Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Yes! After days of doubt and ridicule, the Indians offense arrived to the 2015 season when many would have least expected it, giving the Tribe a 13-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers. Brandon Moss had a career-high, seven runs driven in to help the Tribe offense ignite.
Shane Greene had allowed just one earned run over 23 innings in his first three starts for the Tigers this season, but the Indians put eight runs on the young right-hander as he was unable to record an out in the top of the fifth inning. Greene allowed nine hits and two walks in his four frames. Cleveland banged out a season-high 15 hits in the game.
It was all the offense Danny Salazar would need to record his second win of the season. Salazar wasn’t dominant early, often going deep in counts, possibly relying on his fastball too much and scattering hits, but he was able to get the key strikeout when he needed it to keep the Tigers tame. As the game progressed, he used his change-up more and was able to maintain his fastball consistently at 96-97 m.p.h. to control the Detroit offense. It may be the beginning of Salazar settling into the Tribe’s rotation, once and for all.
His only mistake of the evening was a solo homer by Nick Castellanos in the bottom of the second inning. Salazar fired seven innings, allowing six hits and just one run, while walking three and striking out 11. He becomes the first Indians starting pitcher to strike out 10+ hitters in his first two starts of the season since 1970.
WP: Salazar (2-0) LP: Greene (3-1)
Key Inning: Top of the fifth inning. Already leading 3-1, the Indians busted the game open with their biggest offensive outburst of the season. Jose Ramirez started the inning with a single to right field against Greene, Michael Bourn walked and Jason Kipnis reached via a bunt single to load the bases. Kipnis was bunting to move the runners, but Tigers’ third baseman Castellanos, picked up the ball while it rolled on the third base chalk line. Everyone was safe, loading the bases and setting the table for the middle of the order.
Michael Brantley singled to right field, scoring Ramirez to make it 4-1 and leaving the bases loaded. Brantley had three hits in the game. Carlos Santana ended Greene’s night when he doubled over J.D. Martinez’s head in right field to plate two more runs and make it 6-1. After Tigers manager Brad Ausmus removed Greene from the game in favor of Alex Wilson, Brandon Moss jumped on his first pitch and crushed a three-run homer to right field to make it 9-1 Clevealnd.
Moss’ blast was his second home run of the season, and just the Tribe’s 12th as a team but the first that was not a solo shot. The first six Tribesmen to go to the plate in the fifth inning all reached base and scored. It was the largest offensive inning of the young season for Cleveland.
Player of the Game: Moss. Possibly one of the more scrutinized, struggling Indians hitters this season, he broke loose to drive in five of the Tribe’s runs. In the top of the first inning, Moss doubled to the center field wall to plate a pair of runs and give the Wahoo’s a quick 2-0 lead. His three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning was the exclamation mark on the inning and put the game out of reach for Detroit. The moon-shot home run to right field in the top of the ninth inning was just icing on the cake of an excellent evening.
Moss, the Indians only major offensive acquisition this offseason, was 6-for-37 (.162) entering the game was 3-for-5 on the evening and raised his average 52 points. He had just two runs driven in before driving in seven on Friday.
They Said It: “It helps, normally I’m a really good first-pitch swinger,” Moss said post game. Two of his three hits were on the first pitch. “I tend to see a lot of pitches in at-bats, but I hit the ball really well on the first pitch of at-bats for some reason. Recently, I haven’t been in take mode, but trying to work the count. I’ve been behind 0-2 or 1-2 and lost that aggressiveness. Tonight I had an aggressive mindset.”
Standings: Cleveland’s victory improves their record to 6-9 on the season, while Detroit drops to 11-6. The Tribe could move out of the American League Central Division’s cellar depending upon the results from Minnesota in Seattle and Chicago at home against first place Kansas City. The Tigers have now lost four in a row, while the Tribe has won two of their last four.
Etc.: Nick Swisher began a rehabilitation stint at Triple-A Columbus on Friday evening. Swisher is expected to play right field on Friday night and again on Sunday, before returning to Cleveland to meet with team personnel to decide the next step in his process. Swisher was 3-for-5, with three singles and a pair of strikeouts on Friday with the Clippers.
Zach Walters was activated from the disabled list before the game and immediately optioned to Triple-A. Many writers and analysts thought Walters could be brought to the Indians 25-man roster as soon as he was healthy since he is a very strong hitter against left-handed pitching.
Analysis: The Indians manufactured their third run when they scored a single tally in the top of the second inning. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled down the left field line before Robert Perez bunted him to third base. Chisenhall scored when Jose Ramirez hit a fly ball to left field, allowing him to tag and scamper home. They also used Kipnis’ bunt single to help start the fifth inning explosion.
In the new of Sabremetrics, it’s very unpopular to purposely give up out whether it be by sacrifice bunt. The new thought plays back to an old adage that, “if you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get.” For the Indians, however, playing for a run at times might be something they have to accept. Getting one run is better than the mountain of zeros they’ve put up in the first 15 games. Playing “small ball” and giving up outs may be a little ‘old school,’ but with a struggling offense like the Indians, scoring one run might be better than standing around and not making anything happen.
Indians manager Terry Francona also seemed to try and generate offense last August and September when the Tribe played their best baseball.
Up Next: Saturday the Indians will be on the national stage when they and Detroit meet on FoxSports1 at 1:08 p.m. The Indians will send their best pitcher of this early season, Trevor Bauer (2-0, 0.95) against the Tigers’ best starter of 2015, Alfedo Simon (3-0, 1.74). Bauer earned a no-decision in his last start on April 20 versus Chicago. Simon has won all three starts he has made, including an April 10 start against the Indians.
Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo