The Cleveland Indians held on to an early lead and used three late runs to fend off the Seattle Mariners in a 6-4 victory from T-Mobile Park on Monday night.
Trevor Bauer got back on track in a quality start, throwing 112 pitches over six and two-thirds innings. He struck out eight, gave up five hits, and walked three, but several of the walks were aided by an unpredictable strike zone behind the plate from umpire Tim Timmons. Five relievers finished the job, but several of them made the game much closer than it needed to be.
The Indians jumped out to an early lead against rookie Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who made a quality start of his own and settled down in the middle innings to slow down Cleveland’s quick start. Once again, it was a two-out rally for the Tribe that led to runs as Carlos Gonzalez sent the first pitch of the night that he saw into center for a two-out single. Carlos Santana drew a walk after fouling off three pitches to load the count. Hanley Ramirez fell behind two quick strikes before slapping a single the opposite way to right to drive in Gonzalez with the first run, and Jason Kipnis, in his first at bat off of the injured list, did the same by driving a single the opposite way to left to score Santana with the game’s second run. Roberto Perez stranded the remaining two base runners by lining back to the mound.
Bauer gave up a two-out infield single in the first, but struck out a pair in each of the first two frames before the Indians added on with a much needed blast. Jose Ramirez led off the third and drove a four-seamer off of the auxiliary scoreboard in left for his first home run of the season, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead.
Bauer was good again in the third, walking Mallex Smith with two outs before the speedy outfielder was caught stealing by Perez to end the inning. The Tribe’s number two starter got three outs in the air in the fourth and worked out of trouble in the fifth after a leadoff double by former friend Edwin Encarnacion and a walk from Omar Narvaez. Bauer pitched out of the jam, freezing Tim Beckham looking on a 1-2 two-seamer in on the hands, K’ing Ryon Healy on a 1-2 slider well off of the plate, and painting the top of the zone to strike out Dee Gordon to leave two on base.
Kikuchi retired the middle of the order with ease in the sixth before his offense got on the board against Bauer. Mitch Haniger doubled with one down and scored on a single to right by Domingo Santana to make it a 3-1 contest.
Seattle’s bullpen kept things quiet in the seventh, but the Mariners bats tried to make some noise after the stretch. Narvaez singled deep to right before Bauer retired Beckham on a flyout and Healy on a strikeout looking. Gordon walked to put two on, bringing Terry Francona out of the dugout for reliever Tyler Olson. He missed on four straight off of the plate to Smith to load the bases, bringing Francona back to the mound for Washington native Adam Cimber. Mitch Haniger worked the count full before fouling off three straight pitches, but on the fourth payoff pitch of the battle, Cimber got the Mariners outfielder swinging on a sinker low and in to leave the bases full in a turning point of the contest.
Cleveland sent eight men to the plate against three different pitchers in the eighth to add on another run. J. Ramirez drew a leadoff walk off of Zac Rosscup and stole second before a strikeout by Gonzalez. Connor Sadzeck entered for Scott Servais and walked Santana. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up and another allowed Ramirez to score standing and Santana to slide over to third, but Sadzeck struck out H. Ramirez swinging for the second out. Kipnis worked a five-pitch walk to put runners on the corners, sending Sadzeck to the showers and bringing on former Tribe reliever Shawn Armstrong. He walked Perez to load the bases and nicked Greg Allen on the back knee to force in a run. Eric Stamets struck out looking, but the Indians pushed their lead to 5-1.
The homer-happy Mariners finally found their principle offensive weapon in the bottom of the eighth to make it a ball game again. Cimber gave up a leadoff single to D. Santana before Oliver Perez was summoned to relieve. He struck out big left-hander Daniel Vogelbach looking for the first out, but Encarnacion blasted a sinker dead red deep to left for a two-run home run. His fifth homer of the season made it a 5-3 contest. Two pitches later, Narvaez managed to get underneath a letter-high four-seamer and sent a lofting fly ball over the wall in right field for the back-to-back jack, cutting the score to 5-4. Dan Otero came on to face Beckham and got a groundout to second for the second out. Healy scorched a fastball deep to the gap in right, but Allen’s speed enabled him to track down what should have been a two-out double. Instead, Allen went airborne and snagged the sphere before crashing to the turf, ending the inning instead of allowing the tying run to settle into scoring position.
Roenis Elias took over for the Mariners in the ninth, but was unable to keep the Seattle deficit at one. With two outs, Gonzalez reached on a throwing error by Beckham that pulled the first baseman off of the bag. Santana sent the next pitch back into left-center for a base hit, but another error on the play allowed Gonzalez to score while Santana settled in at third. H. Ramirez stranded the insurance run 90 feet away on a grounder to third, but the Indians had a safer 6-4 lead.
Brad Hand entered for the bottom of the ninth in search of his fifth save of the season. He struck out Gordon on four pitches for the first out and got Smith to fly to left for the second on the next pitch. Haniger was cut down swinging for the third time on the night to end it, giving the Indians a 6-4 win and their ninth win of the season in 16 tries.
Seattle fell to 13-6 and lost its fourth straight game against a meaningful opponent after being swept at home by the Houston Astros over the weekend.
BAUER BACK TO FORM
It was a much-needed bounce-back performance from Bauer, who looked much closer to his early form than his last outing, when he was unable to finish the sixth inning after allowing four runs on ten hits (after surrendering just one hit in his first 14 innings on the year).
“I thought [Trevor] was good. That’s a really good lineup that feels really good about themselves,” said Francona after the game. “They’ve got speed at the top and the bottom, they’ve got a ton of guys swinging the bat good in the middle. You’ve got to work for everything. I thought he did a good job.”
Bauer moved to 2-1 on the year with six and two-thirds innings of work, walking three and striking out eight.
Players on both sides of the field and across Major League Baseball wore the number 42 on nameless jerseys on Monday in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. MLB uses April 15 of each season to commemorate Robinson’s debut on April 15, 1947, when he broke the color barrier and changed the game forever.
QUALITY START FROM KIKUCHI
The 27-year-old rookie left-hander Kikuchi made his fifth career start and his first against the Indians and did his part after some early damage by Cleveland. He settled in to work six innings, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts on 92 pitches. He was dealt his first MLB loss.
Kikuchi’s issues have been in the early innings this season and that continued on Monday. Nine of the 12 runs that he has allowed this season have come in the first two innings of contests.
Santana once again led the Indians offense, reaching base safely four different times against his one-time club of a week. He had a single, a double, two walks, and scored twice on the night. He is now hitting .400 with a .531 on-base percentage on the season.
Kipnis went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk, and an RBI in his return to action. The Indians activated the veteran second baseman from the injured list earlier in the day while designating Brad Miller for assignment.
D. Santana did the heavy lifting for the Mariners in the three hole. He had three singles on the day, driving in one and scoring one. Encarnacion had a pair of hits, including his two-run home run late as he continued a strong April. He is hitting .298 in the young season with a .414 OBP.
The Mariners have opened the season with an impressive display of long balls and that continued on Monday, although the fun did not start until the bottom of the eighth. Encarnacion’s two-run home run extended Seattle’s season-opening home run streak to 19 consecutive games, extending their MLB record, while pulling the club closer to the all-time consecutive games with a homer record of 27.
Game two from Seattle is scheduled for a 10:10 PM ET first pitch on Tuesday. Right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will look to continue his good start to the season for the Indians, while the Mariners will turn to righty Mike Leake (2-0. 4.15 ERA) to end the team’s four-game losing skid.
Photo: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren