The Indians 15-9 win over the Rangers Monday night was a true team effort.
If you tuned into the start of Monday night’s game, you likely got annoyed rather quickly. By the middle of the first inning, the Indians were already down 4-0. It looked like the Indians were ready to put up a crooked number themselves in the bottom of the first, with the bases loaded and nobody out. The Indians scored just one run though, on a Carlos Santana ground-out. By the middle of the second inning, it was already 7-1 Texas; Carlos Carrasco was being mercilessly hammered by the Rangers lineup. In the bottom of the second, the Indians once again had 2 on with just one out, but were unable to score. They managed to score a run in the bottom of the third to make it 7-2, but it still seemed like the Indians should have more than just 2 runs with all the players they had on base. Cole Hamels was laboring and was already at 60 pitches by the end of the third inning. I mentioned on Twitter that even though Hamels didn’t have his best stuff, I’d still rather knock him out of the game early and take my chances with the Texas bullpen. Obviously this was contingent on the Indians’ pitchers stopping the bleeding…but they allowed 2 more runs on 2 solo homers in the top of the 4th inning to make it 9-2.
Carrasco was gone by the middle of the 4th inning after having surrendered 8 of the Rangers’ 9 runs. Other than the solo homer that Dan Otero allowed to Elvis Andrus, the bullpen was nearly flawless. (And to be fair, Otero wasn’t the first pitcher that Andrus burned…not even the first pitcher in this game). A combination of Otero, Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Nick Goody threw a combined 5.2 innings and allowed just 1 ER on 3 hits, striking out 10 and walking just 2. That performance was a big reason the Indians were able to mount a comeback, which they kicked into high gear in the 5th inning.
With the bases loaded and 1 out in the bottom of the 5th, Lonnie Chisenhall singled and knocked in a run to make the score 9-4 Texas. Rangers manager Jeff Bannister pulled Cole Hamels in favor of Dario Alvarez, who promptly walked in a run. Now it was 9-5 Texas. The Indians would score two more runs that inning, to creep as close as 9-7. In the bottom of the 6th, the Indians continued to pour it on against the Texas bullpen and managed to take a 10-9 lead before Texas was even able to get an out. By the end of the inning the Indians were up 12-9…after that they never looked back. The final score was 15-9, with the Indians registering 19 hits. Everyone in the lineup had a hit, and Jason Kipnis was the only person in the lineup that didn’t have multiple hits. So this was a true team effort – the entire offense and 5 different bullpen pitchers coming together to pull this game out of the dumpster.
Alex Claudio hides his face after surrendering a run in the 6th inning on Monday night. The Rangers bullpen probably should’ve opted for putting bags over their heads instead.
I mentioned yesterday that the Indians had lost 13 of their last 14 games at home when they were behind after just 2 innings. So to be down so much, so early, was really discouraging. With the way the team had been playing at home, it just seemed like this was going to be a pretty bleak night. By the end of the second, the Indians had already stranded 4 on base, and was 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They ended up going 10-for-22 with runners in scoring position for the rest of the game (11-for-28 overall) and only stranded 6 more runners for the rest of the game.
In a weird way, I feel like this game was a microcosm of the 2017 Indians. You saw them at their worst, and most frustrating, and you saw them at their exhilarating best. One of the issues so far this season has been the struggles of several members of the starting rotation – you definitely had that as Carrasco gave up 8 ER on 6 hits in 3.1 IP, surrendering 3 home runs. You saw frustrating, sputtering offense in the first couple of innings…situations where they had a chance to make a statement or put up a big inning, but saw their opportunities fizzle. Then about midway through, it was like you were watching an entirely different game. There were dominant performances from the bullpen, and an offensive slug fest. You saw the very best that this team has to offer, and it’s clear that when they’re on, they’re tough to beat.
I still think the best metaphor for the 2017 Indians is a pesky lawn mower that always has problems starting. You try over and over to get it running and finally it starts, runs beautifully, and you finish mowing your lawn. You think “okay, now maybe this is finally going to work,” only to see it fizzle when you go out to start it the next time. At times, the 2017 Indians fire on all cylinders, and when they do it’s a beautiful thing. And you think they’ve finally turned a corner (i.e. the most recent road trip) and then they stumble again (like the weekend series against the Twins where they scored just 2 runs over 3 games). But just to keep you guessing, they come out tonight down 7 at one point and put up 13 unanswered runs.
While I’d like to say “maybe this is what this team needed to finally snap this streak of bad play at home,” I feel like the one thing I’ve learned from this team so far this season is that you can never make broad pronouncements about them. Because just when you think they’ve turned a corner, they end up disappointing and frustrating you. Just when you’re ready to pull your hair out and think “is this team ever going to score a run again?” they have a night like tonight. Tomorrow, I would not be the least bit surprised to see last week’s road trip Indians show up, or this past weekend’s Minnesota series Indians show up. I think the one thing for sure I know about the 2017 Indians, is that I don’t know what in the world to expect from the 2017 Indians on any given day.
I think in some ways, we were hoping for this storybook season. A team that made it to game 7 of the World Series last fall, and actually managed to improve over the winter (through free agent acquisitions and players returning from the DL) that would come in and just dominate from April through September. That we should have some kind of “special” feeling, that there would be “magic in the air” or something crazy like that. That everyone *just knew* something was special as the 2016 season was unfolding. Well, I have a confession to make – I never felt like anything was special about the 2016 season as it was unfolding. Sure, there were some exciting moments, but I never had this innate feeling that I just *knew* what would happen. In fact, at times the 2016 Indians left me downright pissed off. The playoffs were magical – now I did have a feeling that something special was taking place there. But as for the rest of the regular season, it just didn’t stand out as remarkable to me. I think to claim otherwise would be revisionist, as if I was letting the magic of the postseason cloud my judgment.
A 162-game season is awfully long, and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. Even though this is a team that seems like it’s had more downs than ups, they’re still in first place by a half game. Their saving grace has been (and likely will be) the fact that nobody else in the AL Central seems to be able to keep it together with any consistency either. For now, their streak of 3-game or fewer losing streaks remains alive, which means they haven’t let any combinations of teams bury them for 6 or 7 straight games. There is a lot to be thankful for, even though there is also a lot to find frustrating so far.
Let’s face it – when the Indians are on a roll you feel like they’re never going to lose again. When they’re losing, you start to question whether or not they’re going to win again. All we can hope for, is something like Monday night’s game with the Rangers. You were frustrated, and everything seemed bleak…yet this team never gave up and still managed to pull out a decisive win. The 2017 Indians may frustrate us, I may pull out what hair I have left after the World Series last fall, but all we can hope for is that they never give up and succeed in the end.