Looking Back: Anderson “Gradied” in his Bid for Perfection

Time and time again it seems like former Indians players come back to haunt the city of Cleveland.

Former team shortstop Jhonny Peralta was the lone blemish on the scorecard in an eight-inning, 18-strikeout, one-hit performance from Corey Kluber in mid-May. Another former Tribesman would rear his mug and make sure that Indians fans knew he was still around the game and capable of making a difference, and at the worst time possible.

Indians rookie right-hander Cody Anderson was set to take the mound for his second start of his Major League career and, incidentally, his second straight start against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 29th. The extra knowledge of his opponent seemed to come in handy for him on this day.

In his first start, a surprising pitchers’ duel with Tampa’s Alex Colome, Anderson blanked the Rays over seven and two-thirds innings, allowing a walk and six hits while striking out four on 94 pitches. As good as he looked in that debut, he held the Rays even more at bay in the second start.

His new Indians teammates were unusually gracious to their new friend, as they plated a run on an RBI single from Michael Brantley in the top of the first inning off of the Rays’ Nate Karns to give him the lead before he took the mound. Three quick outs later, his team was back at the plate and giving him more to work with as a Jason Kipnis two-out single knocked home Yan Gomes after his leadoff double to make it a 2-0 game. They would get runners in scoring position in each of the next three innings off of Karns, but would do no more damage.

Anderson, meanwhile, did what he needed to do and kept the Rays off of the bases altogether. Through three, he had faced the minimum, getting a healthy balance of four outs on the ground, four in the air, and one strikeout looking.

With the same 2-0 lead that he was staked to just two innings into the game, he retired the lineup easily and in order again the next time through in innings four through six. Six outs came in the air, with the other three on the ground.

Karns left after six, allowing two runs on nine hits. He walked two and struck out seven and escaped relatively unharmed for the number of Indians runners to reach base against him. His bullpen mates made easy work of the Tribe in the top of the seventh, which sent Anderson back to the mound with a perfect game through six.

Kevin Kiermaier led off the inning with an unassisted groundout to first. That brought to the plate the familiar face for Indians fans, Grady Sizemore, who was playing in just his second game with the Rays. The longtime fan favorite in Cleveland had hit .245 with the Philadelphia Phillies to start the season but was given his release at the beginning of the month. He signed with Tampa two weeks later and got the call to the Majors on the 28th and impressed Rays fans with a three-hit performance against his other former team, the Boston Red Sox, the day before.

Anderson worked Sizemore into a 1-2 count, but Grady had Cody’s number on the fourth pitch, sending a fly ball deep to right that cleared the fence and erased the perfect game, the no-hitter, and the shutout on one swing, and cut the game to a 2-1 score with his first homer of the season. The Rays would get Evan Longoria all the way to third with two outs, but he was stranded there.

Kirby Yates, the same just acquired by the Indians last week, took the mound in the eighth in relief. After striking out Carlos Santana swinging and getting a groundout from Brandon Moss, Gomes delivered a liner over the wall in left to give the Tribe a 3-1 lead.

After Anderson worked a three-up, three-down eighth, establishing a new career-high for innings pitched already in his second start with eight full innings, the Indians’ bats broke the game open in the ninth.

A single from Kipnis and a double from Francisco Lindor put runners in scoring position with one out. A wild pitch from Ronald Belisario scored Kipnis and moved Lindor to third. Michael Brantley was intentionally walked and Ryan Raburn drove home Lindor with a single to center. Santana walked to load the bases and Moss grounded out, scoring Brantley but keeping the inning alive. With Gomes at the plate, Belisario uncorked another wild pitch to score Raburn to make it 7-1. Gomes struck out to end the inning and Bryan Shaw faced the minimum in the bottom half, aided by a double play, to end it.

Anderson earned his first career win with his stellar eight innings of work, allowing just one run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts. It was the second time in six days a pitcher had taken a perfect game late into a contest against the Rays.

“I kind of knew that everything was going pretty smooth,” said Anderson after the start. “I just tried to keep throwing strikes and keep the approach the same.”

“That was impressive,” manager Terry Francona added postgame. “He’s two starts in, but he’s faced a team for the second time, so they’ve seen him. Last time out, he flipped some good breaking balls. Today, he had a real good plan on his fastball…and he had a real good changeup.”

Three different Indians (Brantley, Kipnis, Gomes) chipped in with three hits each.

The win also snapped a three-game losing streak and a two-game scoreless skid that reached 19 innings in total, all of which occurred in Baltimore when many Cleveland fans felt the season was lost.

Photo: AP Photo/Steve Nesius

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