Second Thoughts Game #60: Red Sox 4, Indians 7
Bullpen holds down the fort as Cabrera wins it with 3-run extra-innings blast
A phenomenal home stand ends with a bang as Asdrubal Cabrera becomes the latest walk-off hero with a three-run line drive homer in the twelfth inning of Wednesday's late-night duel between the Tribe and Red Sox. The Indians complete not only the three-game sweep of the reigning World Series champs, but also the sweep of the home stand overall with their sixth straight win and ninth straight victory at Progressive Field.
With the win and another Tigers loss, the Indians are now well within striking distance of the division leaders at three and a half games back. They are now finally back at the break-even mark at 30-30, which by the way is the same position they were in a year ago after 60 games.
Needless to say, baseball is once again reminding us that it's a 162-game season.
Player of the Game: Indians bullpen (5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 10 K).
Believe me, I thought about this a lot after the game and although Asdrubal Cabrera absolutely deserves the credit for winning the game and ending a long night, I think the Tribe bullpen was the most valuable factor in the victory, considering the fact that they were working short-handed with Cody Allen and Marc Rzepczynski unavailable and that they had no margin for error.
Scott Atchison, Nick Hagadone, John Axford, Josh Outman, Bryan Shaw and Carlos Carrasco combined for a shutout effort from the seventh inning and into extra innings all the way to the twelfth up until Cabrera's walk-off blast. Axford, Hagadone and Carrasco were especially impressive given their struggles in the past. Between the three of them, no base runners were allowed other than a hit batter by Carrasco in the eleventh while striking out seven.
Some credit also goes to Terry Francona for his maneuvering in the bullpen in order to make sure Allen and Rzepczynski got much-needed rest.
Kluber's Human Side
Yes, despite the rumor and his robot-like demeanor, Corey Kluber is human and he showed a bit of it on Wednesday against the Red Sox. But when we're saying that a start of six and a third innings with four runs allowed is one of his worst of a year, it only further shows how good of a season Kluber is actually having.
The first five innings were business as usual for Kluber as he worked around base runners and kept Boston off the board. However, in the top of the sixth, David Ortiz got ahold of a fastball down the middle and planted it in the right field seats with authority to put the Sox ahead 2-1 at the time. Fortunately the Indians came right back to take a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the frame.
Now I don't know if it was the long wait in between the sixth and seventh innings while the Indians pushed three runs across, but Kluber's command dropped off a bit in the seventh as he allowed the tying runs to score in the next third of an inning. The bullpen got out of the inning, though, so he walked away with a no-decision.
Not that any of this should be concerning, but it is interesting that for the first time in nearly two months, Kluber lost and wasn't able to regain the upper hand in a start. Aside from the strikeouts being down, the right-hander hit two batters and threw a wild pitch, both of which he had only done twice this year prior to Wednesday.
In a way, maybe this is a good thing for Kluber in the long run. Now some pressure is off and he knows he doesn't have to be perfect in every start.
The Clutch Factor
I was looking over various Indians stats and it may surprise many to know that Michael Brantley is actually the fourth best clutch hitter on this ballclub right now. Heading into play on Wednesday, David Murphy led the team with a .370 batting mark with runners in scoring position this season. Not all that surprising there, but next on the list is actually Michael Bourn at .351 followed by Lonnie Chisenhall at .323 and then Brantley at .321.
Now of the four of them, Dr. Smooth is still the most likely to become an All-Star this season due to his overall play, but these stats just go to show you never really know who's going to be the go-to guys in scoring position from year to year.
Both Murphy and Brantley came through on Wednesday as the Tribe left fielder got it started with an RBI single in the first. Brantley would finish the night 3-for-5 with an RBI. Murphy really came through, as he has many times this season in the bottom of the sixth with a bases-loaded RBI single, which plated two runs.
What's been impressive about the clutch hitting of Brantley, Murphy and Chisenhall, in particular, is how they get it done without trying to do too much.
Brantley has muscled in some more power this season, but he's still perfectly content with a single up the middle with a runner on second and/or third. Muphy's slap-hitting approach has become notorious on this team and his 2-run single on Wednesday was just another example of it as he punched it over the infield into right field. And I can't say enough of how completely turned around Chisenhall's approach has become this season. No longer swinging for the fences and taking what the pitcher gives him.
Up next: Indians (30-30) vs. Rangers (29-30) @ Globe Life Park. First pitch at 8:05 pm ET (Friday).
The Indians prepare for another long road trip as they travel to Texas on their day off on Thursday for a four-game series against the injury-riddled Rangers. For the first game, Trevor Bauer will take the hill against Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Bauer is coming off a sharp outing against the Rockies where he pitched six innings while allowing only two runs and striking out eight. The right-hander is facing Texas for the first time in his career.
Not surprisingly, Yu Darvish was also dominant in his last start pitching eight shutout innings with a dozen whiffs over in Washington over the weekend. In his brief big league career thus far, Darvish has pitched twice against the Tribe, but has been saddled with a loss in each one despite allowing only five runs (four earned) in 12 innings of work.
On a side note, it will be the first time this season that David Murphy will get to return home and face his former club, something he is excited to do, per his recent comments. However, many of the guys he got to know on that team are either gone or injured.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.