How does one celebrate eight years in the Majors? By reaching base four times and making a snow cone catch for the final out.
Jason Kipnis went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored and nine different Indians tallied hits as Cleveland knocked off the Toronto Blue Jays by a 7-3 final.
Mike Clevinger gave the Indians seven innings of quality work and was backed by a well-rounded showing by his teammates at the plate and in the field to claim a win in the series opener behind the Tribe’s fifth straight win over the Blue Jays this year.
The Indians were gifted two runs in the second inning to take an early lead against left-hander Ryan Borucki, who was making his first appearance of the season. Borucki left a pair in the first after a ground rule double by Carlos Santana and a walk by Jordan Luplow before Jose Ramirez popped to short. The Indians’ next trip to the plate, went better as Kipnis started the inning with a single to right-center. Roberto Perez flied to right before Jake Bauers grounded to first. Justin Smoak’s throw to Freddy Galvis at second was in time to cut down Kipnis, but Bauers beat the return throw to first. Manager Terry Francona came out of the Cleveland dugout and challenged the play and replay showed that Galvis was in the neighborhood of second base, but that he did not have his foot on the bag at the same time that he possessed the ball, giving Kipnis back second base and Galvis an error on the play. Tyler Naquin moved both runners up with a grounder to first for the second out, but Francisco Lindor shot a single past Galvis and into center to score a pair of unearned runs to put the Indians up, 2-0.
Clevinger gave up a leadoff single to Eric Sogard to start the home half in the first before striking out a pair. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. shot the ball down the right field line to start the second, but a great throw from Naquin gunned him down at second. That came up big as Smoak killed a 3-1 four-seamer down the middle of the plate and parked it 435 feet deep to right. Clevinger struck out the next two.
The Indians got the run back in their next ABs. With two out, Ramirez doubled to the right of center and scored on a single by Kipnis to make it a 3-1 game.
Clevinger retired the side in order in the third. His offense loaded the bases in the fourth against Borucki, but Santana grounded into an inning-ending double play. Clevinger walked Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to start the fourth, but he struck out Cavan Biggio and Guerrero Jr. with the latter being chased by a caught stealing of Gurriel Jr. to end the inning with the first of three Tribe double plays on the night.
Cleveland knocked out Borucki in the fifth with another two-out score. Kipnis worked his first of two walks with two down in the frame and he scored all the way from first on a double by Perez. Justin Shafer left the runner at second on a fly out by Bauers.
The Jays cut into the Indians’ lead in the bottom of the fifth. Smoak walked before he was erased on a double play ball by Randal Grichuk. Danny Jansen was plunked and two pitches later, Billy McKinney pulled a homer down the right field line to make it 4-3.
The Indians once again responded to a Blue Jays score with runs of their own. Naquin doubled to start the sixth and moved to third on a sacrifice by Lindor. Oscar Mercado lifted a fly ball to right that McKinney dove for and missed, allowing Mercado to motor all the way to third with an RBI-triple. Santana and Luplow both drew walks to load the bases for the second time on the night and Shafer exited the game after Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo and the team trainer went to the mound to tend to his sore right elbow. The Jays turned to Tim Mayza to get the next two outs, but one more run crossed on a sacrifice fly to left by Ramirez.
Clevinger set down the Jays in order in the sixth and got his third double play of the day in the bottom of the seventh as Guerrero Jr.’s leadoff single was erased on a grounder by Smoak.
Sam Gaviglio came on in relief for the top of the eighth for Toronto, but he had to work out of a mess. Mercado greeted him rudely, driving a 2-1 slider over the wall in left-center for his eighth homer of the season, putting the Indians up 7-3. Santana struck out and Luplow grounded out before Ramirez reached on an infield single to the third base side of the mound. He stole second and was joined on base by Kipnis after a walk, but Perez flied to a running McKinney in right to end the frame.
Tyler Clippard took the mound and retired the final six batters for Cleveland in his return to his former home of Toronto. Five of the six outs came in the air as he knocked off the 8-9-1 hitters in the eighth and the 2-3-4 bats in the ninth. The final out came in fancy fashion as Kipnis chased down a Biggio pop up in shallow right with a snow cone style catch before sliding to the turf.
The Indians moved to 58-41 on the season with their fifth straight win in five tries against the Blue Jays (38-64) this year. The club is a season-high 17 games above the .500 mark and is 13-3 in July.
Clevinger looked sharp again as he had his pitch count limitations removed for his start on Monday. He threw 104 pitches (63 for strikes), giving up three runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings of work. All three runs allowed trotted in on the two homers that he allowed on the night.
Borucki’s 2019 season debut was marred by the early error by Galvis in the second. He lasted just four and two-thirds innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts. The bullpen allowed three more runs behind him.
Every Indians starter recorded at least one hit with the exception of Luplow, who reached twice on free passes. Mercado went 2-for-4 with a triple, his eighth homer, and a walk while scoring two and driving two in. Ramirez went 2-for-4 and stole his 21st base of the season. Kipnis went 2-for-3 with two walks, two singles, two runs scored, and one run batted in while extending his hitting streak to eight straight games on the eight-year anniversary of his Major League debut in 2011.
Game two from Rogers Centre in Toronto is scheduled for a 7:07 PM ET first pitch on Tuesday. The Blue Jays will send right-hander Aaron Sanchez (3-14, 6.26 ERA) to the mound, looking for a rare win in 2019. He has lost 13 straight decisions and has not won since April 27. Trevor Bauer (9-7, 3.67) will get the start for the Indians, coming off of back-to-back double-digit strikeout starts.
Tuesday’s contest will air on YouTube, where fans can watch for free on the baseball-viewing device of their choice.
Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images