Not Dead Quite Yet; Indians 6, Royals 4
Steve Eby | On 24, Sep 2014
The Indians faint playoff heartbeat will thump for at least another day, as the Tribe avoided elimination from postseason chances on Wednesday as they defeated the Kansas City Royals 6-4.
If they’d like to keep their chances alive, the Indians (83-76) will need to win their final three games while hoping for a whole lot of help from the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels this weekend. The Magic Number to eliminate the Indians remains at one, so there still isn’t any margin for error for the Tribe if they’d like to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-99.
The Indians started Trevor Bauer for the last time in 2014 and the youngster was unable to avoid the one-bad-inning once again—a problem that has plagued him all season long. Bauer was countered by Kansas City right hander Jason Vargas, who struggled from the very beginning of the game.
Unlike the first two full games of the series, the Indians capitalized on some early baserunners as they got off to a big lead in top of the first. After the first two men were out, Michael Brantley singled to right for the 197th hit of his All-Star season. After Carlos Santana walked, Yan Gomes drilled a three-run home run into the Indians bullpen in center field to give the Tribe a 3-0 lead. The home run was Gomes’ 21st of the season and his fourth of the three-run variety.
It took Kansas City until the top of the fourth to score their first run, as Lorenzo Cain got the inning rolling by beating out a bunt for an infield single. He moved to second on an Eric Hosmer groundout and then came around to score on an RBI, bloop single by Billy Butler. Butler’s hit dropped perfectly in between Jose Ramirez and Brantley in left, but Cain read the ball well and was able to sprint all the way around to make the score 3-1.
In the fifth, Bauer imploded and coughed up the rest of the lead, as Alcides Escobar led off the inning with a single. Nori Aoki followed with a base knock of his own and Hosmer drove home Escobar two batters later to push the score to 3-2. With runners at the corners and just one out, Butler crushed a curveball off of the left-centerfield wall for a two-RBI double that gave the Royals a 4-3 advantage. The double chased Bauer from the ballgame after 4.1 innings of work as Zach McAllister was summoned from the bullpen.
The Indians offense drove Vargas from the game soon after, as Michael Bourn led off the bottom of the fifth by getting hit by a pitch. The HBP pushed KC to go to the bullpen as well, and Ramirez made them pay by launching a double off of the centerfield wall. Bourn raced all the way around from first and dove in safely at the plate to tie the score at 4-4, just ahead of the tag from the catcher.
Brantley kept the offense going by bouncing a grounder off of the pitcher’s glove and into the middle of the infield for his 198th hit of the year; this one pushing Ramirez to third. A fielder’s choice off of Santana’s bat forced Brantley out at second, but also scored Ramirez to give the Indians a 5-4 advantage. The Tribe tacked on a manufactured sixth run in the sixth when David Murphy scored Mike Aviles with a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brantley continued his hot streak by smashing his 45th double of the season—and 199th hit—down the right field line. He was robbed of what could have been his 98th RBI, however, as an odd replay call stood as called on the field on a Ramirez fly out to Alex Gordon in left, even though the replay clearly showed the ball bouncing on the ground before Gordon had control.
Bryan Shaw worked the eighth inning for the Indians and didn’t allow a run, but the appearance was significant as it tied Bob Howry’s franchise record for most games out of the bullpen in a single season. Howry’s 79 appearances came back in the 93 win season of 2005.
Cody Allen worked a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save of the year.
The Indians will not play on Thursday, as they will take their first scheduled day off since August 25. They will keep their eyes on the Royals, who open up a four game series in Chicago at 8:05 Thursday evening, as well as the Mariners, who will finish their series in Toronto at 1:07. After the off-day, the Tribe will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to town for the first time since they eliminated the Indians in the 2013 Wild Card Game for the start of a three game series to end the season on Friday night at 7:05. The Indians will send ace Corey Kluber (17-9, 2.53) to the mound in game one to face right hander Chris Archer (10-8, 3.42). Kluber is coming off of back to back 14 strikeout performances and is looking to add to his Cy Young candidacy during his final start of the regular season.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images