Saturday night’s 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics was mundane in many ways except for the battle that did not happen. The Indians chose not to be drawn into a beanball match with Billy Butler, choosing to put away the A’s with a workmanlike demeanor that would have been scorned as lacking character by a previous generation.
Butler gave his teammates a spark in the fourth inning by jawing with Chris Gimenez, apparently accusing the Indians catcher of being a buttinsky as he complained about the umpiring. Butler seemed displeased by an earlier strike call and resented Gimenez saying, in effect, “shut up and hit.” I will not speculate on any suggestion Butler offered. The umpire, Tripp Gipson III, stood between them, looking like a midget in blue between two giants.
Apparently enraged, Butler promptly hit a home run to left field, only his fourth of the season. As the ball flew into the bleachers, he made another choice comment to Gimenez, flipped his bat and pranced around the bases, yapping all the way. By the time he got back to the plate, the umpire was screening Gimenez from the basepath like a point guard trying to box out a center.
Both benches were warned that any additional misbehavior would result in an ejection.
Here’s the amazing part. The rest of the game was as polite as a bridge game at the senior center. No close pitches. No obvious debates. No attempts at simple assault.
The Indians just continued building a lead. Jason Kipnis homered. So did Jose Ramirez, Abraham Almonte and Mike Napoli. Josh Tomlin strolled to his 11th victory, allowing six hits and two walks in seven innings. Cody Allen finished it off. He didn’t get a save because he allowed the third Oakland run on a long homer by the diminutive Marcus Semien.
In another era, the Indians might have accepted Butler’s offer to continue the bad behavior, no matter how nonsensical that might have been. You know the routine: pitches behind the batters; batters charging the mound; aging coaches rushing to the field to wrestle other aging coaches.
We saw none of that because the Indians were too smart to fall for the ploy. After all, how important is it to give the boorish Butler the satisfaction of stirring them up, causing a suspension or injury? Butler isn’t enough of a threat to merit the bother. He’s a right-handed DH with a .737 OPS and just 17 extra-base hits.
So what was significant tonight, other than the victory, was how the Indians flicked off Butler’s challenge and concentrated on grinding out another victory.