In front of a sparse crowd of what looked like mayyybe 12 people (note: actual number was 9,533), two offensively-challenged teams played 7 1/2 innings to a 1-1 tie. Neither Cleveland nor Tampa Bay looked to have the upper hand, and with strong bullpens on both sides, this had the makings of a potential extra-inning thriller.
Then the game was broken open by a three-run home run by Corey Dickerson that Bradley Zimmer allllllllmost managed to catch. A 1-1 tie became a 4-1 loss. The difference was a matter of a few feet.
That’s all it takes in these games. It’s a long season, and while every team will be on both sides of their fair share of blowouts, games like this, where the margin between victory and defeat is razor-thin, are inevitable. And they are painful when they do come up.
The Indians had a few chances for things to break their way: The most promising was in the 7th, when Austin Jackson was able to turn a single into a triple thanks to a misplayed ball by Corey Dickerson in left field. Sadly, things ended there as Jackson was stranded at third.
More bad news: Jason Kipnis left the game early with hamstring tightness, which, considering that he was just on the DL with a hamstring injury, is… worrisome. But we’ll wait on actual information before jumping to conclusions.
The good news is that Danny Salazar had another strong showing. He wasn’t at his very best, but he looked a long way from the pitcher who was banished to the bullpen just a few weeks ago.
The bad news was that Rays starter Blake Snell pitched a very strong game of his own. There are no gimmes in the Rays rotation, exactly, but this is definitely a matchup that strongly favored the Indians, and it’s a shame that they couldn’t capitalize.
Also of note: Jay Bruce made his Indians debut, popping up in a pinch hit appearance. We may see him in the starting lineup as soon as tomorrow–and not a minute too soon for an offense that definitely needs a shot of adrenaline.
Overall, it was an inauspicious start to the four-game series with the Rays and to this long road trip ahead of the team. On the other hand, there’s still a lot more baseball to be played. This could end up being just a minor hiccup on the way to a strong road trip. We hope.