Offense Comes Alive to Spur Tribe To Victory; Indians 10, Rays 6
By Craig Gifford
So many times in the last two seasons, Cleveland Indians number one starter Justin Masterson has pitched so well only to take a loss or no decision due to a lack of run support. On Wednesday night in Tampa Bay, it was the Tribe offense that picked up its ace.
Masterson struggled through 4.1 innings. However, the offense awoke and hammered Rays pitching to the tune of a much-needed 10-6 victory. The win lifted the third-place Indians to 47-44 and to within three games of front-running Chicago in the AL Central Division.
When Masterson’s early night ended with one out in the fifth, the Tribe was down 4-3. Worse, the Rays had the bases loaded and were looking to really put the Indians in a bad spot. Esmil Rogers, who has been lights out in the bullpen since joining the Indians, would not let the deficit get larger. He struck out Elliot Johnson and got B.J. Upton to ground out, ending the threat. He added another scoreless inning for good measure, to keep the Tribe in the game.
“Esmil Rogers did a fantastic job,” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “He’s the one who saved the day. He gave us the opportunity to come back and tie the ball game and take the lead.”
Rogers working out of the tight fifth frame seemed to give the offense some life. The Indians had already climbed out of a 4-0 hole with a three-run fifth. Jack Hannahan belted a two-run double and Shin-Soo Choo added an RBI single in the rally. Still if the bottom of the fifth had gone south, it may have been a back-breaker.
After Rogers shut Tampa’s bats down in the bottom of the sixth, the Tribe bats busted loose for five huge runs. All the damage was done after the first two batters of the stanza were out. Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera singled to get the tidal wave started. It was then Jason Kipnis‘ at bat that really got the fireworks going.
Kipnis would single home Choo to tie the game. With two strikes, a pitch at the knees was ruled a ball. It would have ended the inning right there with Cleveland still down a tally. Instead, the borderline pitch went the way of Kipnis. After his hit, Tampa manager Joe Maddon had choice words for the ump and was ejected.
Unfazed by the delay, Michael Brantley put the Indians on top with a run-scoring hit. It was then Carlos Santana who drove the final nails in the coffin with a three-run bomb to center field. It was a huge home run as it was Santana’s first since May 15 and the sixth of the year for the catcher who has struggled to find his swing since late May.
Santana added a fourth RBI on a single in the ninth. Kipnis also had a second RBI single in the final frame as the Indians plated a pair of insurance runs. A score each in the seventh and ninth for the Rays proved to be moot points. The offense in the latter stage was simply too much for Tampa.
“That was a very big win for us, especially with the way things started,” Acta said. “Guys put together tremendous at bats. All throughout the lineup guys had good at bats.”
The Indians totaled 14 hits in their barrage of offense. Choo, Cabrera, Kipnis, Brantley, Santana and Travis Hafner, the 1-6 spots in the batting order, each had multiple hits.
Cleveland will look to win the four-game set against Tampa when the teams square off tomorrow afternoon at 12:10. It will not be easy as the Indians will face Rays ace David Price. Cleveland will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez. A win would give the Tribe a 4-3 record on their road trip through Toronto and Tampa before heading home for the first home series since the All-Star break, starting Friday.
Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images