What was projected to be an intriguing pitching matchup between Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer turned into a battle of offenses as the Indians held off a late Rays charge in an 8-7 win on Monday night.
The victory moved the Indians to the 20-win mark on the year as they became just the fourth American League team to reach the level. With the first place Minnesota Twins idle on Monday, the Indians pulled within a half game of the top spot in the AL Central while the Rays dropped to 19-22 on the season. It was the first time that Cleveland has won a home series opener since its very first series of the season against the Chicago White Sox.
The game was marred by early pitching problems for both starters and an early exit for the Tribe right-hander Carrasco, who left early with discomfort in his right pectoral muscle in another hit to an Indians roster heavily afflicted by injuries through the first month and a half of the season.
The Rays got to Carrasco in the first as both teams would put up runs in each of the first seven half innings. Corey Dickerson, hitting .340 entering the night, struck out swinging but reached safely as catcher Yan Gomes could not find the ball. Dickerson would move to second on a four-pitch walk by the league’s leading free pass man, Brad Miller, but he was erased on a 5-3 double play ball at third on a grounder from Evan Longoria. Nearly out of the jam, the Rays top run producer, Logan Morrison, doubled to right off of Carrasco to drive home Miller from second to give Tampa a 1-0 edge.
The Indians struck back big in the bottom of the first against Archer, who entered with an 0-5 record against Cleveland in five career starts. Jason Kipnis walked to start but was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Francisco Lindor. A four-pitch walk by Michael Brantley put two on and Lindor moved to third on a wild pitch by Archer before Carlos Santana singled him home with a shot to center to tie the game. Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Santana forced at second, but he was able to beat the throw to first as Brantley scored to put Cleveland on top, 2-1. Jose Ramirez walked to put two on for Lonnie Chisenhall, who homered for the second game in a row to open the game up with a 5-1 Indians advantage.
Carrasco struck out the first two batters in the second before Kevin Kiermaier homered to right. The solo shot, his third of the year, made it a 5-2 game.
The Tribe got the run back in the home half of the second after Abraham Almonte started things off with a triple to center. A walk by Kipnis was followed by a strikeout of Lindor for the first out, but Almonte was able to score on a throwing error by Derek Norris on a steal of second by Kipnis to make it a 6-2 game. Kipnis would move to third later in Brantley’s at bat on a passed ball before the Indians number three hitter struck out swinging and Santana grounded out to strand a big run.
The Rays chipped away again in the third after back-to-back singles by Miller and Longoria off of Carrasco. A fielder’s choice by Morrison put runners on the corners and he moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by Carrasco before Steven Souza Jr. lifted a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Miller and make it a 6-3 ball game.
The Cleveland offense continued to produce against Archer, who had entered with good numbers on the year. Ramirez walked with one out and one out later, Gomes delivered an RBI-double to center to extend the Indians lead to 7-3.
Carrasco would depart in the fourth after wildness took over. Tim Beckham struck out before walks by Kiermaier and Norris. Dickerson struck out swinging for the second straight time before a single by Miller knocked in Kiermaier and sent the Indians starter to the clubhouse with an injury. Nick Goody, who had already been warming, relieved and gave up an RBI-double to Longoria as the Rays cut the deficit to 7-5.
Archer retired the side in order in the fourth, the first time either team went down in order. Boone Logan had to clean up a mess in the fifth for Goody after a pair of two-out hits put two in scoring position, but the Tribe left-hander got Dickerson to jump on his first pitch and fly out to end the threat.
The Indians stranded a pair in the fifth in Archer’s final inning of work and Logan and Bryan Shaw combined for Cleveland’s first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. The Indians would waste a one-out double by Kipnis in the bottom of the inning before the Rays threatened again in the seventh.
Making a ton of pitches, Shaw sandwiched a strikeout in between a pair of walks to start the frame, sending manager Terry Francona back to the mound for reliever Andrew Miller. Pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks Jr. and Norris both struck out swinging to end the inning.
After the Indians stranded two more in the seventh off of reliever Chase Whitley, the Rays did something no team had done this season – deal Miller an earned run. Dickerson walked and moved to second on an infield single by the Rays’ Miller. A fielder’s choice by Longoria left runners on the corners with one out and Morrison flied to center, pushing Dickerson across with the Rays’ sixth run of the ball game while making it a one-run contest. Miller retired Souza swinging to leave the tying run at first.
Jumbo Diaz got two quick outs in relief of Whitley to start the eighth before Lindor hit what would prove to be the biggest swing of the bats from the Indians on the night as his solo homer to right, number nine on the year for the All-Star shortstop, pushed the Indians lead back to two.
That run would be important in the ninth, as making his first at bat after entering defensively in the seventh, Peter Bourjos took Cody Allen deep to left to make it an 8-7 game. With the tying run at the plate in Norris, Allen got him to pop up to Santana, who made the game-clinching catch leaning into the camera well to end it.
Logan earned his first win with the Indians with his two-thirds of an inning of scoreless, hitless relief. Archer was dealt his second loss of the season and fell to 0-6 in his career against the Indians in six tries. Allen’s tenth save was earned in his tenth opportunity overall. He has struck out at least one batter in 15 of his 16 appearances this season and has K’d at least two in ten of those appearances
With the win locked up, concern now turns to a pair of injuries sustained in the ball game by the Indians. The big one was Carrasco, who left after allowing five runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts in three and two-thirds innings. He downplayed the issue after the game, but expressed that leaving the game at that time was the right thing for him to do.
The other injury occurred quietly when Almonte was lifted for Daniel Robertson in the fifth. He tripled and scored in his first at bat, but struck out swinging in his second trip in the third. After taking the field in the top of the fourth, he was replaced after apparently re-aggravating his right shoulder injury sustained a week ago. He will be placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, with a corresponding roster move yet to be formally announced.
The loss of Almonte follows the news from earlier in the day that injured outfielder Brandon Guyer, who landed on the disabled list before Sunday’s game, will miss anywhere from four to six weeks with his sprained left wrist.
The Indians will play host again to the Rays on Tuesday night in another 6:10 PM ET start. Danny Salazar (2-3, 5.20 ERA) will take the mound looking to bounce back from a bad start against Toronto his last time out, despite being given a big lead early in a rare offensive eruption from his teammates. Opposing for the Rays will be right-hander Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 2.61), who has not faced the Indians since 2014. Since returning from a disabled list stint with a hamstring injury, he has allowed just three runs on nine hits with 16 strikeouts over 18 innings of work in three starts.
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