The Cleveland Indians jumped out to a six-run lead early and added on eight more runs in the middle innings to blow out the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, 14-2, on Friday night.
Home field was no advantage for the Cardinals in St. Louis as they were shelled for 14 runs on 20 hits, including seven extra base knocks, as the Indians started out their road trip on the right note. Rookie Triston McKenzie was backed with that big run support from the Tribe bats, which pounced on a tough Cardinals pitching staff and sent nine men to the plate in the first inning to stake out an early lead. The offense added two runs in each of the second, fifth, and seventh innings, and used a four-run sixth to erase any doubts of a rally from the host Red Birds.
Friday was Jackie Robinson Day across Major League Baseball as the league celebrated the annual event, usually held April 15, to honor the first player to break the game’s color barrier. The Indians supplied a little bit of everything to get the festivities off to an eventful start as all nine Tribe batters stood in the batter’s box in the first inning before the rookie McKenzie could even take the mound.
The winless Daniel Ponce de Leon retired the first batter of the game, getting Cesar Hernandez to pop out to third, but the trouble started quickly after. Jose Ramirez walked on five pitches. Francisco Lindor singled to put runners on the corners. A throwing error by the usually reliable Yadier Molina on a steal attempt by Lindor allowed Ramirez to score and the Tribe’s All-Star shortstop to move to third. Carlos Santana walked two pitches later and two pitches after that, Franmil Reyes sent a four-seamer up into orbit for a three-run home run, putting the Indians up by a big 4-0 count. Ponce de Leon retired Tyler Naquin before walking the next two, sending manager Mike Shildt to the mound to retrieve his starter after just two-thirds of an inning worked. Righty Jake Woodford struck out Delino DeShields swinging to strand a pair.
The long layoff after warming up may have been problematic for the young McKenzie. He needed 21 pitches to get through the first, working around a one-out single by Paul DeJong and a two-out base hit from former Indian Brad Miller in a revenge game.
The Indians tacked on in the second against Woodford. Hernandez reached on an infield single to third and moved to third on a single by Ramirez. A bizarre double play on a grounder to first by Lindor erased both Hernandez in a rundown between third and home and Ramirez at second for a pair of outs, but Lindor moved into scoring position on a 2-1 curveball low to Santana. The next pitch, up and in, was belted to right by the Tribe’s cleanup man for a two-run homer, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead.
McKenzie threw 26 pitches in the second as the Cardinals chopped into the Indians lead. After a flyout by Molina, Tyler O’Neill drew a seven-pitch walk. McKenzie got ahead of Dexter Fowler, but the rookie’s 0-2 offering was driven out of the park to right to make it a 6-2 game. That would be as close as St. Louis would get as McKenzie got the next two, then worked around a walk of Paul Goldschmidt in the third and Molina in the fourth.
The Indians threatened with a pair of two-out hits in the third against Woodford, but could not respond to the Cardinals’ runs. Roberto Perez and DeShields each singled, but Hernandez flied to right.
Woodford retired the side in the fourth before turning the game back over to the bullpen, with right-hander Junior Fernandez coming on to eat up some innings. Instead, he added to his ERA in a hurry. Reyes doubled down the left field line to open the inning and Naquin followed with a laser off of the right field foul pole for his first homer of the season, making it an 8-2 game. The Indians added two more singles in the inning, but Perez was thrown out trying to advance his hit into two bases, while DeShields was stranded on a strikeout by Hernandez.
Cam Hill made his one inning on the night count. He got Kolten Wong to ground to first to start the home half of the fifth before DeJong singled to left. Goldschmidt worked the count full before grounding into an inning ending double play.
The Cardinals made wholesale changes to open the sixth, while Hernandez let the game get even further out of hand. He walked Ramirez on five pitches before Lindor doubled off of the base of the right field wall to put runners on second and third. Santana drew a walk to load the bases and Reyes knocked in a pair with a two-run single to center to give him a career-high five RBI on the night and the Indians a 10-2 lead. After failing to retire the first four of the inning, Fernandez got the hook for left-hander Ricardo Sanchez, who retired the first two batters that he faced before giving up Perez’s third hit of the game, an RBI-single to center to make it 11-2. DeShields dropped in a two-base hit to left to add another run as the Indians took a 12-2 lead.
Adam Plutko came on from the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, looking to save unnecessary wear and tear on the Tribe relief corp. He walked Miller, the first batter that he faced, before getting three outs in the air.
The Cleveland bats had no intention of stopping as the bench entered the fray and kept the lineup moving. After a leadoff double by Ramirez and a balk by Sanchez that moved him to third, Yu Chang knocked in his first run of the year with a groundout to third, making it a 13-2 Indians lead. Santana drew another walk and pinch-hitter Sandy Leon singled to center. Naquin was plunked on the hand to load the bases and Jordan Luplow made his mark on the score sheet, lofting a fly to center that scored Santana to make it 14-2. Perez, looking for his fourth hit of the night, grounded to third.
Plutko retied the side in order in the seventh, while the Indians left the bases loaded against Tyler Webb in the eighth after singles by Mike Freeman, Chang, and Santana. Plutko used a double play to erase a DeJong single to start the eighth and he left a pair after a double by Miller and a walk by Matt Carpenter, getting Max Schrock to fly out to left.
Schrock made his Major League pitching debut in the top of the ninth against the Indians. The rookie second baseman got Naquin and Luplow on outs in the air before Perez grounded out to short.
Plutko came back out for a fourth inning of long relief in the ninth and dropped the curtain on a long first night in St. Louis. O’Neill struck out on three straight strikes. Harrison Bader walked before rookie Dylan Carlson popped out to the left side of the infield and Wong flied out to left for the final out.
With the win, the Indians improved to 20-12 on the season. With Minnesota idle due to a rainout, the Indians matched their record and are now locked in a three-way tie for first place with the Twins and the Chicago White Sox. The Indians have won nine straight road contests. The Cardinals dropped to 11-12 on the season and just 7-6 at home.
McKenzie took a tough no-decision as his pitch count piled up quickly. He did not show the same crispness as he did in his debut, which could have been drastically impacted by several lengthy waits before returning to the mound. He gave the Indians four innings on the night, allowing two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
“It was a great start offensively. We had a long inning basically in the first inning, which means he was sitting there for a while,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “His command was not there like the first time. He was laboring through the innings. He worked hard, competes. He lost command of his fastball, he didn’t have his breaking ball, and on top of all of that, he only gave up that home run. Pitch count was up so we decided to take him out.”
Hill was credited with his first Major League win with his scoreless inning of work in the fifth. Plutko got the long-relief save, the second of his career, after working four scoreless innings while allowing two hits and three walks with two strikeouts.
A SHORT EXPEDITION
Making his fourth start and fifth appearance of the year, the Indians pounced on Ponce de Leon early and often in knocking out the 28-year-old after just eight batters faced. In his shortest start and second shortest outing of the season, he was tagged for four first inning runs on just two hits with four walks and no strikeouts. Command was a glaring issue as he fell behind all eight batters that he faced while throwing just 17 of 41 pitches for strikes on the night.
He would hardly be the only Cardinals pitcher to struggle. Woodford held down the fort for a while, going three and one-third innings of two-run baseball, but Fernandez was blasted for six runs on six hits with two walks in a 39-pitch inning of work and Sanchez gave up two more runs while needing 53 pitches to clear two frames.
BATS PACKED FOR ROAD TRIP
The Indians busted out the bats for the first game of a six-game road trip to Missouri. Eight of nine starters recorded at least one hit and six different players notched multi-hit efforts. Seven of the team’s 20 hits on the night dropped in for extra bases.
Reyes led the offense with a 3-for-4 day at the plate before exiting for pinch-hitter Leon. He was a triple short of the cycle while hitting his team-leading seventh homer and driving in a career-high five runs to give him 23 on the year. He scored three times. Ramirez had a single and double while drawing two walks and scoring three times. Lindor matched the single and double and scored three runs of his own. Santana reached base safely in five of his six trips, getting a base hit, his fourth homer of the season, and three walks to give him 33 on the year while scoring four different times. Perez, who entered the game with three hits, matched that season output with three hits and walked in a fourth trip to the plate. DeShields had three hits out of the nine-hole. Naquin’s homer extended his hitting streak to eight straight.
“Guys were going the other way. Big home run early in the game helped to help relax the rest of the guys,” said Alomar Jr. “Roberto Perez, we were talking about him before the game. Three hits he got and an RBI.”
DEJONG AT HEART
The Cardinals mustered as many hits (6) as they had walks (6) off of Tribe pitching on Friday night. DeJong was the leader in the clubhouse, recording half of the team’s tally with three base hits to push his season batting average to .308. Miller, facing the same Indians organization that he trashed on the way out the door last season after being served his walking papers, went 2-for-3 to improve his season average to .340. Carlson’s hitting streak came to a close with three strikeouts in four trips.
Tragic and ironic news broke late in the game between the Cardinals and Indians. Chadwick Boseman, best remembered for his portrayals of Jackie Robinson in ‘42’ and King T’Challa in Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ passed away at the age of 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
Boseman’s star was just on the rise as his life faded out. According to a release on his Twitter page, the actor/director/writer/producer died at his home on Friday with his wife and family by his side.
Rest in Peace, Chadwick. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the millions of lives that he touched in his numerous iconic roles.
The middle game of the Indians’ three-game series in St. Louis is scheduled for a 1:15 PM ET first pitch on Saturday due to a Fox broadcast. The Cardinals will send ace Jack Flaherty (2-0, 1.98 ERA) to the mound, looking to end the team’s three-game losing skid. The Indians will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 4.50 ERA), who will look to put together a complete effort on the mound after three straight rough outings.
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