It wasn’t quick or pretty, but it was effective.
Despite two errors, a passed ball and wild pitch, the Indians were able to out-hit their mistakes Friday evening, snapping their six-game losing streak, by a score of 12-5 over the Chicago White Sox. The Indians scored five runs in the first inning off White Sox starter John Danks and never trailed, getting Danny Salazar his first win of the season.
What could have been an easy blowout win the Indians was instead a game of constant chase from Chicago. Cleveland’s poor defense kept the White Sox in the game much longer than necessary. It took 13 hits from the Indians’ offense to erase their questionable defense.
Cleveland posted a big inning in the bottom of the first inning with the help of several players who had been slumping. After Michael Bourn popped out, Mike Aviles singled to left field and stole second base before Nick Swisher could walk. Carlos Santana continued to break out of his early season slump when he doubled down the line, scoring Aviles and giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The Tribe had more early offense against Danks when another struggling Tribesman, Ryan Raburn, singled to right field. Swisher and Santana both scored and Cleveland led, 3-0. After Michael Brantley singled and Asdrubal Cabrera walked, Yan Gomes doubled to right field to plate two more and the Tribe had a 5-0 advantage after just one inning.
But several ingredients to the Indians’ April struggles created some indigestion in top of the second inning. Chicago was able to respond with three runs of their own, keyed by an error from Elliot Johnson on a dropped double play turn and a past ball Gomes. Gomes appeared crossed up by Salazar on a curveball and a run scampered home.
Dayan Viciedo walked to start the inning and Alexei Ramirez grounded to shortstop, but Johnson’s botched play at the bag set the table for Chicago. Alejandro De Aza and Adrian Nieto each singled in a run in the inning and De Aza was able to come home on the passed ball. Gomes was charged with league leading, fourth passed ball of the season. He had just four in all of 2013. Salazar was charged just one earned run, but Chicago cut the lead to 5-3.
Cleveland hit their way out of their problems, however. Santana remained hot, hitting his fourth home run of the season with a solo shot to left field off Danks in the second inning. Gomes hit a cue-shot, double down the left field line in the third inning and scored on Bourn’s two-out single to center field in the third inning to give the Tribe a 7-3 lead after three innings.
The Tribe almost gave more runs back to Chicago in the top of the fourth. After Ramirez and De Aza singled to start the inning, Marcus Semien grounded into another potential double play, but Johnson again dropped the ball on the transfer and everyone was safe. Salazar struck out Nieto with the bases loaded and Cabrera handled the ground ball from Adam Eaton, himself, and turned a double play to end the inning without further damage.
Chicago did climb a run closer in the top of the fifth inning when Jose Abreu hit a towering, solo home run to the left field porch. His 11th home run of the season cut the Indians’ lead to 7-4. After Salazar walked Adam Dunn, Viciedo grounded to Cabrera and Johnson finally made a successful turn of a double play—to a round of sarcastic cheers—and Chicago could climb no closer.
The Tribe answered back with a solo home run of their own in the bottom half of the fifth when Brantley took Danks out of the yard to right, center field. Brantley’s fifth home run of the season extended the score to 8-4. Brantley’s fifth homer of the season comes after 29 games. A year ago, he did not hit his fifth home run until the 72nd game of the season.
But for every Cleveland run, it seemed they gifted one back to Chicago. Salazar started the sixth inning, but was relieved by Marc Rzepczynski after allowing a leadoff single to Ramirez. De Aza grounded into a fielder’s choice and Semien struck out swinging, but Nieto reached on an infield single and Jordan Danks walked. That forced Indians manager Terry Francona to summon Bryan Shaw from the bullpen. Shaw uncorked a wild pitch to allow another White Sox run to score, making it 8-5 in the middle of the sixth.
Salazar (1-3) pitched five innings, allowing five runs—three earned—on seven hits and three walks while striking out six on 101 pitches. Danks (2-2) was done for Chicago after five innings, too. He allowed eight runs on 10 hits and three walks, while striking out three.
Scott Downs took over for the White Sox on the mound in the sixth inning and the Indians hung their second crooked number of the evening on the board. This time, it was the knock out punch to Chicago. Cleveland tallied four more runs in the sixth, scoring for the fifth different inning in the game. Swisher doubled to deep right scoring a run. Downs was chased from the game in favor of Maikel Cleto, but the Tribe kept pouring on the offense. Brantley had a two-run single to center field and pinch-hitter, David Murphy came through with an RBI-single of his own and Cleveland led 12-5 after six frames.
C.C. Lee and Josh Outman each pitched scoreless innings, allowing a hit each before giving way to Cody Allen in the ninth inning. Cleveland’s bullpen provided four scoreless innings to secure the win. Offensively, Aviles, Santana and Gomes all had a pair of hits, but Brantley was the hitting star of the evening, going 3-for-4, with three runs batted in. Only Johnson did not have a hit in the Indians’ starting lineup.
Saturday, the Indians will try to make it two in a row when Justin Masterson (0-1, 4.84) will take the mound looking for his first win of the season. Chicago will counter with right-hander Scott Carroll (1-0, 1.23). Game time is slated for 6:05 p.m. from Progressive Field.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer