Aaron Laffey provided the Indians with their best start of the season, as the Cleveland Indians held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 8-7 at Progressive Field. The Indians moved to 5-9 on the season with the win.
Laffey's start wasn't all peaches and cream, although he did pitch well in only allowing one run through seven innings. He did get some fielding help with five straight innings with a double play, including a seventh-inning dp with the bases loaded that allowed the Indians to keep their 6-1 lead. Laffey was really in command of his sinker and slider, and trusted his pitches enough to induce nine ground ball outs, to go along with three K's.
Laffey was called up on April 15th after Scott Lewis was sent to the DL with a strained forearm, and has arguably become the most effective Tribe starter. Laffey's ERA has dropped to 2.19, and opponants are only hitting a paltry .238 off the young lefty. His start was the first by a Tribe starter to last until the end of the seventh inning. Unfortunately, the bullpen did everything it could to blow the lead. More on that in a minute...
Cleveland's bullpen nearly blows it, and the offense flexes, after the jump...
Rafael Perez didn't get sent down to the minors, since Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro insist that he's earned the right to figure things out in the majors. Huh? What? When did they start this policy? Isn't this the team that sends it's pitchers on a nightly bunji-jump, from AAA to the bigs? Management has decided that Perez will be taken out of key eight-inning, lefty situations that he has excelled at since making the club two-years ago.
Joe Smith faced three batters, and managed to give up two hits and a walk, and ended up giving up three runs, although only one scored with him on the mound. Masa Kobayashi would relieve him, would face two batters, giving up two hits and a run. Neither retired a batter. Jensen Lewis would save the day. He gave up a sac fly, which made the score 6-5 Cleveland, before forcing Miguel Olivo to, you guessed it, ground into another double play. The six double plays tied a record for the Indians.
Kerry Wood would add to the bullpen issues, but I'll get to that in a second...in the meantime...
The Indians offense continued it's onslaught tonight, led by the fifth home-runs by both Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez. Sizemore's homer broke a 2-1 game wide open in the fourth inning. Ben Francisco and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a couple of one-out singles, before Sizemore launched his Earl Weaver special over the wall in right field to give the Indians their 6-1 lead.
After the bullpen imploded, VMart came through in the eighth, blasting a two-run shot that gave the Indians an 8-5 cushion, that it would turn out to need.
This Indians' offense is potent, and patient, which can be deadly to opposing teams' pitching staff. They have the penchant for big innings, and can really hit teams with a knockout quickly. This should keep them in most games, even with a poor pitching staff. The Indians will likely ride this offense, until the arms work themselves out. If they don't, it could be a long season.
Kerry Wood did his best to impersonate Joe Borowski. There's a major flaw with this line of thinking: Wood throws a bit harder. Wood's fastball's averaged 96 MPH, and his last pitch, a strike, was 97. This isn't JoeBlo, even though Wood allowed a Dave DeJesus two-run jack, that left the Indians with only a one-lead. Wood would settle down, and get a strike-out, his second, to end the inning. Sure, it would have been nice to see him retire three guys on nine pitches, but he still looked essentially in command, and there really wasn't a time when I didn't think he was going to get that last guy out. Wood recorded his second save.
Cleveland got another good start from a starting pitcher. Perhaps this is a trend...I'll leave it at that. The Indians are now 5-9 and 1-0 in this nine-game homestand. Brian Bannister was recalled from AAA to face off against the Indians and Cliff Lee. Hopefully Lee can return to full form against Bannister, who has been nothing but spectacular against the Indians. Bannister has rolled out a 3-1 lifetime record against Cleveland, with a stellar 1.91 ERA against the team. He's 2-0 against the Indians in Cleveland. He's pitched well in AAA, having gone nine scoreless innings preceding his call-up. It could be an interesting game.
The Cavaliers played like garbage in the second half of their game tonight, but still managed to beat the Pistons by eight points. I suppose it has to be tough to get up against an opponent like the Pistons, who are, quite honestly, as done a team as you can be in the playoffs. Watching the Pistons is almost painful. I can't wait to brush this former great team aside, so we can have games worth watching.