I took The Kid to the Indians-Tigers game on Saturday night. Not Ted Williams, the other Kid. Mine. She’s 11 and my favorite person in the world to go to baseball games with. It’s good she was with me, because you kind of want to be sitting next to your favorite person to go to baseball games with when the first half of the game is so quiet that the fans blithely ignore the exhortations to “Make Some Noise” and “Get Loud” flashing on the scoreboard.
Mike Clevinger made the start for Cleveland. I’ll admit that I feared the worst when he started the game by walking Detroit 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler, but he quickly got things under control. With Kinsler dancing around the edge of 1st base, Clevinger attempted a pick-off. So did Yan Gomes when Kinsler took a bit too long getting back to 1st. “Wait,” I said to The Kid. “Sooner or later Kinsler will make a mistake and they’ll get him.” And, indeed, Kinsler did. Clevinger threw to Carlos Santana at 1st, but Kinsler was on the move. Santana ran him part-way down the base path then threw to Francisco Lindor, who made the tag. Bye, Ian.
In a game like this, little moments count. A double here, a walk there and you momentarily get your hopes up, only to have them dashed. It was quiet. The Kid and I spent the first half of the game soaking up the last rays of a sunny day, watching the Indians hit for extra bases 6 times (out of 9 hits), worrying about Jason Kipnis when we saw him walk too slowly off the field after getting thrown out at 1st (and not return for the rest of the game) and enjoying each other’s company. The folks who say baseball moves too slowly don’t go to baseball games. There’s nothing wrong with quiet spells during a game–they make you appreciate the big moments all the more. And they give you a chance to chat.
The Kid and I talked about everything and nothing. Like why Justin Verlander always seems make so many pick-off attempts when Francisco Lindor is on 1st. Or why Verlander is such a slow-working pitcher. (It turns out he’s the 12th-slowest working starter in the majors, averaging 25 seconds between pitches. I just looked it up.) As usual, she had questions about the game: “Has anyone ever slide into first base?” “Does the first base coach have to stay in that little box?”
It was a low-key, 0-0 game until the 5th inning. Yan Gomes and Erik Gonzalez (who came in for Kipnis in the top of the 4th) both struck out, and I started wondering if we’d go into extra innings with that nothing-nothing score. Francisco Lindor managed a two-out single, but the Indians had had base runners in every inning with nothing to show for it. Why then did a little electric current start flowing around the ballpark as Michael Brantley stepped up to the plate? He took a called strike, then a ball, another called strike, another ball. Then he fouled off three in a row. As the at-bat progressed, the crowd started waking up, that little electric current flowing harder and faster. It was as though we knew Brantley would come through, and he did, slapping an RBI double into right field to put the Tribe ahead 1-0.
Clevinger pitched six strong innings, allowing three hits, striking out four and walking two. With such a close game, it was Miller Time for the 7th and 8th innings. There is such fluid poetry to Andrew Miller‘s slider and the swings-and-misses it elicits. He used it well, facing six batters and striking out two.
To put the icing on the cake, the Tribe bats truly came alive in the bottom of the 8th, scoring three more runs and generally ruining Detroit relief pitcher Bruce Rondon‘s night. Lonnie Chisenhall walked and scored from 1st on Santana’s second double of the night. Santana advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Ian Kinsler. Bradley Zimmer then smacked a line drive into center for a triple. It was hit hard enough that Santana practically walked home (seriously). Zimmer scored on a sacrifice fly by Yan Gomes, making the score 4-0. Cody Allen came in for the 9th and ended the Tigers’ night.
The people who think baseball is too slow would probably have hated this game. I loved it. When I was growing up, the Indians used “It’s better to be there!” as a tagline to entice people to attend games. It’s kind of a dorky tagline, but it’s actually true. You don’t always see defensive shifts on television, or Jason Kipnis walking a little too slowly off the field. Watching Santana take a leisurely jog from 3rd to home plate against the backdrop of a monster triple just doesn’t offer the same scope and perspective on a television screen. And being there gives you time to think, to talk and ponder the mysteries of the game. Your mileage may vary. I’m just glad I got to hang out with my kid and watch the Tribe win. That’s a good night.