Jason Kipnis enjoyed his return to Citi Field, but the rest of the Clevelanders in town could not say the same as the New York Mets spoiled the Indians’ first trip to the ten-year old ball park with a 9-2 win on Tuesday.
A day off did little for the Tribe after splitting a tough four-game series against the crosstown Yankees over the weekend. A 15-minute hop across the city brought the Tribe to Queens as Cleveland knocked off one of two remaining ball parks across the 30-team league that it had yet to play in (Atlanta’s SunTrust Park is the last active stadium remaining that the Indians have yet to play at). Kipnis, who represented the American League there in the 2013 All-Star Game, had two of the Indians’ six hits and scored both runs in his first game there since that Midsummer Classic, but the rest of the offense was held in check despite plenty of opportunities with runners in scoring position against Mets pitching.
Cleveland took the early lead against left-hander Steven Matz, who provided New York with a quality start before he was backed by a slew of late inning runs by his offense. The southpaw retired the first five batters that he faced, but Kipnis found himself a 3-1 changeup over the plate that he was able to blast 416 feet to right to put the Indians up, 1-0, in the second.
All-Star MVP Shane Bieber drew the starting nod for the Tribe and was good, but two of the four hits that he allowed left the yard. The first of those came in the bottom of the second as the Mets responded to the Indians’ solo tally in the top half. After striking out Michael Conforto to open the inning, Wilson Ramos recorded the second Mets hit of the game with a single to center that extended his hitting streak to 14 straight. Two pitches later, J.D. Davis destroyed an 0-1 slider, landing his moonshot 447 feet to center to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
The Indians wasted a one-out double in the third by Francisco Lindor, but three straight reached in the fourth as Cleveland tied the game. Yasiel Puig grounded the first pitch of the frame to third against Matz, but a throwing error by Todd Frazier allowed him to reach safely. Jose Ramirez singled to center to put two on and Kipnis sent the next pitch to the same place for an RBI-single to tie the game at two. With two on and nobody out, the Indians faltered from there as Roberto Perez flied to left, Greg Allen grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second, and Bieber struck out with runners on the corners.
Bieber set down the side in order in the fourth and fifth, striking out three batters along the way. Matz put up a similar showing, putting up a 1-2-3 top of the fifth before striking out two in a perfect sixth.
One swing changed the night for Bieber in the bottom of the sixth, but a botched play two batters before it may have drastically altered his outing. Bieber got Amed Rosario to ground the first pitch of the inning to second for an out. Joe Panik lofted a 2-1 pitch to Oscar Mercado in left, but the tough defensive stretch for the Tribe’s rookie outfielder continued as he failed to make the routine play, allowing Panik to go to second. The Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso struck out for the second out, but Conforto picked up his slugging teammate by driving a 1-2 slider over the wall in right for a two-run shot. His 27th of the season put the Mets back in front by a 4-2 count.
Bieber’s night was done when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter with two outs in the seventh against Matz. It proved to be his final batter faced as well, as after he struck out Perez and gave up an infield single to Allen, Bieber’s pinch-hitter Franmil Reyes drew a walk to put two on with one out. Justin Wilson, the former Detroit Tiger left-hander and a familiar face to some in the Tribe dugout, came on and struck out both Lindor and Mercado to strand a pair.
The Mets blew the game open after the Seventh Inning Stretch against the Indians bullpen. Adam Cimber came on in relief of Bieber and allowed the first two to reach as Frazier singled to right and Lagares drew a seven-pitch walk. Former Tribe outfielder Rajai Davis pinch-hit for Wilson and dropped down a bunt, but Frazier was gunned down at third for the first out. Rosario made up for the missed opportunity with an RBI-single to center to make it 5-2 and Cleveland manager Terry Francona went back to his bullpen for Hunter Wood. He was unable to slow the Mets down as Panik scored Davis with a single to left and Alonso doubled home a pair to make it a four-run frame before Wood got Conforto and Ramos to stop the bleeding.
Luis Avilan retired the side in order in the eighth before the Mets added another against Phil Maton in the bottom half. A two-out walk by Lagares proved costly for the right-hander Maton as Davis doubled the runner home to make it a 9-2 game.
Paul Sewald took over for the ninth with a seven-run lead and allowed a one-out double by Perez before striking out Allen and pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin in a three-strikeout inning to close the door on the Tribe.
Cleveland moved to 74-52 on the season with its second straight loss and is now 2-4 on its seven-game road trip to the Big Apple. New York has won three in a row and is now five games over at 65-60.
Matz moved to 8-7 on the season with a strong quality start for the Mets. He worked six and one-third innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits with a pair of walks and seven strikeouts. The bullpen struck out five of the eight outs retired in one-hit work.
Bieber dropped to 12-6 with a tough loss. He gave the Indians a quality start, allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts on 83 pitches over six innings. All three relievers to pitch gave up runs, as Cimber was charged with three and both Wood and Maton gave up one each.
All nine spots on the Mets lineup card contributed base runners on the night. Lagares went 0-for-2, but he walked twice and scored twice. Alonso, Conforto, and Davis each drove in two runs. The Mets went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position while stranding four. The Indians were just 1-for-10 in the same situation, stranding seven.
Game two of the three-game series from New York is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Wednesday night. The Mets will send out trade deadline acquisition Marcus Stroman (7-11, 3.21 ERA with Toronto and New York), while the Indians will counter with right-hander Adam Plutko (5-3, 4.67).
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