In most games when an opposing pitcher strikes out 11 batters, it would put him in line for a win.
But that wasn’t the case for the Tampa Bay Rays Friday, even as starter Jake Odorizzi had Indians hitters in tied up in knots through the first five innings, recording a career-high 11 before giving way to the bullpen.
Odorizzi, who nearly doubled his previous career high strikeouts (six against Toronto last May), left the game with a 2-0 lead after throwing 101 pitches. But it didn’t take the Indians long to take out their early plate frustrations on the Rays bullpen, pounding five relievers for six runs in a 6-3 victory at Tropicana Field.
Three of the Indians hits came via home runs, much to the delight of the loud and large crowd of Tribe fans sitting behind the visitor’s third-base dugout. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the sixth inning with a solo shot that put the visitors on the board in the sixth. Michael Brantley and Mike Aviles followed with homers of their own in the Indians five-run seventh, including Aviles’ three-run shot that put the game out of reach.
Just four pitches after right-hander Brad Boxberger replaced Odorizzi, Cabrera’s homer marked his eighth hit (including five of the extra-base variety) over his pervious nine at bats – including Thursday’s controversial near cycle. Before his current hot stretch, Cabrera had hit just five extra-base hits in his previous 87 at-bats.
But Boxberger lasted just three more hitters after issuing a walk to Yan Gomes, hitting Lonnie Chisenhall and then an Aviles sacrifice that put both runners in scoring poisition with the top of the Indians order due up. Rays left-hander Jake McGee came on to settle down the Tribe briefly by getting the final two outs of the inning.
Brantley needed only two pitches in the seventh against Joel Peralta to record his seventh home run of the season that knotted the score, 2-2.
Rays manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen yet again after a Cabrera seeing-eye single through the the left-side of the Rays defensive shift. But the Rays’ Brandon Gomes gave up a RBI single to the Indians’ Gomes that put the Tribe ahead 3-2. Aviles’ three-run shot put the game away for good.
The Rays had gone through five pitchers by the time Indians starter Corey Kluber’s night was over. Over 6 2/3 innings, Kluber limited the Rays to single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. He scattered nine hits, struck out nine and did not issue a walk to improve his record to 3-3 on the season.
John Axford came on in the ninth for the Indians to get a little work in a non-save situation and quickly struck out the first two hitters. But then the Rays staged a mini rally that kept their fans in it until the last out. Axford gave up a double to eight-hole batter Logan Forsythe, walked nine-hole hitter walked Ryan Hanigan, gave up a RBI single to lead off man Dejesus and then walked Ben Zobrist to load the bases.
But Indians manager Terry Francona called for Cody Allen, who allowed Loney to work a full count before getting him to hit a towering pop up to David Murphy in right field to preserve the win and record his first save of the season.