After waiting a harrowing hour and a half to be rescued from being trapped in a hotel elevator late Thursday night, sitting through a two-hour and 26-minute rain delay before the start of Saturday’s game must have felt like a luxury to Scott Kazmir.
It took fire department personnel and elevator mechanics 90 minutes before Kazmir was pried loose from the steel grip of malfunctioning Elevator No. 2 at Minneapolis’ swanky JW Marriott hotel. So, hanging out in the warm, dry and comfortable confines of the visiting clubhouse at Target Field until the rain let up Saturday afternoon was no big deal in comparison.
At least that’s the way it appeared, as the veteran left-hander went on to limit the Twins to one run while scattering six hits and striking out 11 over six innings to lead the Tribe to a 5-1 victory.
The Indians win, coupled with Tampa Bay’s loss and despite Texas’ win, put Cleveland n sole possession of first place in the American League Wild Card race. That means no matter what happens in the Tribe’s regular-season finale against Minnesota Sunday at Target Field, the Indians will still live to see another day (the worse-case scenario being the teams locked in a three-way tie).
Once glance at Twins starter Cole De Vries’ ERA – 11.70 – entering the game indicated it might be another big day at the plate for the Indians. Yet the right-hander dominated the Tribe batsmen the first time through the order, retiring the first 11 batters he faced – seven via strikeout – and did not allow anything to be hit out of the infield.
But whatever issues the Indians offense had with De Vries were quickly solved as as he faced them the second time through the order.
With two outs in the fourth inning, the Indians finally recorded their first hit off De Vries via a Jason Kipnis flare into shallow left center field. But right after the innocent single, Carlos Santana opened the flood gates by drilling a 405-foot home run to right field to hand the Tribe a 2-0 lead it would never relinquish.
Minnesota got a run right back in the bottom of the inning when Eric Fryer smacked a two-out RBI single to right field to trim the Indians lead in half. But with two on and two out, outfielder Michael Brantley helped Kazmir get out of the jam and avoid more damage with a running catch in the left-center gap to rob Pedro Florimon of extra bases.
As tends to happen when teams are going good, a controversial play at the plate went in favor of the Indians in the fifth. Home plate umpire Larry Vanover ruled a sliding Mike Aviles safe at home plate despite the throw beating him and replays showing catcher Fryer tagging him on the back of the foot on Michael Bourn’s two-run triple that gave the Tribe a 5-1 advantage.
The Indians only managed one more hit the rest of the way against three Minesota relievers, but it didn’t matter. After Kazmir’s outing was done, Tribe relievers Mark Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Joe Smith combined to hold the Twins offense hitless over the final three innings to preserve the four-run deficit.