Bats Come Alive as 12 Unanswered Runs Help Tribe Rout Jays; Indians 13, Blue Jays 3
Bob Toth | On 21, Jul 2017
Twelve unanswered runs in the middle and late innings gave the Cleveland Indians a come-from-behind victory at Progressive Field and a rare win in a series opener as they knocked off the Toronto Blue Jays via a 13-3 final.
The key to Friday night for the Tribe was the revival of the bats with runners in scoring position. In the first six games of the second half, a stretch that had seen the Indians go 1-5 during a rough road trip, the offense had contributed a meager 8-for-54 effort with runners in scoring position. That would all change in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays and starter Marco Estrada.
Before the bats woke up with a vengeance, Toronto staked itself to an early lead against Trevor Bauer. In his first outing since being unable to escape the first inning in Oakland last Sunday, Bauer gave up a leadoff double to Jose Bautista, who had been struggling since the All-Star break. After a strikeout of Russell Martin and a fly out by Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak was walked on four pitches. Bautista picked off third base uncontested before Kendrys Morales singled to center, putting the Jays up 1-0.
The Indians went down in order quickly in the home half before the Jays got another leadoff double to start a rally, this one directed to right field by former Cleveland speedster Ezequiel Carrera. He would move to third on a grounder by Kevin Pillar before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Goins to make it a 2-0 game.
Edwin Encarnacion would set a personal home run milestone in the bottom of the second against Estrada. After the count went to even at 2-2, he clouted a drive deep to the trees in center, cutting the deficit to one with his 20th homer of the season. It also marked the 30th different team that he had hit a home run against, as his longtime Toronto employer was the only club he had yet to homer against during his 13-year career.
Bauer would prevent the leadoff double in the third, but the Jays were right back at it in the fourth as Troy Tulowitzki doubled to right-center to start the frame. A walk by Carrera put two on with nobody out, but Pillar lined to right and Goins grounded into a double play to squash the rally.
While they missed a chance to expand their lead in the fourth, the Jays would not do the same in the fifth. After strikeouts by Bautista and Martin to start the inning, Donaldson drew a five-pitch walk and came all the way around to score on a two-out double to left-center by Smoak. After a walk by Morales, Tulowitzki would become the third strikeout victim of the inning and the Indians got back to work for their scuffling starter.
Abraham Almonte started the bottom of the fifth with a drive to deep left-center. Despite a Spiderman-esque climb of the 19-foot wall by Pillar, Almonte raced around the bases for a leadoff triple, which would set the stage for a big inning. Roberto Perez walked with the count full before Erik Gonzalez slapped a single through the right side of the infield to make it a 3-2 game. Bradley Zimmer struck out for the first out of the inning, but Francisco Lindor walked to load the bases. Michael Brantley grounded to second where Lindor was forced, but the fielder’s choice allowed Perez to score to tie the game at three. With two down and Encarnacion at the plate, Brantley picked off second base, which would be big as the former Jays slugger would work the count full before doubling to the gap in left-center to score both base runners and give the Indians a 5-3 lead while knocking Estrada out of the game.
Aaron Loup came on and gave up a single to Jose Ramirez to put runners on the corners for Carlos Santana, the ninth man to bat in the inning, but he would strike out swinging on three pitches. Despite two left base runners, the Indians had claimed a 5-3 advantage.
Loup had retired four straight heading into the bottom of the seventh when he got into trouble. Zimmer walked on five pitches before a fly out by Lindor for the first out. Manager John Gibbons went to his bullpen for Jeff Beliveau, but it would not be the left-hander’s night. He hit the first batter he faced, Brantley, while ahead in the count, 0-2. Encarnacion followed with a single to right. Ramirez doubled home Brantley to make it 7-3 and Santana added an RBI-single to right to score Encarnacion. Almonte kept the inning rolling along with a three-run shot to right to give the Indians a comfortable 11-3 lead. A five-pitch walk by Perez would ended Beliveau’s night, but the Tribe was not done taking out its aggression from the previous week of play, as Cesar Valdez gave up a double to Gonzalez and a two-run single to Zimmer, the tenth man to bat, to grow the lead to 13-3. Lindor doubled to left to put two in scoring position for Brantley, but he would strike out swinging and Encarnacion would fly out to center to end the onslaught. Cleveland sent 13 batters to the plate, scored eight runs, and tallied seven hits.
Dan Otero came on in the eighth after two scoreless innings of relief by Bryan Shaw. He gave up two singles, but got a double play to close the inning. Ryan Merritt pitched the ninth, giving up another leadoff double to Goins before setting down the next three in order.
The Indians improved to 49-45 on the season and maintained their spot atop the American League Central Division. The Blue Jays dropped to 44-52 on the year and 22-28 on the road.
Bauer did not have his best stuff, but the big support from the offense made his effort stand up as he improved to 8-8 on the season. He worked five innings, allowing three runs on six hits with four walks and six strikeouts. Estrada took the loss, falling to 4-7 on the season. He made it two outs into the fifth and was charged with five runs allowed on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in another short effort from the veteran right-hander.
The key to the game was the offense on both sides. The Blue Jays struggled despite plenty of chances with runners in scoring position after the repeated leadoff doubles. The Jays combined to go 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
The Indians, by comparison, fixed the week-long (and season-long) issue at the plate with runners in scoring position. The bats were 8-for-13 in that spot, with Encarnacion and Ramirez each getting two hits and Zimmer, Gonzalez, Santana, and Almonte adding one apiece. The team would strand seven.
Encarnacion was at the heart of the offense’s eruption and coincidentally did it against his old team. He was 3-for-4 on the night and drew a walk. He fell just the dreaded triple short of the cycle while scoring twice and driving in four. He is the team leader in homers with 20 and RBI with 54.
Saturday will mark the long awaited return of Danny Salazar (3-5, 5.40 ERA) to the Indians roster as he will be activated from the disabled list with a corresponding roster move yet to be announced. It will be the right-hander’s first start since May 27 and his first appearance since June 3 in relief. Right-hander Marcus Stroman (9-5, 3.10) will throw for Toronto. He had an All-Star caliber first half of the season and pitched deep into the game in his first start after the break, a no-decision in Boston that saw him allow three unearned runs in six and two-thirds innings.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images