The Cleveland Indians have blown many a game with bad defense this season, leading all of baseball in both errors and unearned runs. Despite consistent play recently, ugly defense reemerged in a crucial moment last night when Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez nearly collided on a double play relay throw from reliever Scott Atchison. The Kansas City Royals would square the game 1-1 later in the inning, forcing extra innings.
It seemed like a game the Indians were destined to lose. The Royals stranded 16 runners. Kansas City loaded the bases with no outs in the first, left a man on second in both the second and third innings, left two in scoring position in the sixth and eighth, left two on in the ninth, three on in the 10th and left the tying run at second base in the 11th. Trevor Bauer and Indians’ tired pen managed to work around the jams and keep KC at bay, bending but never breaking.
Bryan Shaw was the only Indians reliever not used in last night’s affair after working heavily over the past week. Terry Francona has been using his bullpen as if each and every game is Game 7 of the World Series, quick to pull struggling starters while leaning heavily on guys like Shaw to keep the team afloat. Marc Rzepczynski has pitched each of the last five days. Josh Tomlin threw more than 50 pitches last night after pitching the night before.
It was a hard fought, intense victory for an Indians club hitting their stride at the right time. The Tribe are now six games over .500 on the year and only three and a half games back in both the AL Central and the Wild Card chase.
Despite lackluster play for the first four months of the season, the Indians and their rally ‘staches are charging towards a second consecutive playoff berth. Last night’s victory secured a fifth straight series win. They have the third-best home record in the AL, and they will return home for a four-game set against Detroit Tigers after tonight’s primetime series finale.
As the baseball world learned last year, late in the season you can’t sleep on the Tribe.