Second Thoughts Game #139: Orioles 4, Indians 6
The Offense Breaks Through
For only the second time since August 17th the Indians offense scored more than five runs. Led by Yan Gomes, Jason Kipnis, Mike Aviles, and Ryan Raburn the team tallied ten hits in the rubber game of a huge three game set against the Baltimore Orioles. This was the team’s last chance to deliver a loss to one of their wildcard competitors and the team’s offense responded with a big performance.
It was interesting to see that Yan Gomes moved into the fifth hole in the lineup in Michael Brantley’s absence. I’m not sure if this was a one game thing and Brantley will resume that position in the coming days, but it paid immediate dividends and provided a spark in this game. Gomes came to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning and one out (a situation that the Indians have fell flat in for weeks) and came through with an RBI single that paved the way to a four-run first inning.
Also in the first inning, in his first action since August 18th, Ryan Raburn smacked a two-RBI double with two outs and Mike Aviles followed with an RBI single of his own. While the inning could have been even bigger (two runners were thrown out at home) it was good to see Raburn back in the lineup and getting key hits that they have been missing. His 1.033 OPS this year with runners in scoring position is desperately needed.
In both months (June and August) when he’s been called on to play nearly every day Mike Aviles has really struggled. Likewise, he’s been pretty awful in clutch situations all year. Due to Lonnie Chisenhall’s struggles the team is still forced to play him more than they’d like, and hopefully more games (2-4, RBI) like this one will come out of it. His single with two outs in the fourth inning following Raburn’s double ended up as an important insurance run. I do think Aviles is the better option for the majority of the at-bats at third, but he needs to play better than he has this last month – though that’s true of quite a number of Indians.
Strong Bullpen Effort
After struggling through the fifth inning, Zach McAllister was given a necessary early hook and in his place Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Joe Smith, and Chris Perez combined for 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. It was a rough series for Indians relievers prior to this game but these four really came through and stifled any chance of a back-breaking Baltimore comeback. Allen and Smith especially have been outstanding in late inning relief in the second half of the season and really helped settle the bullpen after some mid-season turmoil and inconsistency.
It was particularly good to see Chris Perez bounce back from his appearance on Tuesday. I’m really doubtful that Perez is on the team next year. It goes further than the money he’ll be owed in the final year of arbitration; I just don’t think he’s a strong closer. His blown saves are usually epic meltdowns, but one thing he’s always done is a good job of bouncing back after those types of outings. While he didn’t blow a save on Tuesday, he did a good job of putting that game behind him and finishing off Baltimore and securing the series win.
With this win the Indians now move ahead of Baltimore in the wild card chase. They still trail the Yankees by one game, but it should be noted that New York and Baltimore still have several games against not only each other, but against the Rays who are leading the pack for the second wildcard spot. Overall it’s been a disappointing week, but it’s great to see the team in legitimate contention in September.
There was a lot of talk about the attendance at this game (11,522). It’s really a disappointing number because this may have been the most important game left on the schedule. Certainly if the team is fighting to the last couple of days for a playoff berth those games would become more important than this one, but this was the last head-to-head matchup against a team the Indians were challenging for a playoff spot and less than 12,000 decided to show up and watch. The Indians front office seems to still have a long road ahead of them to win back the fan support that has gradually disintegrated over the past decade.
While I don’t subscribe to the logic myself, I don’t exactly blame a fan for feeling uneasy about this team. As a group, Indians fans feel betrayed by a decade of false promises, lost stars, and underperforming teams. While a good season is right in front of them, it hasn’t taken the bad taste out of their mouth from seasons past. I don’t agree with it, but it seems to be the reality of the situation. The Indians need to string together some winning seasons and playoff appearances to distance themselves from the disappointments of the past.
Getting to watch some playoff baseball this year would be a HUGE step in the right direction and seems to be the only way the fans are going to embrace this year’s team. After watching non-contenders and teams that would collapse in the second half, it is playoffs or bust for the fans right now. With that said, the last couple of series against the Tigers has served to completely take away any optimism that was building.
Still, I’m planning on enjoying this stretch run. I wish others would too, but it’s not going to stop me from watching what this team has in store over the next three weeks.
Great team win. Hope they enjoy the off day and come back focused and ready to dominate the final 23 games against the cellar dwellers. You'd have to think they need to win at least 15-16 of these games to grab the final wildcard spot.