was broken today. And Lindor, while also hitless, laid down a perfect sac bunt to move Kipnis to third in the third inning. How often do you see a player actually bunt well these days?)
The Tribe needs a much better performance in the final 81 games to have any shot at even a wild card sniff. They have a seven game home stand leading into the All Star break, starting with four games against a surprisingly strong Astros team.
Take both series, Tribe. Go into the break on a high note. Most of your players will get a rest during the break. Hope springs eternal in Cleveland.