The first-place Cleveland Indians. How does that sound? It became true on Saturday after the Tribe hit well, stole bases and took advantage of 4 Orioles errors to route Baltimore, 11-4. Also helping were the Chicago White Sox, who gave up 7 runs in the bottom of the ninth and blew a 6-run lead to lose to the Royals and fall out of the top slot in the AL Central.
Sure, the Tribe is up by only half a game to both the White Sox and Royals (and 2.5 games ahead of the Tigers) in a suddenly very tight division race. But, hey, it’s the first time since July 2, 2013 that the Tribe has had sole possession of first place. So let’s act like Dollar Dog Days and relish it!
Fortune seemed to smile on the Indians, beginning with the fact that under-achiever Ubaldo Jimenez was the O’s starting pitcher. Sure enough, the Tribe batted through their entire line-up in the first inning and jumped out to a 4-0 lead, thanks to 3 hits, 2 walks and 1 big error by O’s third baseman, Pedro Alvarez. The error was one of those rare situations where the fielder got an “E” even though he never touched on the ball. With runners on first and second, Mike Napoli hit a hard chopper that should have been nabbed by Alvarez. But when he whiffed, the ball went all the way into the left field corner to send both runners home and put Napoli on second. Napoli and Jose Ramirez both scored on a clutch two-out single by Yan Gomes that notched him 2 of his 3 RBIs.
Jimenez gave up 2 earned runs in the top of the second due to another walk and singles from Francisco Lindor, Napoli and Juan Uribe. O’s manager Buck Showalter gave Ubaldo the hook after only 1.2 innings. The Tribe kept up the pressure the rest of the game, accumulating 13 hits and 5 stolen bases by 5 different runners (Napoli, Ramirez, Lindor, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana).
Tribe starter Danny Salazar was not his sharpest but managed to work his way out of big trouble despite being hit hard by Baltimore’s potent line-up. Of the 6 hits Danny yielded, 5 were doubles…and they each were smoked. But he gave up only 2 runs in 6 innings and mixed in 5 Ks, keeping his ERA at a very respectable 2.39 as he improved to 5-3 on the season.
Besides an entertaining game, the most important thing is that the Indians now lead the division. After a drought of nearly 3 years since being alone in first place, Oh man! Doesn’t this feel good? Even if it’s still only May?