Series Result: The Indians win their first series of the year, 2-1 over the Rays.
Game 1: Tampa Bay 5 Cleveland 1
Game 2: Cleveland 4 Tampa Bay 1
Game 3: Cleveland 6 Tampa Bay 0
The Starting Rotation
It doesn’t get much better than what we saw in Tampa. In total, Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar pitched 21.2 innings, allowing only 11 hits, 4 runs and struck out 23 batters. I’ll take that three out of every five days.
Corey Kluber Run Support
In his two starts this season, the Indians offense has backed Kluber with three total runs, continuing a disturbing trend they had last year of giving Kluber no run support.
Game 1: Same Story, Different Day: Indians give Kluber no run support
We all know the story by now. Corey Kluber pitches for the Cleveland Indians and the hitters decided to take a day off. Just like Big Foot or the Lock Ness monster, run support for Corey Kluber is just as equally a rare thing to find. Anyway, the Indians actually played baseball in this game without any chance of postponements, delays or any inclement weather what so ever (thanks to the Rays playing in a dome). Things got off to a bad start almost immediately when Rays starter Matt Moore struck out the side in the first inning. The game remained expectedly quiet on both sides until the top of the fourth inning. Francisco Lindor led off for the Tribe with his first home run of the season, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead. After a Mike Napoli single, Carlos Santana hit what looked like a no-doubt about it home run, only to have it die on the warning track. Napoli, thinking he could catch Desmond Jennings napping in left field, attempted to tag up from first base. Big mistake.
Napoli never really had a chance of making it (even though it was a close play and had to be reviewed) and was thrown out. Baseball tends to be a weird sport, because after being thrown out, Yan Gomes doubled to deep center which would have probably scored Napoli had he still been on base. Nevertheless, Marlon Byrd grounded out to end the inning and the Indians best chance of blowing the game open was gone. Corey Kluber continued to plow through the Rays hitters until the seventh inning. With Corey Dickerson up at the plate, and a 2-2 count on him, Kluber couldn’t have thrown a more perfect pitch for the strikeout, only it wasn’t a strikeout, it wasn’t even a strike. Apparently, the umpire behind the plate wasn’t calling the middle of the plate a strike anymore and Dickerson was given a second life. On the next pitch, he doubled into left field, then scored on a Desmond Jennings single, tying the game at one.
Kluber came back out to start the eighth and got Steven Souza to fly out, things were looking good so far. Then Kluber seemed to lose all control of the strike zone and walked Kevin Kiermaier and pitched Logan Forsythe into a good hitters’ count before he launched a 2-run home run to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. This ended Corey Kluber’s night. Kluber finished with very respectable line of 7 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. To replace Klubler, the Indians brought on closer Cody Allen. He could not find the strikeout to save his life, walking the first batter he faced before serving up a meatball to Evan Longoria who deposited into the left field bleachers. Just like that, it was a 5-1 Rays lead. With the heart of the order due up the in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians went rather quietly to end the game.
Game 2: Cookie Cutter: Carrasco slices through Rays
This game felt very reminiscent of game one, with both pitchers dominating early. Carlos Carrasco and Drew Smyly both made quick work of each others’ lineup the first time through. Finally in the fourth, the Indians got their first hit. Rajai Davis surprisingly didn’t strikeout and hit a double. He quickly moved the third on a Jason Kipnis single. Francisco Lindor avoided a double play by hustling down the line and collected an RBI on a force out. Up next in the hitting parade was Mike Napoli, who looked to smack one over the fence, but had to settle for a double. Carlos Santana was up next, and took a walk, no wait, he swung at the first pitch? That’s right. Santana swung at the first pitch and blooped a ball to shallow right field. Some heads up base running allowed Lindor to score and a bad throw let Napoli to score from second. All the sudden the Indians were up 3-0.
After that outburst by the Indians, the pitchers took over again, as Carrasco and Smyly continued to mow through hitters, combining for 19 strikeouts on the day. In the eighth inning, Erasmo Ramirez took over for Drew Smyly and gave up an absolute moon shot home run to Jason Kipnis, extending the Tribe’s lead to 4-0. In the bottom of the eighth, Carrasco came back out, looking like he would be able to go all nine innings. However, the Rays hitters finally figured him out and were able to tag him for a run. It could have been more, if not for a great tag made by Yan Gomes at home plate to end the inning. Cody Allen came on to close out the game, and after a poor outing in game one, we were all a little nervous, especially after a single and a wild pitch gave the Rays a runner a second with two outs. But Cody got Desmond Jennings to strikeout to end the game, earning his second save on the season and the Indians finally capitalized on a good pitching performance.
Game 3: Cheese and Taters: Tribe dominates Rays in series finale
This game started off similarly as the other two games, as in no one scored early, but it was far from the same thing. Both pitchers had trouble locating the strike zone early, but were able keep runners from scoring. In the fifth inning, Chris Archer’s wildness and the Rays defense finally came back to bite them. Roberto Perez, playing in his first game of the season, reached base on an error by shortstop, Brad Miller. Rajai Davis drew one of the three Archer walks on the day before Francisco Lindor singled in a run to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead. After an odd drop third strike play where Rajai Davis was tagged out at home, Carlos Santana ended the inning with a groundout.
The Indians’ offense got back at it the next inning when Marlon Byrd belted his first home run as an Indian, a two-run shot, extending the lead to 3-0. With Archer having been chased from the game, Steve Geltz was brought in and served one up to Rajai Davis, who provided the Indians with some shocking power, as he too hit his first home run as an Indian. Danny Salazar came out for his last inning, struck out two batters and left the rest to the bullpen. On the day, Salazar was as unhittable as ever, giving up only three hits in six innings while striking out nine. In the ninth, the Indians added an unnecessary insurance run with a Jose Ramirez solo shot for a 6-0 lead. Trevor Bauer came on to close out the ninth, and while he did give up two hits, he got all his outs via the strikeout, as Indians pitchers ended the day with 14 punchouts.
Up Next: Do you like pitching? Well, this next series is the one for you. The best pitching staff in the NL takes on the best pitching staff in the AL. Mets vs. Indians for a three-game series in Cleveland.
— Chris Sladoje (@The_Doje)
AP Photo/Chris O’Meara