Walks and Timely Hitting Keep Tribe in Loup to Win; Indians 6, Blue Jays 4
Mike B. | On 20, Apr 2014
When you’re struggling, you have to make the most out of small opportunities.
After another slow start, the Indians made the most of sparse offensive production and a mediocre start by Carlos Carrasco to survive into the middle innings. That survival allowed them to take advantage of Aaron Loup and sneak away with a 6-4 victory on Easter Sunday over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Michael Brantley provided all the Indians’ offense for the first five innings and after a strong three innings by Carrasco, the bullpen minimized damage when he struggled. It kept the Indians in the contest so that David Murphy’s three-run double put the Tribe up for good in the sixth inning. Despite just five hits on the afternoon, Cleveland made the most of them and the six walks gifted to them by the Blue Jays.
Cleveland did take a rare early lead. The Indians beleaguered offense was able to jump on top in the bottom of the second inning. Brantley hit a one-out, solo home run down the right field line, giving the Tribe a 1-0 advantage. It was Brantley’s third home run of the season. Two of his three home runs this year have tied or put the Indians ahead.
Toronto answered back in the fourth inning against Carrasco, taking advantage of their second trip through the batting order. After retiring the first nine batters he faced, Carrasco allowed a double down the right field line to Jose Reyes to start the frame. Melky Cabrera reached on a hard smash to shortstop that was ruled an infield single to put runners on the corners before Jose Bautista singled to right field to tally Toronto’s first run.
After Edwin Encarnacion struck out, Juan Francisco singled to center field to score Cabrera. Brett Lawrie grounded out to shortstop, but Bautista was able to score and the Blue Jays led, 3-1 in the middle of the fourth inning.
Cleveland scratched back in the bottom of the fourth, making the most of their limited offense. Jason Kipnis walked and Brantley again provided the necessary base hit with a double down the right field line. Kipnis was able to score all the way from first base and the Indians cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Blue Jays took their two-run lead right back in the top of the fifth inning, however. Josh Thole started the inning with a single and after Ryan Goins sacrificed him to second base, Reyes singled to left field to plate another run. Toronto led 4-2 and had a chance to score more. Carrasco walked Cabrera and Bautista before striking out Encarnacion to end the inning.
Carrasco’s day was finished over five and two-third innings, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five. After retiring the first nine batters he faced, Carrasco allowed 10 of his final 17 to reach safely. Josh Outman (3-0) logged the final out of the inning after allowing a single. While sharp early, Carrasco struggled in the middle innings, continuing to leave wonder if he is best suited for a starting role.
Cleveland again made the most of some minute offensive production in the bottom of the sixth inning. Nick Swisher started the inning with a single to right field. The Tribe’s first hit by someone other than Brantley was enough to end Morrow’s day after five solid innings, allowing just two runs. Left-hander Aaron Loup was summoned from the Blue Jays’ bullpen. After Kipnis hit into a fielder’s choice and was caught stealing, it appeared Cleveland would go quietly again, but Loup (1-1) helped set up the ailing offense with three straight walks.
After Carlos Santana, Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera walked, David Murphy lined a double down the left field line. A strange kick off the wall allowed all three runs to score, giving the Indians a 5-4 lead after six innings. Murphy’s double was the Tribe’s first two-out base hit or base hit with runners in scoring position in the series. Swisher’s hit to start the inning and Murphy’s hit to drive in the runs were the only offense produced by the Indians in the inning.
Neil Wagner relieved Loup, finishing the sixth, but the Indians offense found more life in the seventh inning. After Lonnie Chisenhall walked to start the inning, Michael Bourn singled past the infield to put runners on the corners. Bourn’s single snapped a 1-for-16 start since coming off the disabled list. Swisher flew out to center field and Chisenhall trotted home to extend the Indians’ lead to 6-4 after seven innings.
John Axford worked a nerve-wracking ninth inning, but earned narrowly earned the save. After allowing a base hit, but retiring two hitters, Axford gave up a single to Cabrera and walked Bautista to load the bases. After going 3-0 on Encarncaion, he climbed the ladder to work a full count before getting a one-bounce smash to Kipnis who fielded the grounder and threw to first to end the game. Kipnis was playing behind second base on a shift, otherwise Encarnacion’s hit would have tied the game. Axford registered his sixth save of the season.
While not their best effort, it was a stark contrast from Saturday’s poor effort from the Tribe. Cleveland stayed in the game through Carrasco’s stumble and made the most of opportunities with timely hitting. The win ends a streak where Cleveland has lost seven of its last nine.
Tomorrow, the Indians will try to continue their timely hitting against Central Division foe, the Kansas City Royals. Zach McAllister (2-0, 2.04) will try to continue his strong start against the Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 4.34). Game time is slated for 7:05 p.m. from Progressive Field.
Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo