The Indians played like a major league team today. They bunted, executed fundamentally with two sacrifice flies, got a terrific performance from a starter and lights-out relief pitching…plus a triple play — and for the second straight day Progressive Field saw a new dubious record for attendance, as the all-time low from yesterday was “eclipsed” today when only 8,726 turned out on a damp and chilly afternoon.
Positively a Cleveland Municipal Stadium circa 1978 fan count there.
Nevertheless, the Tribe gave those who came something to remember.
The White Sox got on the board first in the third inning against Justin Masterson when ex-Tribe hero Omar Vizquel led off with a single, moved up on two ground outs, and scored on a single from Paul Konerko.
The score still stood at 1-0 in the top of the fourth, where the first two Sox got aboard. Then, Alexei Ramirez popped a bunt which was caught by a diving Carlos Santana — playing his first major league game at first base. Santana flipped to first to double off A.J. Pierzynski, and when Orlando Cabrera fired to second and caught Carlos Quentin before Quentin could get back, the Indians had their first triple play in two years, and the first against the White Sox since 1978.
Masterson took that adrenaline-rush and ran with it all the way through the seventh inning, keeping the Tribe in the game and then, when Cleveland took the lead in the sixth, doing exactly what a good pitcher does after a rally — slamming the door on the other team.
The two runs the Indians put up in the sixth came after two were out and nobody on. Travis Hafner stroked a single, and then, with raindrops falling, Orlando Cabrera belted a homer to deep left to give Cleveland its first lead of the season.
After Masterson blanked the Sox in the visitors’ seventh, Lou Marson, catching for the first time this season and batting ninth, executed a perfect hit-and-run double with Jack Hannahan taking off from first. Hannahan came all the way around to make it 3-1 Tribe. Then a sacrifice bunt from Michael Brantley and a sacrifice fly from Asdrubal Cabrera and the Indians had a three-run lead.
Tony Sipp came on and had a one-two-three, nine-pitch eighth inning in a perfect set-up job, and the Indians put the game away in the bottom of the eighth.
Pinch-hitter Shelley Duncan drove in two with a single, and another sacrifice fly, this one off the bat of Brantley, and Cleveland had the final margin of a 7-1 victory.
Chris Perez came on and pitched the ninth for the Tribe and retired the Sox one-two-three to finish it.
Masterson was a “master” at keeping the ball down today, getting 17 of his 21 outs via the ground ball, Justin did not strike out a batter, while walking two, but his biggest contributions were hanging tough, benefiting from the triple-play and keeping his focus until the Indians could come to life.
John Danks took the loss for Chicago. Danks got through 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, but his second last batter — Orlando Cabrera — was the only batter needed to hand Danks the loss.
The Tribe is off tomorrow, and will return to Progressive Field Tuesday night to take on the Boston Red Sox, who are in danger of falling to 0-3 this afternoon against Texas.