Covering the Bases: Game 118
FIRST: Resiliency has been a trademark of this Tribe club all season. After losing six games in a row, including being swept in a four-game series by the Tigers, the Indians came back from a five-run hole for a comeback win over L.A. on Sunday.
Michael Bourn, who played a key role in the comeback, was asked if a single win in August can save a team’s season.
“I wouldn’t count it out. I wouldn’t say no to that,” Bourn said. “Certain games are key games in a season. This could’ve been one of them. We’ll see in the future. We’ll go back and look at it when everything is said and done and see where we’re at.”
The Indians needed any kind of win — no doubt. But, perhaps what the team needed was this kind of win. Cleveland was down 5-0 by the fourth inning, Justin Masterson was gone before the fifth and the Tribe seemed dead and buried and on its way to its first 0-7 homestand since 1990.
“One minute we’re getting one-hit,” Mike Aviles said. “Next thing you know, it’s 5-4, and then it’s 5-5 and all of a sudden we’re ahead.”
It was a game that served as a microcosm of Cleveland’s season.
The Indians lost five in a row in April, and then answered with a 19-6 win over Houston to jump-start a 28-game stretch with 21 wins. The Tribe went 4-16 in a stretch between May and June, and then won two road games in Texas to ignite a 15-5 run. The Indians lost four in a row, including a pair of lackluster games at home against the Tigers on July 5-6, before winning six of eight before the All-Star break.
After the All-Star break, it was a 1-5 start through Minnesota and Seattle. Scott Kazmir then turned in a gem on the road against the Mariners to begin an eight-game winning streak, and an 11-game run with 10 victories. That include two wins to end a three-game series in Miami, which began with Jose Fernandez striking out 14 Indians hitters in an eight-inning, three-hit performance.
“We’ve been doing it quite a bit this year,” Aviles said of overcoming adversity. “Just not lately.”
That brings us to this week, leading up to Sunday.
Cleveland was three outs away from being two games out of first place, and then…
Monday: Chris Perez blows a save in the ninth inning to send Indians to loss to Tigers.
Tuesday: Starter Corey Kluber lands on the disabled list and Tribe loses again.
Wednesday: Indians drop a 14-inning heartbreaker to the Tigers.
Thursday: Tribe cuts Mark Reynolds and is dealt a sweep at hands of Detroit.
Friday: Scott Kazmir experiences a “dead arm” and Indians lose to Angels.
Saturday: Four errors by Tribe, four-run eighth by Angels turns a close game into a rout.
One blow after another and Sunday was no different for five innings.
“The situation we’re in right now, it hasn’t worked out for us,” Nick Swisher said. “But to get down 5-0 early, it kind of felt, ‘Hey, man. It’s been the same thing all week long.’”
The Indians changed the script. In the sixth inning, after Jerome Williams allowed just one hit to the first 18 batters he faced, the sequence went single (Bourn), home run (Swisher), walk (Jason Kipnis), home run (Aviles). In the seventh, Carlos Santana tied things up with a homer off JC Gutierrez and Bourn later delivered the go-ahead single.
“Bang, couple balls hit good, and next thing you know, we’re in it,” Francona said. “We tie it, and then we take the lead.”
Can a win of this nature be good for a team?
“It’s got to be,” Francona said.
SECOND: It’s kind of an odd thought, but the Indians might not win Sunday’s game if Asdrubal Cabrera isn’t ejected by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza.
Cabrera misplayed a sharp ground from Grant Green in the second inning and, in the same frame, was unable to reach a grounder up the middle from Mike Trout (a dive attempt might’ve helped) that wound up being a two-run single. Cabrera then led off the bottom of the second and struck out swinging. The fourth pitch (a low breaking ball) was ruled a strike, so a possible 3-1 count instead turned into a 2-2 count.
Cabrera swung through Williams’ fifth pitch for the strikeout and immediately had words for Carapazza, who had zero patience.
Francona wasn’t pleased about the swiftness of Cabrera’s ejection.
“I asked [Carapazza], ‘Did he say something out of [line]? He said, ‘No,’” Francona said. “He said he just argued strikes and balls. I just [think] maybe that was a younger umpire maybe trying to show his authority a little bit. I thought he got a little aggressive there. I don’t think he needed to throw him out.”
It worked out all right for the Indians, considering Aviles entered and launched the two-run home run that pulled the Tribe within one in the sixth.
THIRD: For all the grief fans and we in the media have given the Tribe’s bullpen this season, it’s only fair to tip the ol’ cap for the group’s role in Sunday’s win. Masterson endured arguably his worst start (4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 HBP, 101 pitches) of the season, and the bullpen helped bail him out with 4.2 shutout innings with just one hit allowed.
Lefty Rich Hill followed Masterson with one inning and righty Matt Albers came next with 1.2 frames. That put the offense in position to rally, which it did, setting things up nicely for setup man Joe Smith (eighth) and Perez (ninth). It seemed fitting that Perez was on the mound to seal the win, when it was his blown save that began the losing streak.
Perez had no comment.
HOME: Throughout this season, the Indians have had a handful of players-only meetings, including one on Thursday after the sweep by Detroit. On Saturday night, following the Tribe’s sixth loss in a row — one helped by some sloppy play in the field — it was Francona called a meeting.
“It’s just basically how we want to play the game,” Francona said. “It’s not always going to be perfect, but we have to fight through frustration.”
Cleveland still had some issues in the field, and certainly on the mound early, but the Tribe finally showed some fight and looked fed up with this slump in the final few innings. Is it possible that Francona’s meeting played a role in the team’s play?
“Well, we won,” Bourn said with a smile. “So I guess you could say it worked. He has our back in all the situations that we’re in. He’s behind us. He’s not against us, but sometimes he’s got to let us know what time it is. We don’t mind it as a team. It might’ve picked us up and got us going.”
NOTE: I will not be making the trip to Minnesota for the Tribe’s series against the Twins. I’m actually taking a few days to help Mrs. MLB paint and decorate the room for Baby Girl Bastian, who is due smack in the middle of the Indians’ October push (if the team pulls off a late-season comeback, that is). Talk about the ultimate jinx on my part. I will meet up with the team for continued Indians.com coverage when they arrive on the West Coast.
Indians (63-55) at Twins (52-63)
at 8:10 p.m. ET Monday at Target Field