Tribe Rides Long Ball to Win Over Rays; Indians 3, Rays 1
By Bob Toth
The Cleveland Indians hit three solo home runs and Josh Tomlin allowed just two hits over seven innings, as the Tribe took game one of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 3-1.
Shin-Soo Choo got the scoring started early for the Indians with a solo homer to right field on the first strike thrown by Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson in the first inning. It was the ninth home run of the season for the Tribe’s starting right fielder, and his fourth of the season leading off a game, tying him with New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter for the league lead. He is now batting .327 in the leadoff role.
Michael Brantley would keep the offense going in the second inning. After taking ball one from Hellickson, Brantley would blast a laser beam to right-center field for a home run and a 2-0 Indians lead. It was the third home run on the season for the Tribe center fielder and his second in as many days.
“I got a fastball in and put a good swing on it,” Brantley said. “I’m seeing a lot of good pitches and putting good quality swings on the ball.”
“Brantley was huge for us in the month of June,” Indians’ manager Manny Acta said. “He was picking up just about everyone who was struggling in the lineup.” He has hit safely now in 37 of his last 40 games, sporting a .310 batting average during this span.
The Rays would finally get a scoring opportunity in the fifth. Third baseman Will Rhymes just missed a home run to right off of Tomlin, but it instead caught a piece of the extended wall. The next batter, Jose Molina, would ground out to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to push Rhymes across for the first and only Rays’ run.
The Indians wasted an opportunity to tack on a few more runs in the bottom half of the fifth. Jack Hannahan worked a full count before drawing a leadoff walk. He was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder to second by Choo. Cabrera walked. Jason Kipnis grounded out unassisted to first, moving up both Choo and Cabrera. Travis Hafner was then called out on strikes on a questionable call. The rally was over, but Hafner gave home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski an earful before returning to the Indians’ bench.
Hellickson (4-5) settled down after the two early home runs, allowing just singles to Choo, Brantley, and Casey Kotchman over the rest of his six innings of work. He gave up two earned runs on those five hits with three strikeouts. He did struggle at times with his control, walking four, but kept the Rays in the game.
Josh Tomlin (5-5) was locked in from the start against the Rays. He was nearly unhittable for seven innings, allowing just two runners to reach base. Tomlin retired the first seven in order before giving up a slow roller in the hole between second and third for the Rays’ first hit of the evening in the third. After the triple to Rhymes, he retired the last nine batters he faced, in order.
“Tomlin did a fantastic job. Sixteen of 24 first pitch strikes,” Acta said. “It’s good to see him go seven and have the command that he had. He only worries me when he doesn’t have his command and is walking guys.”
Hafner would get his revenge in the eighth inning, supplying the power for a big insurance run. He parked a 2-2 pitch for a no-doubt-about-it shot to the seats in right to make it a 3-1 lead for the Indians. For Hafner, it was his seventh homer of the season and his first since May 23rd.
Vinnie Pestano worked a scoreless eighth, striking out a batter. He allowed one hit, a single to left by Elliot Johnson, who was then erased trying to stretch the hit into a double by defensive replacement Aaron Cunningham. Chris Perez worked the ninth, giving up a single to Desmond Jennings to lead off the inning before retiring the next three in order to end it. It was Perez’s 24th save on the season.
Luke Scott went 0-3 for the Rays at the plate, extending his hitting slump to a Rays’ team record 39 consecutive at bats without a hit. The Rays’ designated hitter and first baseman has not gotten a hit since a single on June 1against the Baltimore Orioles.
Coupled with Thursday’s win by the Chicago White Sox, the Indians (43-39) remain two games out of first place in the American League Central Division. They now have a record of 20-8 in series openers and are 4-1 to start the month of July.
The Rays (43-40) remain in third place in the American League East Division, just one-half game ahead of both Boston and Toronto.
Justin Masterson (5-7, 3.92) takes the mound for Cleveland in game two of this four-game series against the Rays. Masterson is coming off of a quality start in his 6-2 win againstBaltimoreon Sunday. Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander Alex Cobb (3-5, 4.94). He has been the losing pitcher in five of his last six decisions, giving up a minimum of four earned runs in each of the losses.
The Indians’ series with the Rays resumes Friday night at 7:05 pm ET inCleveland. Follow the action on SportsTimeOhio and the Cleveland Indians radio network.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Duncan