For the first seven innings of this game, runs and hits were severely rationed.  The Indians took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, thanks to a two-run Jason Kipnis home run (with only four Tribe hits to that point).  Starter Scott Kazmir took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning, which was broken up by a lead-off double from Manny Machado.  Machado went on to score an unearned run in that inning on a sacrifice fly from Chris Davis, but the Indians managed to cling to a 2-1 lead.  After that point, the last two innings of this game were packed with so many twists and turns, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a ballgame or riding a roller coaster.

Things really started to get nuts in the bottom of the eighth.  Scott Kazmir came out to the mound and started his warm-up tosses, as if he planned to stay in the game.  Terry Francona and the trainer quickly came onto the field and removed Kazmir; Joe Smith started to warm up to take his place.  What was so strange about this is that Kazmir didn’t seem to be in any visible physical distress on the mound.  When he went to the dugout, he did not leave to go back into the clubhouse – he stayed in the dugout with the rest of the team.  Typically, an injured player will go immediately back to the clubhouse to receive treatment, not stick around to watch the end of the game.  Orioles manager Buck Showalter angrily came out of the Orioles dugout and argued with an umpire; obviously he seem bothered by something in this situation.  My point in mentioning all of this isn’t to accuse Kazmir of faking an injury or anything (even though it seems that Showalter had his suspicions); it’s more to highlight my optimism that this may not be something serious.  I immediately thought “maybe he cramped up?” when I saw the trainer and Francona remove Kazmir.  It doesn’t sound serious based on post-game comments; I’d hate to see him miss time after two incredible starts in a row.

After Kazmir’s departure and Smith’s entry into the game, J.J. Hardy led off the inning with what was ruled a single.  However, it was a play that probably should have been made – Hardy grounded to third, but something went wrong between Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw and Nick Swisher’s reception.  Consider this the point where the roller coaster leaves the building and starts up that first hill.  Smith got Nate McLouth to pop out, but then walked pinch hitter Chris Dickerson and allowed Alexi Casilla (one of last night’s villains) to single to load the bases.  With the bases loaded and only one out, I started to become worried that our metaphorical roller coaster was going to descend into the abyss.  A fielder’s choice allowed the tying run to score, but now it was first and third with two outs – the ride suddenly didn’t look as scary as it once did.  Manny Machado, the same guy that ruined Kazmir’s no-hitter, singled to score the go-ahead run.  Adam Jones popped out though, and suddenly the ride looked like it may be over – with a rather unsatisfying ending.

However, Jim Johnson hasn’t been quite as perfect as he was last year.  He still leads the majors in saves, with 27, but tonight marked his fifth blown save of the year.  Johnson only had three blown saves all of last year.  He walked Michael Brantley, then gave up a double to Jason Giambi, and intentionally walked Carlos Santana.  With the bases loaded and nobody out, it looked like the start of a wild ride for the Indians.  The Indians tied the game on a fielder’s choice by Chisenhall, and took the lead on a fielder’s choice from Drew Stubbs.  What’s notable about the Stubbs FC – he has yet to ground into a double play this year.  For any other player, it probably would have been an inning-ending double play.  With Stubbs’ speed, he manages to bail himself out of these types of sticky situations (last year he grounded into just two double plays all season, and also only grounded into two in 2011).  It wasn’t quite as pretty as it could have been, but two runs are two runs – the Indians had pulled into the lead.

Over the past few weeks, the ninth inning for Indians’ closers has been its own wild ride.  However, Vinnie Pestano made it look easy tonight, knocking out the Orioles 1-2-3.  This game provoked a variety of emotions, but in the end happiness was the one that won out.

Notes

- I mentioned that this is Kazmir’s second great start in a row.  What was so impressive about his performance tonight is that Baltimore has a pretty rough lineup; there are tons of guys that can hurt a pitcher.  Chris Davis leads the majors in home runs (28), is second in the majors in RBI (73), and third in the AL in batting average (.330).  Even if you’re able to neutralize him (which the Indians were successful in doing tonight and on Monday), you still have Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.  Plus Nate McLouth, Matt Weiters and J.J. Hardy can still burn you; heck, even guys like Alexi Casilla have moments like last night.  To no-hit them through six innings, and to limit them to four hits is pretty impressive.

- The Indians were the only AL Central team to win tonight.

- Nick Swisher continues to struggle – he went 0 for 4 (bro for four) again tonight.  Not sure if the injury is still nagging him, or if this is just one hell of a slump.  If nothing else, he needs to be moved out of the clean-up hole and put down further in the lineup until something changes.

- Jason Kipnis continues to impress – He went 1 for 3 with the two-run home run and is hitting .408/.500/.632 so far in June.

- The series finale tomorrow has Corey Kluber going against Miguel Gonzalez.  The Indians have seen Gonzalez twice before – he’s 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.455 WHIP against the Tribe.  Both appearances came last year – on July 1 and July 20.  Chris Perez is set to come off the DL tomorrow as well.

10 Comments

  • The Doctor says:

    talk about a “it never should have come to that” situation.

    nick swisher: he hits like john mcdonald and fields like russell branyan!

    when swisher is back on the DL 10 games from now after hitting .120 with 25 K’s and with a couple more losses directly related to his defense, we’re all going to be wondering why the hell we didn’t put him on the DL when he sat out those 6 games in a row.

    it’s truly impressive how quickly he has rocketed past chris perez and asdrubal cabrera on my “indians players i hate the most” list

    • Edward Ennett says:

      Tell us how you really feel about Swisher…

      I think he is still hurting. Vinnie looks like he is in pain too. We have had a lot of injuries to some of our key players this year, and are still right in it. This gives me a lot of hope for the future.

      I am worried that Chisenhall may be the return of Matt LaPorta… both great guys, and tear up AAA, but just don’t click for some reason. His FC in the 9th while scoring the tying run, looked like he was just lost when he swung on it.

      Let’s go TRIBE!

      • The Doctor says:

        haha, i actually referred to chisenhall as the return of laporta a few days ago. when you can’t hit lefthanders or breaking balls and openly profess a disdain for taking pitches, you’re going to get eaten up at the big league level.

      • Swift says:

        Edward Ennett and The Doctor may be right and Chisenhall may be another Matt LaPorta. If we are shopping before the trade deadline, is a 3rd baseman on the shopping list?

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Royals won in extras. I say this just to be a dork. :-P

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Some guys just can’t handle the pressure of playing with a big contract. Add in the huge mistake of putting him in the cleanup spot, and Swisher was probably doomed to disappoint. At least he made that good play in the hole with Kazmir covering.

  • Drew says:

    Swisher sent two fly balls to the warning track. I haven’t looked at his babip since June 1st but I am sure it’s well below his normal average which equals bad luck. He is still dangerous and I will not write him off.

    Secondly, Chisenhall is riding a 4-game hitting streak.

    You are a bunch of pessimistic jerks, the Indians won. They have won 4 series in a row, 10 of their last 15. They are playing meaningful baseball and finding different ways to win. And it seems like a different player helps Jason Kipnis win each game. As I said earlier this week, let’s enjoy this while it lasts and hope that it lasts well into September.

  • Swift says:

    According to Tito in the post-game, Kazmir had a back spasm, and is expected to be OK. That’s great, because he has really looked sharp in his last couple of starts.

  • Cale says:

    Swishers BABIP on the year is .277, and in his career it’s .291, so it’s not that far out of line.

    The biggest thing missing is the power numbers. He’s hitting .229 this year, which isn’t good, but he’s only a .254 career hitter. His HR/FB ratio for his career is 14.7%, this year it’s only 10.6%. His ISO is .208 for his career and only .154 this year.

    The last few years in the Bronx have raised those career numbers, but that’s probably skewed due to all the left handed ABs in Yankee stadium. Swisher isn’t this bad, and it’ll even out by the end of the year, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get the Nick Swisher that played 1/2 his games in Yankee stadium.

  • Thomas says:

    Not that I expected Nick Swisher to come to Cleveland and be an All-Star, but I did expect him to do better than this:

    Swisher:
    279 PA, 7 HR, 25 RBI, .713 OPS, 4yrs/$56M

    Giambi:
    115 PA, 6 HR, 21 RBI, .764 OPS, 1yr/$750K

    I know that there are obvious differences between how these two are utilized, and in the sample size, but it is still an interesting comparison given the amount we have invested in both players.