Twenty-four final thoughts after what seemed like 24 hours at O.co Coliseum for a day-night doubleheader.
1. Indians outfielder Michael Brantley found redemption in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s second game after a costly and rare error two innings earlier and his teammates were genuinely happy for him. With one out and the bases loaded, Brantley lashed a single into right field that got by Josh Reddick for an error, allowing Ryan Raburn and Jason Kipnis to score to give the Indians a 5-4 lead. (David Murphy’s sacrifice fly to center brought home an insurance run.)
2. “My team did a great job of getting on base. Coming up in that situation, it’s a big situation, but it doesn’t happen without the guys in front of us getting on,” Brantley said.
3. Brantley saw his club-record 247-game errorless streak snapped in the seventh inning when he dropped a fly ball to center field off the bat of Josh Donaldson after he and left fielder Raburn both called for the ball. Brantley had not committed an error since June 3, 2012, against Minnesota. Donaldson took second on the error, went to third on a wild pitch by Bryan Shaw and scored on Brandon Moss’ single past second baseman Mike Aviles to put the A’s up 4-3.
4. “It’s loud out here in Oakland,” Brantley said of the error. “We were both calling it, we were both using hand signals. The ball needs to be caught, period. But we pick each other up around here.”
5. The best quote of the day was what Brantley said about his streak being snapped. “That’s an individual goal. We don’t teach individual goals around here,” he said. “It’s all about team effort.”
6. Indians manager Terry Francona said of Brantley’s error, “They both called it and probably the most conscientious guy on the field is kicking himself. For him to get a hit like that was really great.”
7. Aviles said Brantley’s miscue in center was “unfortunate, sometimes things happen. But he was able to get the hit to put us ahead. I’m sure he probably cares more about that hit than the defensive (streak) because we came out on top.”
8. Nick Swisher reveled in how Brantley came through. “You always get the redemption,” Swisher said of Brantley. “Dr. Smooth, he’s got one of the best swings in the game. He’s going to get a lot of RBI situations. We’ve got him hitting behind Carlos (Santana) and the way Carlos gets on base and the rest of us get on base at the top of the lineup, there’s going to be a lot of RBI chances for him. For him to come through, off Johnson, a sinkerballer, all he’s looking to do is get a ground ball double play, and for Junior (Brantley) to drive that ball into right, that was awesome.”
9. Francona credited those who preceded Brantley to the plate for what they did as well. Raburn and Swisher led off with singles and Jason Kipnis, trying to bunt, grounded into 4-6 forceout, sending Raburn to third. Kipnis stole second and Santana walked, setting the stage for Brantley.
10. “It was nice to see the way the whole thing unfolded,” Francona said. “We had two good at-bats, Raburn and Swish, to start the inning. Kip can’t get the bunt down, and instead of giving in, he battles, battles, battles, hits a grounder, runs like his pants are on fire, then he steals second. Then from there we did some really good situational hitting against a really good pitcher. That was fun to watch.”
11. Swisher also cited Kipnis’ ninth-inning at-bat as being the key to the rally. “More than anything, Kippy’s at-bat, even though he was giving himself up to move us both over, just to get himself on the bags because you know he’s got the ability to steal, it seemed like we started rolling again,” Swisher said. “We came out of the gate kind of slow this morning and it took us until about 9:30 (PCT) to really jump it into gear.”
12. If there is any characteristic evident in the Indians’ first three games, it is the Tribe’s never-say-die attitude. They scored two runs in the ninth to win the first game of the series 2-0 Monday. They scored their lone run in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader on Santana’s RBI single in the ninth. Then came the dramatic finish in the nightcap, when the Indians gutted out three runs.
13. “It’s a never-die attitude, never quit, picking each other up and always fighting to the end,” Brantley said. “That’s a credit to this team and how we’re built. We used every out as a precious out. What we did tonight was fun, special and hopefully we can use that momentum to keep going.”
14. “It’s a good carry-over from spring training, everyone has each other’s backs in here,” said right-hander Zach McAllister, the starter in the nightcap. “We always believe we’re going to win, no matter what the score is. For us to come back tonight was big for us. To win a series was even bigger.”
15. Asked if his blood pressure was all right with such late-game drama, Francona said, “Probably not. But as much as my body hurts, I don’t think I could give it up because of what if feels like to go through that with a team you really care about. That’s really gratifying. We used everybody, all our positions players, everybody in our bullpen pitched today.”
16. There is also the Indians’ mystifying ownership of A’s closer Jim Johnson. Johnson took both of the A’s losses in the series and is now 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA and five saves in 17 appearances against the Indians.
17. Starting his ninth season, the previous eight with the Baltimore Orioles, Johnson has compiled 122 career saves. He signed a one-year, $10 million contract for 2014.
18. “The less we see of him the better because that means they’re winning and he’s good,” Francona said of Johnson. “Sometimes when you keep playing, you find a way to win. He’s really good. You’re going to look up and see a lot of saves.”
19. Aviles assumes Johnson’s numbers against the Indians are just one of baseball’s flukes. “He doesn’t have a problem saving games, that’s for sure,” Aviles said. “He’s had 50 the last two years. You hit a closer like that, it’s more of us honing in and locking in to the situation because you know he’s a really good closer. It’s more trying to bear down and force him to throw pitches we can hit.”
20. “It’s crazy,” Swisher said of Johnson’s ERA vs. the Indians.
21. Aviles may need to see his two-run laser shot just over the wall in left field in the fourth inning a few more times to believe it cleared. “As soon as I hit it I took off running because I hoped it would hit the wall and carom around,” Aviles said. “As soon as I looked up, it was going out. I’ll take it.”
22. Arguably, the at-bat that won the series either belonged to Kipnis in the ninth or Aviles in the fourth. I lean toward Aviles’ because the Indians had lost the first game of the doubleheader 6-1 and fell behind 2-0 in the first inning of the second. “That can be deflating,” Aviles said. “In a doubleheader the last thing you want to do is get on that plane after losing two.”
23. The Indians have played three games and had three instant replay situations, although Monday’s was prompted by the crew chief, not by either manager. In Wednesday’s nightcap, Aviles was called out trying to steal second in the sixth inning, but television showed that the tag by Nick Punto clearly missed Aviles. He jumped up mouthing the words, “He didn’t touch me.” Francona challenged and the call was overturned.
24. “I slid and I definitely didn’t get tagged,” Aviles said. “I was hoping Tito was going to come out. I was going to do anything I could, jump up and down, wave him down and hopefully (get) replay. Fortunately it worked out. That’s exactly the whole point of the replay system. There’s a lot going on. Umpires are human. It’s a good thing we have replay to help out. In that situation, maybe he couldn’t see the play.”