Indians' victory over Reds speaks volumes
CLEVELAND — Not much can be said about the Indians’ 10-9 victory over the visiting Reds on Monday, except this:
And maybe this:
Man, did the Indians really need a win.
That’s really the bottom line in the first game of a series forever billed as The Battle of Ohio. But for the Indians, it really was more than that. It was a chance to return to relevancy in the AL Central against one of the league’s hottest teams — as the Reds entered Monday having won six straight.
The Indians, meanwhile, had lost five of six. And they weren’t just losing, they were getting hammered. Three of the losses came last week against these very Reds in a sweep at Cincinnati. So when you talked about the Indians vs. Reds, it was starting to become more like the Landslide of Ohio.
But on this night, it was the Indians who did the sliding, and hitting, and getting enough (barely) from the pitching.
OK, surrendering nine runs for the third straight game is nothing to cheer about — far from it, actually. At the same time, a win is a win is a win. And again, the Tribe simply couldn’t afford to lose again.
Not with the White Sox holding a 1.5-game lead in the standings heading into Monday night (which was reduced to half a game after the Cubs hammered the White Sox 12-3). Not with team morale slowly fading, as it typically does during these types of droughts.
So, how did it happen?
Well, when you score 10 runs the answer is, by any means necessary.
Things looked bleak at the beginning, with Indians starter Derek Lowe giving up a solo homer to Joey Votto in the first inning. Things didn’t look any better later, with the Reds having their way with Lowe most of the night. In the end, he surrendered 11 hits and gave up seven of the runs.
In other words, Lowe was hardly stellar.
That’s OK, though, because he survived — and Indians batters did plenty of their own work on Reds starter Mat Latos (eight hits and seven runs in four innings).
Standing out were Indians such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Casey Kotchman, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo. Chisenhall went 3-for-4, scored three runs and drove home three more. That's Hank Aaron territory right there. From Lonnie Chisenhall.
Anyway, Kotchman also finished with three RBI. Brantley scored twice and Choo drove in two, including his third lead-off homer of the year to give the Indians some much-needed momentum.
Stats-wise, there was so much more to like from this game if you’re an Indians fan.
Their eight extra-base hits were a season-high, and the Nos. 5-9 batters combined for 10 hits in 19 at-bats.
Overall, they showed some serious resiliency after having relinquished leads of 4-3 and 7-5.
Basically, the Indians turned a night that looked like all had been lost into a game that brought fans to their feet and gave them a reason to believe again.
And man, you can’t say it enough: It was needed.
Following two more games against the suddenly powerful Reds, the Tribe hits the road for 10 straight, including their first visit of the year to New York to face the Yankees. That takes place next week, and the type of guts displayed against the Reds will be needed.
But back to the pitching. Yes, it has to get better — and fast.
On the bright side, reliever Joe Smith and the rest of the bullpen did enough to save the game Monday, with Smith picking up the victory to improve to 5-1 and match his win total of last season.
Also, closer Chris Perez earned his 22nd save.
Was it a thing of beauty? Well, no. But it was a tally in the win column.
Mostly, it was another reason to cling to hope, and when it comes to the Indians, that’s really all you can ask for right now.