Sometimes, all it takes is a little spark. And Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien obliged.
Up until the seventh inning, A’s sinkerballer Kendall Graveman (6.1 INN/6 H/4 R (3 ER)/1 SO/2 BB) was making an already very frustrated Indians offense even more frustrated as they pounded ground ball after ground ball into the dirt. Graveman was carrying a 3-0 lead into the sixth, and it seemed like he was in his groove.
It felt as if Carlos Santana’s team lead-tying 21st homer in the bottom of sixth inning felt immaterial; just window-dressing for fantasy and little else, and it was going to be Oakland’s night and Detroit would surely shave a game on the Indians’ 4.5-game lead.
After having Stephen Strasburg dominate with his velocity on Wednesday, seeing Kendall Graveman seemingly put the Indians in their final resting places for the night with junk balls felt like a cruel irony for the those who packed the house to kick off the festivities of Jim Thome’s and Albert Belle’s Indians Hall of Fame induction weekend.
Trevor Bauer (5.1 INN/5 H/3 R (2 ER)/4 SO/2 BB) did his part to keep the Indians in striking distance, with his only hiccup being in the sixth, where he surrendered back-to-back homers to Josh Reddick (another name rumored to be in the Indians’ crosshairs) and Khris Davis (who knows if anybody wants him; I wouldn’t be adverse to him, honestly).
The Indians needed a break, and we all can thank Rajai Davis for having the kind of speed to make it happen.
The seventh inning started blandly enough; a harmless Lonnie Chisenhall groundout. It just felt like Oakland was counting down the outs.
Rajai Davis would punch a harmless grounder to short, and Marcus Semien booted a ball that little leaguers make in their sleep. In a blink of an eye, the floodgates gave way to a sudden onslaught.
Tyler Naquin blooped one in to left. Abraham Almonte (!!!!) lined an RBI base hit that ended Graveman’s night. Former Indian Marc Rzepczynski (yes, I still have to look it up) was rudely welcomed back by Jason Kipnis, whose broken-bat RBI found grass and loaded the bases. Next came Ryan Dull, who immediately uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Almonte. Francisco Lindor capped the rally with a sacrifice-fly.
From a seemingly listless 3-1 loss to a 5-3 lead. Just like that.
And the game still wasn’t completely in the bag until Josh Reddick mercifully flew out about two feet short of a go-ahead homer against Cody Allen. You could feel the collective exhale from the sold-out crowd as the ball landed harmlessly into Tyler Naquin’s glove.
Once again, baseball makes a fool of all of us writing tonight’s game off too early. It also shows us once again why we love it so much. One crack is all you need so you can kick the door right in.
On a weekend where the Indians will look to celebrate the glory of the mid-90s, this game felt eerily similar to those teams. You never counted them out until the 27th out was recorded. Consider tonight as being the perfect tribute.
W: Cody Anderson (2-4); L: Kendall Graveman (7-7); S: Cody Allen (20)