April 2012

Covering the Bases: Game 20

Final:

Indians 4, Angels 0

FIRST: Derek Lowe smirked as he leaned against a post near his locker inside the Indians’ clubhouse. A reporter had just mentioned that Angels outfielder Mike Trout was born the same year that Lowe began his professional career. Lowe is never one to miss an opportunity to crack wise with the media.

“You guys said I was going to retire after this year!” Lowe said. “You said this was it!”

Another reporter quipped: “No, we said last year was it.”

“Unbelievable,” Lowe said while laughing. “You’re unbelievable.”

It was all in good fun and why not? Lowe — 38 years young — had just spun 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Angels. It was vintage Lowe. Only one strikeout, but 14 outs created via ground balls. His sinker was on and his slider was sharp, and L.A. looked helpless to do anything but chop pitches into the ground.

So far this season, Lowe has gone 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in five April starts. Yes, I know there are five months to play, but it’s a promising start for Lowe. Especially since, you know, he went 0-5 with an 8.75 ERA in September to finish 9-17 in what many thought might’ve been his last hurrah.

SECOND: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter has made 36 errors in 4,525 career chances. That marks the fewest by any outfielder in Major League history with at least 4,500 total chances on their resume. Of course, one of those errors came on Sunday, it it led to Cleveland’s first two runs.

In the fifth inning, Hunter lost an Asdrubal Cabrera pop-up in the Cleveland sun — I know, who knew such a thing existed in April? — and two runners scored on the play. Asked if he was surprised to see a Gold Glover like Hunter miss the play, Indians manager Manny Acta said, “I wasn’t shocked, I was happy.”

“You can’t beat the sun,” Hunter said. “I’ve been playing this game for a long time. It seems like the sun wins. Whenever you lose the ball in the sun, you can’t defeat God’s light.”

Tip of the cap to the Indians’ defenders, who turned in a strong effort in the infield and dodged any sun-assisted bullets in the outfield. The play that was still being talked about postgame in the Indians clubhouse came in the sixth. Trout line a pitch into right field, where Aaron Cunningham slipped on the play. He recovered in time to snare the ball out of the air for the frame’s final out.

THIRD: How about Vinnie F. Pestano? Acta turned to the righty with the Indians leading 2-0 with runners on the corners for the Angels and two outs in the eighth innings. After walking Trout to load the bases (no harm done), Pestano struck out Howie Kendrick to escape the jam. Pestano has 14 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings so far this season. He’s recorded at least one strikeout in each of his 11 appearances.

HOME: I could do another note on the Indians’ home run drought — which has reached 11 games, 101 innings and 365 at-bats — but I’ll turn my attention to the Angels for the second. Slugger Albert Pujols hasn’t cleared a fence since Sept. 22. His 0-for-4 showing (three groundouts, one strikeout) on Sunday extended his career-worst homerless streak to 117 at-bats (88 with the Angels).

Here’s an opposing viewpoint on Pujols’ early struggles:

“He’s not swinging the same to me,” Lowe said. “This game, I don’t care if you’re a Hall-of-Fame player like he is, confidence is everything in this game. When you start losing it, you start questioning yourself. The only thing that I’ve noticed is he’s swinging at more pitches that he normally doesn’t swing at. I’ve thrown him those same breaking balls before and he just watches them go by. That’s the only thing that I’ve seen over this series, that he’s a little more aggressive that he normally doesn’t swing at.”

On deck:

After an off-day Monday…

Indians (11-9) at White Sox (11-11)
at 8:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 19

Final:

Angels 2, Indians 1

FIRST: Jeanmar Gomez has arguably been the Indians’ best start since the onset of Spring Training and that did not change on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out seven in six innings. He allowed two runs… and was hung with a hard-luck loss.

A walk came back to bite Gomez in the first inning (via an RBI single from Kendrys Morales) and the righty gave up a solo homer to Torii Hunter in the fourth. Given the continued offensive issues for the Tribe, that was enough to do Cleveland in on this afternoon.

Gomez’s season ERA spiked to 2.35 with the 100-pitch outing.

SECOND: It’s easy to pile on the offense for the continued lack of production, but there are times when you have to — pardon the cliche — tip your cap to the opposing pitcher. Squaring off against Jered Weaver and Dan Haren in back-to-back games is no easy task, and Cleveland squeezed one win out of that situation.

Haren did his thing on Saturday, striking out eight and holding the Indians to one run over eight innings. Cleveland finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and scored two or fewer runs for the fourth time in six games. The Indians put the leadoff man aboard in two innings, but Haren minimized the damage.

THIRD: On a positive note, how about that bullpen? Joe Smith followed Gomez with two impressive shutout innings and Nick Hagadone logged one clean frame as well. Over the past three games, the Tribe’s ‘pen has logged eight shutout innings, holding hitters to a 2-for-26 (.077 average) showing with seven strikeouts and one walk.

HOME: Who will snap out of their home run drought first, Albert Pujols or the Indians? Pujols is stuck in a homerless drought of 113 at-bats, dating back to Sept. 22 of last season. That’s the longest power outage of his career. Cleveland, meanwhile, hasn’t cleared a fence in 10+ games, 93 innings and 334 at-bats, dating back to Carlos Santana’s fifth-inning blast against the Mariners on April 17. The Indians haven’t experienced a homer drought of at least 10 games since a 14-game stretch from April 10-27, 1983.

On deck:

Angels (7-14) at Indians (10-9)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 18

Final:

Indians 3, Angels 2

FIRST: Remember how last year was the year of the walk-off and magic at home for the Indians? Well, after a rough start in Cleveland out of the gates, the Tribe finally had a reason to run on the field and celebrate like a bunch of kids again. In the bottom of the ninth, Asdrubal Cabrera beat a five-man infield shift with a game-winning single to right field, completing a three-run comeback for the Indians.

Cleveland had 12 walk-off wins in 2011, but this was the first for the ballclub this year. That said, the win improved the Tribe’s record in one-run games to 6-0 on the year. The Indians are the only team in baseball yet to have suffered a one-run loss. Say what you want about the team, but that’s impressive nearly a month in.

SECOND: In the eighth inning, with the game caught in a 2-2 tie, the Angels had Albert Pujols at the plate, a runner on second and first base open. After a brief mound visit from manager Manny Acta, Masterson pitched tp Pujols in a key confrontation in the game. Pujols took a two-seamer inside for a ball and then swung at an 81-mph offspeed pitch to pop out into foul ground.

“He’s our No. 1. He’s throwing the ball good,” Acta said. “If there is ever a time where you might pitch to Albert in that situation, it’s right now. He’s scuffling a little bit. … It was a situation where it was, ‘Hey, you’re our No. 1. Go after him.’ He was strong enough to get him out.”

Pujols is hitting .225 and he hasn’t homered in a career-high 109 at-bats, dating back to Sept. 22 last season. Acta also noted that Kendrys Morales — a switch hitter — was on deck and would’ve hit lefty. Masterson’s splits are much better against righties, so it made sense to pitch to Pujols. And it worked.

THIRD: Masterson left the game with runners on first and second base with one out in the ninth inning and the game still tied. Acta could’ve have stayed with the big sinkerballer, but the the manager “needed somebody to strike somebody out.” Enter Vinnie Pestano, who did the trick with back-to-back punchouts of Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar. On the third strike to Aybar, catcher Carlos Santana gave a huge fist pump as the crowd erupted. You can argue all you want about momentum in baseball (and I’m among those who isn’t a big believer in it), but that moment undoubtedly had the Tribe pumped up heading into the bottom of the ninth.

HOME: The Indians won, but the offense still had some struggles. For one, the Tribe squandered a bases-loaded chance in the first inning. With that, Cleveland slipped to 3-for-22 with the bases loaded this year and 0-for-10 with the bases loaded and two outs. The Tribe stranded 11 and ran into a few outs on the bases. In all, Cleveland collected 15 hits and drew four walks, but managed only three runs out of all that traffic. All of that said, the Indians did go 5-for-10 with runner in scoring position and the team did pull out a win.

They also did so without a home run, making it nine games, 84 innings and 303 at-bats since the Tribe’s last blast. Not that anyone is counting.

On deck:

Angels (6-14) at Indians (10-8)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 17

Final:

Royals 4, Indians 2

FIRST: Home is where the knife through the heart is. At least that’s how it’s felt in the early going for the Indians. Progressive Field has hardly been the friendly confines for Cleveland. Now, over the course of the season, the Indians will almost certainly play better at home. That said, it’s been ugly so far.

Let’s take a look at the numbers…

AT HOME

Record: 2-6
Team average: .186 (52-for-279)
Runs scored: 28
Runs per game: 3.5
Hits per game: 6.5
Average with RISP: .150 (9-for-60)

ON ROAD

Record: 7-2
Team average: .281 (89-for-317)
Runs scored: 54
Runs per game: 6.0
Hits per game: 9.9
Average with RISP: .309 (30-for-97)

SECOND: When the Indians signed outfielder Johnny Damon on April 17, left fielder Shelley Duncan was hitting .333 and fans were wondering how exactly Damon was going to fit in. Over the past week, Damon has been getting in game shape and Duncan has slipped into a brutal slump. Duncan went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Thursday’s loss, giving him eight strikeouts in 10 at-bats in the series against the Royals. Dating back to April 18, Duncan has hit .125 (3-for-24) with 13 strikeouts. Suddenly, fans are having an easier time seeing how and where Damon fits in.

THIRD: OK, let’s pause and find something positive to pull out of the latest lapse by your Tribe. How about left-hander Tony Sipp? Over his past five appearances out of the bullpen, the lefty has given up one run over 4 2/3 innings (1.93 ERA), striking out four with one walk and two hits allowed. Sipp logged 1 1/3 shutout innings in Thursday’s loss. He’s trimmed his ERA down to 7.71 from 19.29 over that five-game span. Given Sipp’s track record, the Indians expect him to be just fine as the season wears on and he’s made good progress in the past week or so. This is why a young lefty like Nick Hagadone is sent back to the Minors and why a veteran arm like Sipp stays around. Sipp has been valuable over the past few years for Cleveland and the team is not about to press the panic button over a couple rough outings in early April.

HOME: Where has all the power gone? Cleveland launched at least one home run in each of its first nine games, belting 16 long balls in that span. Since then? Zilch. In fact, the eight-game drought without a homer marks the longest such power outage since the Tribe went eight straight without a blast from Sept. 27-Oct. 3 in 1991. That home run slump covered 82 innings. The Indians’ current power skid covers 75 innings, dating back to the fifth on April 17 in Seattle.

On deck:

Angels (6-13) at Indians (9-8)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 16

Final:

Royals 8, Indians 2

FIRST: That’s a nice picture of Indians manager Manny Acta fist-bumping second baseman Jason Kipnis, but Acta did not seem too pleased with Kipnis or shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera following Wednesday’s loss. It’s not that Kipnis or Cabrera cost Cleveland the game, because they didn’t. But they did pair up for a blunder that certainly did nothing to help the Indians’ chances.

In the fifth inning, with a pull shift on for Alex Gordon, the Royals left fielder chopped a pitch toward Cabrera and Kipnis to the right of second base. It was an easy roller to glove — except neither went after it. They both pulled up, stared at one another, and the ball skipped into the outfielder for a single.

Two batters later, Eric Hosmer belted a two-run, two-out homer that put KC up 4-0.

Asked who should’ve fielded the ball, here’s what Acta had to say: “Somebody. It probably looked like Jason was closer to the ball, but that’s not what we preach around here. What we preach around here is you collide going after a ball. You don’t look at each other. We’ve been saying that for three years here. We have ice. We have a training staff here. We don’t look at each other and let a ball drop. Unfortunately, that cost us.”

SECOND: First baseman Casey Kotchman’s woes at the plate continue. In Wednesday’s loss, he went 0-for-3 to drag his dry spell to 0-for-22. His season average has dropped to .140 for the Tribe. It’s still too early to jump ship on Kotchman, who hit .306 last year for the Rays, but it has been a brutally ugly first impression for the slick-fielding first baseman. If this persists into May or June, it will become more of a real issue.

THIRD: Ubaldo Jimenez was “just OK” to use the words of Acta. He survived for six innings, giving up four runs — all on a pair of two-run homers. The Big U walked three and struck out two and his once impressive fastball velocity remained missing in action. More importantly, his fastball command remained spotty. Jimenez said he felt better than his last start, so he had that going for him. It continues to be a work in progress for a pitcher that is a key component to the team’s potential success this year.

HOME: … has not been kind to the Indians this year. They are now 2-5 at Progressive Field with 26 runs scored in seven games. Over the past two games, Cleveland has hit 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position with 19 baserunners stranded. The Indians have hit .191 in their last 68 at-bats with runners in scoring position, so the latest offensive slump did start before the flight back to Cleveland.

On deck:

Royals (4-14) at Indians (9-7)
at 12 p.m. ET Thursday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 15

Final:

Indians 4, Royals 3

FIRST: How about that Jack Hannahan? Over the winter, there were fans that asked him to add “Supermanahan” to his autograph at the Tribe on Tour event and he’s been living up to the nickname early on this season. Hannahan went 2-for-3 against the Royals to lift his season production to .364 with one homer, four doubles and 13 RBIs in 13 games.

In the fifth inning, Hannahan delivered a two-run double that put Cleveland ahead, 4-1. That proved to be the difference when K.C. rallied for one run each off Tribe relievers Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez. Right now, Hannahan and Travis Hafner are leading this Cleveland offense. Imagine that.

It’s a bit more than a hot start for Hannahan, though. Dating back to Aug. 13 of last season — (coincidentally?) when he rejoined the team after the birth of his son — Hannahan has hit .367 (44-for-120) with four homers and 30 RBIs in 39 games for the Indians.  Maybe it’s that new dad strength. Or, maybe there really is something to the fact that he switched to a heavier bat in the second half last year.

SECOND: Derek Lowe bounced back from a rough week — he had his 2004 World Series ring and replica trophy stolen as part of a robbery at his Florida home — with a solid showing against the Royals. The sinkerballer held K.C. to one run over six innings despite allowing eight hits. Lowe entered the day with three strikeouts this season, and tallied five in the outing against the Royals.

“I’m just showing off,” quipped Lowe, who is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA. “I apologize. I think my family was watching the game or something.”

THIRD: As impressive as the Indians have been with two outs this season, there have still been some issues with runners in scoring position in general. On Tuesday night, the Tribe went 2-for-12 with RISP and stranded 13 runners. Over a stretch of 61 at-bats with RISP covering the past seven games, the Indians have hit .198 (12 hits). Still, it’s fair to point out that the Tribe has scored 30 of their 58 runs over the last 10 games with two outs. They’ve also gone 8-2 over that stretch.

Manager Manny Acta put it best: “We would’ve loved to score more runs. But, we won. That’s what counts.”

HOME: Welcome home, Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians’ All-Star shortstop was back in Venezuela this past week to be with family after the death of his grandfather. In his first game back with the Tribe, Cabrera went 2-for-4 with a single, double, walk and run scored. He also hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the second inning, but no need to pile on or criticize when: A) he’s had a rough week, B) he stepped right back into game action after a week off, and, C) the Indians won.

On deck:

Royals (3-14) at Indians (9-6)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Wednesday at Progressiver Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 14

Final:

A’s 5, Indians 1

FIRST: Sinkerballer Justin Masterson is in a bit of a funk right now. In Sunday’s finale in Oakland, the right-hander walked six in five innings and took the loss after giving up four runs on six hits in a 111-pitch performance. Over his last two starts, Masterson has given up 12 runs on 13 hits with 10 walks against three strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings.

Against the A’s, all six of Masterson’s walks came against left-handed hitters. He did hold the seven lefties in Oakland’s lineup to a 4-for-15 showing, but two of those hits went for extra bases and lefties are now hitting .346 (18-for-52) off Masterson on the season. A year ago, lefties hit .291 compared to .210 for righties against the sinkerballer.

Asked what he was working on to try to improve against left-handed hitters, here is what Masterson had to say: “It’s what am I trying to do to improve against all hitters. I mean, it’s the same thing for all of them. Really,I’ve gotten ahead in counts. It’s just finishing guys. So it’s making good pitches and trying to be consistent. I’m just not real consistent.”

SECOND: There were a couple tough plays in the field that did not go down as errors for the Indians, but led to A’s runs nonetheless.

In the fifth inning, with an extreme pull shift on against lefty Kila Ka’aihue, Jason Kipnis fielded a grounder awkwardly in shallow right field and pulled the throw to first base. Ka’aihue was safe and later went on to score. It’s a play Kipnis could’ve made and probably would make, if given another opportunity. Manager Manny Acta said Kipnis might have been in a better throwing position had he tried to backhand the ball.

In the eighth inning, with Eric Sogard on second base, Cliff Pennington sent a pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. Shortstop Jason Donald made a nice play to track down the ball and made a long throw to try to get Pennington at first base. First baseman Jose Lopez bobbled the ball and Sogard — on a dead sprint the entire way — scored from second on the play.

There were no errors on either play, but both certainly could’ve been cleaner.

THIRD: Cleveland’s lineup for the Sunday day game hardly struck fear into the hearts of men. Cleanup-hitting catcher Carlos Santana was given the day off (day game after night game) and slumping first baseman Casey Kotchman (0-for-16 spell) was out as well. Left fielder Shelley Duncan was also on the bench, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera remained out of town and on the bereavement list. That resulted in four bench players in the starting lineup. There have been three games this season where the Indians have had at least three of their regular players out of the starting lineup at the same time. Not surprisingly, the offensive production in those games has been: one run on four hits (Sunday at A’s), one run on four hits (Wednesday at Seattle) and two runs on five hits (April 9 vs. White S0x). All three were losses.

HOME: OK, enough with all the negative. Let’s take a moment to applaud the Indians for a strong showing on their first road trip of the season. A sweep of the Royals and a pair of two-out-of-three showings against the Mariners and A’s. These are teams Cleveland should beat — at home or on the road — and the club pulled out a series win in each. That’s good to see. After going 1-4 with 20 runs and a .176 average at home to open the year, the Indians went 7-2 with 54 runs (28 with two outs) and a .281 average on the road. It’s the first time since 1988 that Cleveland won each of its first three road sets of a season. Tip o’ the cap, Tribe.

On deck:

Royals (3-12) at Indians (8-6)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 13

Final:

Indians 5, A’s 1

FIRST: Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez set the tone and didn’t need much run support to collect his first win of the season. The right-hander was Cleveland’s best arm during the spring and he (finally) followed that up with a solid start this season. His previous two outings lasted two innings (once in relief on April 11 and then in a start on April 14 before being ejected).

Gomez gave the Indians 5 1/3 innings and left without a run against him. A sac fly following his exit tacked one earned run on his line. The righty didn’t necessarily have his best stuff, but he pitched into the sixth on a limited pitch count. Manager Manny Acta pulled him with a runner on third base and one out in the sixth at 88 pitches.

A few fans wondered (via my Twitter feed) why on earth Acta would pull Gomez at that juncture. From a matchup standpoing, slugger Yoenis Cespedes was up and veteran Dan Wheeler — who relieved Gomez — has been solid against righties this season. There was more to it than that, though.

Gomez hadn’t thrown more than two innings since going 3 2/3 innings in his final outing of the spring. More to the point, he hadn’t logged more than 34 pitches since Spring Training, and he hadn’t logged more than 41 pitches in an outing since Sept. 27 of last season. The last time he topped 88 pitches? Sept. 17. Gomez had given plenty.

SECOND: You knew it wouldn’t be long before Jason Kipnis broke out of his funk at the plate. Granted, it’s just one game, but it was a big one. Kipnis went 4-for-5 with two singles, a triple and three RBIs. It marked his most hits (and tied his career high in RBIs) since his 5-for-5, three-RBI showing against the Tigers last August. It was a great spark for the offense and it would be great for the Tribe if it was a game that got Kipnis going for a longer period of time.

THIRD: The Indians’ bullpen struggled out of the gates this season, but has found its footing over the past few games on this road trip. In Saturday’s win, the Bullpen Mafia put up 3 2/3 shutout innings, with closer Chris Perez notching his third save in as many days. It was nice to see lefty Tony Sipp turn in a sharp 1-2-3 inning given some of his early-season woes. Tribe relievers have given up just one run over their last 16 2/3 innings.

HOME: Last season, veteran infielder Orlando Cabrera was behind the “Two-out Rally” shirts that the Indians players wore throughout the season. That mind-set — that it’s never too late to start a rally — has carried over early this year, too. On Saturday, four of the Indians’ five runs came with two outs. On this trip, Cleveland has scored 51-percent (27 of 53) of its run with two outs. The latest win marked the first time since 1988 that the Indians won their first three road series of a season.

On deck:

Indians (8-5) at A’s (7-9)
at 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at the Coliseum

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 12

Final:

Indians 4, A’s 3

FIRST: Kids, don’t try that at home. That headfirst slide that Jason Kipnis did at home plate, that is. With one out in the fifth inning, Kipnis was hit by a pitch before stealing second base. Then, on a base hit to right field from Shin-Soo Choo, Kipnis bolted around third base toward the plate.

The relay throw from right fielder Josh Reddick was on target, and catcher Anthony Recker nearly had Kipnis with the tag. Kipnis’ slide allowed him to miss the tag and swipe the plate with his left hand. It was a technique that worked, and proved critical as it was Cleveland’s fourth and decisive run.

It’s just not a technique that’s encouraged.

“It’s not something that we teach,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s very dangerous, but it’s something that happens in the heat of the moment. It’s tough, because guys just want to score and get to the plate the best way possible.

“That was a very nice slide. A great throw by Reddick, but the slide was just fantastic.”

SECOND: Ubaldo Jimenez admitted he had a very rough night. He didn’t have command of any of his pitches and labored through a 107-pitch outing. The Big U walked five, allowed six hits, including a home run, and only struck out three. The thing is, though, he only allowed two runs. Good starters find a way to gut out a solid showing on nights when nothing is working. That’s what Jimenez did against the A’s en route to his second win of the year. That said, Ubaldo noted that he still has a lot of work to do and he’s hardy satisfied to simply walk away with a win.

THIRD: Prior to Friday’s game, we chatted with Acta about the Indians’ early success with drawing walks. He said it was one result of the Tribe’s emphasis this spring on cutting down the team’s strikeout rate. Well, Cleveland drew another nine walks in Friday’s win, upping their American League-leading total to 66 through 12 games. The Tribe’s on-base percentage stands at .342 at the moment.

HOME: Jack Supermanahan stuck it to his old team on Friday night, but really, Hannahan’s been sticking it to just about every team to this point. The third baseman went 1-for-2 with a double, walk and three RBIs. On the year, he’s hitting .324. So far, Hannahan has gone 5-for-6 with eight RBIs with two outs and runners in scoring position. He’s gone 5-for-12 with two outs, 9-for-22 against right-handed pitchers, 6-for-18 on the road and 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Now that’s a solid start to a season.

On deck:

Indians (7-5) at A’s (7-8)
at 9:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Coliseum

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 11

Final:

Indians 2, Mariners 1

FIRST: The ninth-inning rally is what Indians fans will remember most, along with the clean save from closer Chris Perez that nailed down this win. Those were the final images that will stick out in peoples’ minds. This victory began and ended with the performance from Josh Tomlin, though.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of my little cowboy,” manager Manny Acta said,

Yup, the little righty from Texas went toe to toe with King Felix and came away with a well-deserved win. It was nice for the Indians to see, too, considering Tomlin had posted an 8.31 ERA in his early-season showing going into this evening. But, Safeco Field is a great place for a flyball pitcher like Tomlin to work. And, boy, did he take advtantage.

Tomlin was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and got ahead early and often — evidence by the 23-of-29 first-pitch strikes. He scattered five hits, struck out seven and allowed no walks over eight innings. The one run Tomlin surrendered came courtesy of an error by Jason Kipnis. No harm done in the end.

SECOND: The Indians offense was unable to get anything going all night… against King Felix, that is. But, that’s the case more often than not against the former Cy Young winner. Hernandez struck out 12, walked one and gave up no runs on five hits over eight frames. Fortunately for the Indians, Felix’s pitch count climbed to 126 through eight and Seattle turned to closer Brandon League with a one-run lead. With Hernandez out of the game, Cleveland’s offense went back to work and pulled off a two-run rally in the ninth that held up as the game-winning turn.

THIRD: Jason Donald has played soundly in the absence of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. The biggest pay of the night came in the fourth inning, when Kyle Seager sent a pitch up the middle for what looked destined to be an RBI single. Instead, Donald made a spectacular run-catch-spin-and-throw to first base. Casey Kotchman leaned, picked the ball out of the dirt and kept a toe on the bag as he fell for a highlight-reel play that ended the inning and saved a run. When you’re facing someone like King Felix, plays like that loom large.

HOME: As powerful as the Indians’ offense has been to date — they entered Thursday leading the league in runs scored and home runs per game — one of the biggest developments has been the high walk rate so far this year. Cleveland drew another four walks in Thursday’s win, giving them 57 through 11 games. Heading into Thursday’s game, the Tribe ranked first in the AL in walks and first in baseball with the best walk rate (walks per plate appearance) in baseball. In the ninth inning, Cleveland’s rally was started with a leadoff walk from Carlos Santana and Shelley Duncan drew his 11th walk of the year to load the bases in the same frame. That set the stage for a two-run single from Jack Hannahan.

On deck:

Indians (6-5) at A’s (7-7)
10:07 p.m. ET on Friday at the Coliseum

–JB

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