For those who may have slept through the midseason trade activity in late July and early August, they may not have recognized the Cleveland Indians team that emerged on the other side.
Gone were veterans Michael Bourn, Brandon Moss, David Murphy, Marc Rzepczynski, and Nick Swisher. Some of the names to replace them were either unfamiliar to the casual baseball fan or were unproductive in their stints at the big league level.
As sometimes even the blind squirrel gets the nut, so too will an unexpected source occasionally contribute to a big win. That was the case on August 8th when the new look Indians hosted the Minnesota Twins.
Prior to the game, fans were treated to an unusual sight for a ball game. Smoke billowed into the Cleveland skyline from a fire downtown and was visible to those in attendance at Progressive Field. Fans did not know that the Twins would light their own dumpster fire over the next nine innings.
Trevor Bauer took the bump for the Tribe against Ervin Santana, possibly best known by Indians fans as the only player to throw a no-hitter in their jewel near the shores of Lake Erie. Santana had been hit around in his return from an 80-game suspension, while Bauer had had his ups and downs but was 8-8 entering the night’s festivities.
What followed for the Tribe was an offensive outburst to remember.
Jose Ramirez singled to start things off and moved to second on a sacrifice. Michael Brantley knocked him home with a single to right and the game was that quickly tied up. Brantley stole second and moved to third on a single by Carlos Santana and, after a pop out by Yan Gomes, scored on a single to right from Lonnie Chisenhall to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead.
Making his first appearance in a Tribe uniform, Abraham Almonte impressed his new home crowd with a leadoff double to deep right center to start the second and scored two batters later as Ramirez tripled him home. A sacrifice fly from Francisco Lindor moved Ramirez across the plate and the Indians lead improved to 4-1.
Bauer was the recipient of impressive run support already, but that tally doubled in the third. Gomes walked and moved to second on a fielder’s choice from Chisenhall. A single by Giovanny Urshela knocked him in. Almonte made it 2-for-2 in his young Indians career with another double, moving Urshela to third. A walk from nine-hitter Roberto Perez loaded the bases and Ramirez scored a pair with a double, his third consecutive hit and leaving him a homer short of a cycle with at least five more innings to play. Lindor, facing reliever J.R. Graham, hit his second straight sac fly and the Indians had an 8-1 lead.
The Indians starter would give two of those runs back in the next half inning, coughing up a two-out, two-run homer to catcher Kurt Suzuki. By the time rookie Eddie Rosario knocked in their final run with a solo homer in the sixth off of Bauer, the game was long since out of hand.
With Graham still on the mound in the bottom of the fifth, the Indians’ first two hitters were retired before Lindor ended the Twins’ reliever’s night with an infield single. Brantley and Santana both walked off of his replacement, Ryan O’Rourke, to load the bases for Gomes. After falling behind 1-2, he drew three straight balls to force in the ninth run of the night and pinch-hitter Jerry Sands made it a baker’s dozen three pitches later off of reliever Blaine Boyer, sending the club’s first grand slam of the season over the wall in right to make it 13-3.
“It was good to come off the bench and help the team,” said Sands after his big game. “The last week or so isn’t exactly what I’d like to do.”
Almonte, who singled in his fourth at bat of the game to give him three hits in his Indians debut, made it a four-hit night with a two-run homer in the eighth off of A.J. Achter. Later in the frame off of outfielder (and current Indians minor leaguer) Shane Robinson, in to stop the bleeding on the mound, Mike Aviles drew a bases loaded walk and Santana knocked in the 17th run of the day for the Tribe with a bases loaded groundout. Shawn Armstrong made his Major League debut in the ninth and struck out the first two men he faced and got a line out to end it.
Every Indians starter had a hit except Gomes, who scored twice and drove in a run with a pair of walks. Sands knocked in a game-high four runs with one swing. Ramirez ended with three hits, as did Brantley, as the top three hitters in the lineup combined to go 8-for-12 off of Twins pitching with six runs scored and six runs batted in.
Almonte was 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer, two runs batted in, and three runs scored in his Tribe debut. It was the second career four-hit game for the third-year MLBer.
“I know one game doesn’t define somebody’s career, but at the same time, we’re looking for reasons to be excited about guys,” said manager Terry Francona postgame. “If you can’t get excited about that… .”
Outbursts like that one were few and far between for an Indians team that struggled to find consistency at the plate throughout the season. The game, just the second for the club after the trade of Bourn and Swisher, would prove to be a night that the fire lit underneath the young team got everyone up and playing at a level worthy of notice.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images