In the event that you thought the 11-5 score from Progressive Field was a close game, that final score was hardly indicative of the results as the Cleveland Indians buried themselves under an eleven-run deficit before finding the scoreboard late in an embarrassing shellacking by the Atlanta Braves on Sunday in the series finale.
In a nationally televised game on ESPN, the game was essentially over after two frames. On the heels of a disastrous ninth inning in the second game of Saturday’s double dip, the Indians allowed nine runs in the first four innings on Sunday before scoring some garbage time runs to make the final a little more palatable.
It was Shane Bieber’s turn to have a rough day on the mound and it happened quickly. Two batters into the contest, former friend Josh Donaldson turned coat and blasted a deep drive to center to put Atlanta up, 1-0. The Braves were not done though, as Freddie Freeman walked, and after a strikeout by Ronald Acuna Jr. for the second out, Nick Markakis doubled to the right field corner to make it a 2-0 game.
The Indians were tasked with 25-year-old left-hander Max Fried and sent a lineup with five left-handed hitters to the plate. The heart of the order threatened in the bottom of the first with the game still close, as Fried walked three straight (Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and Carlos Gonzalez) with two outs before Jason Kipnis flied out to center.
The Braves built up their lead in the second with a familiar name again at the heart of the damage. Matt Joyce, who had been with the Indians during the spring before his release, doubled to right. Ender Inciarte struck out for the first out, but Albies was hit by a pitch to put two on for Donaldson. He found a four-seamer up in the zone and blasted it halfway up the bleachers in left for a back-breaking three-run shot to give Atlanta an early 5-0 lead.
Fried allowed a leadoff single to Roberto Perez in the bottom of the second, but no further damage. His offense then knocked Bieber out of the game with another big inning in the third. Brian McCann doubled with one out and a fielding error by Ramirez at third allowed Dansby Swanson to reach safely. In a mess again and with a high pitch count for just seven batters retired, manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen for left-hander Tyler Olson. He struck out Joyce for the second out, but gave up a double to Inciarte to make it 6-0. Albies singled to right, scoring both Swanson and Inciarte, but Albies was thrown out at second to end the inning.
Cody Anderson took the mound for a second straight day in the fourth and let another runner slip across the plate. Donaldson singled for his third hit in as many trips and moved to second on a wild pitch. He scored on a single to center by Freeman to make it 9-0 Atlanta.
The Indians went down in order until the fourth, when Perez came through with his second hit of the day. His two-out single kept the inning alive and Jake Bauers singled the opposite way to left to put two on for Tyler Naquin, but he grounded to second to end the mini threat.
The Braves added another in the sixth. Anderson came back for a third different inning of work and after retiring the side in order in the fifth. He started the sixth by doing what no one else had on the day, keeping Donaldson off of the bases with a strikeout. Freeman doubled to right before Acuna Jr. flied to center, bringing Francona back out for his bullpen. Oliver Perez came on and gave up an infield single in the hole at short to put runners on the corners, and McCann drove in a run with a single to center. Swanson grounded out with two on and two outs to prevent further scoring.
Cleveland put together another rally attempt in the sixth, but fell short. Gonzalez and Kipnis each singled off of Fried, but the young southpaw bounced back and struck out Perez before getting Bauers to line to left.
Atlanta notched its final run in the seventh off of Dan Otero. Joyce walked to start the frame and was forced out at second for the second out. Donaldson walked to move Albies into scoring position and Freeman delivered another RBI on a single to right. Acuna Jr. loaded the bases with a single before Markakis flied out to leave the bags full.
The Indians got on the scoreboard in the seventh with a big swing from a sight for sore eyes. With one down, Francisco Lindor launched a 3-1 fastball deep to the Home Run Porch in left to end Fried’s shutout bid. Leonys Martin singled, ending Fried’s outing after six and one-third. Jesse Biddle came on in relief and got the second out before walking Santana and giving up an RBI-single to slumping Greg Allen for the Tribe’s second run of the day.
Perez stepped into the box for his fourth at bat of the game in the bottom of the eighth as the first batter to face old friend Josh Tomlin. Looking for his third hit of the day, he found it as Tomlin left a four-seamer over the plate and Perez relocated it 421 feet away to center, making it 11-3.
Tomlin struck out two in the eighth and came back out for the ninth. Martin singled before a pair of outs. Allen reached on an infield single to short to keep the inning alive and Kipnis moved runners across with his single to center. Martin and Allen scored as Inciarte’s throwing error on the play allowed Kipnis to settle in at third base. Perez stepped in for his fifth AB of the game with a chance to drive in another run, but he struck out swinging to end it on Tomlin’s fourth K in two innings of work.
The Indians fell to 12-9 on the season and dropped out of first place. They are now 6-3 at Progressive Field this season. The Braves, using a strong ten-inning stretch to close out the series, improved to 11-10 and 4-4 on the road.
Bieber did not have it early and was punished by Donaldson, who earned both home runs on pitches that were not necessarily easy to crush. He did not have his usual swing and miss stuff and he needed 65 pitches (41 strikes) to get through 16 batters, just seven of which he retired. He allowed seven runs (five earned) on five hits with a walk and three strikeouts.
The bullpen was little better on Sunday. Olson was charged with a run in two-thirds of an inning. Anderson allowed two more on four hits in two and two-thirds innings, striking out three. Perez gave up two hits in one-third of an inning. Otero walked two, gave up two hits, and was charged a run. Adam Cimber allowed a hit in a scoreless eighth. Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki had the best line of any of the pitchers on the night, throwing a perfect inning in the ninth in his third Major League stint on the mound.
Fried was good and moved to 3-0, with his ERA climbing slightly to 1.38. He worked six and one-third innings, allowing two late runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts while tossing 101 pitches. He settled in after a rocky first inning, one which accounted for all three of his free passes on the ball game.
Donaldson and Freeman each had three-hit games for the Braves as every starter recorded at least one base knock. Acuna Jr., Markakis, and McCann each had two hits in the middle of the lineup.
The Indians got their primary production from the bottom half of Francona’s starting nine. Perez had three hits in five trips, including his first homer of the season. Kipnis had two hits and drove in a run. Gonzalez was 1-for-2 with a single and a walk before he was replaced by Allen, who went 2-for-2 with a run scored and another driven in. Lindor’s homer in the seventh was his first of the year and his second hit of the season.
Both teams will take Monday off. The Braves will continue their road trip in Ohio with three games in Cincinnati starting Tuesday. The Indians will welcome in the Miami Marlins for a quick two-game set before hitting the road for a tough series in Houston starting Thursday.
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