CLEVELAND: Indians fans can still dream, can’t they?
Just think of how different the season would have been had the Tribe hit the rest of the American League’s pitchers the way they did that of the Royals, who fell 15-3 Sunday at Progressive Field.
In 18 games with their Central Division rivals, the Walloping Wahoos scored 114 runs, an average of 6.3 per game. To put that in perspective, against the rest of its opponents, the Tribe averaged 3.9 runs.
The Indians scored 15 runs twice, 13 runs and 11 runs once each and eight runs three times against Kansas City. And keep in mind that the Indians rank 13th (second to last) in runs among AL clubs. The Royals are 12th.
Then there’s the bottom line: Despite all of this firepower, the Tribe lost the season series to Kansas City 10 games to eight.
The Indians didn’t need 15 runs to win Sunday, far from it. That’s because Zach McAllister gave up a modest three runs and five hits in 6⅔ innings. He didn’t allow a run until his teammates had furnished him with 11 runs, thanks mostly to a 10-run fifth inning.
“The kid was very impressive,” manager Sandy Alomar said. “He had good sink on his fastball and his slider was sharp.”
McAllister (6-8, 4.24 ERA) was quietly dominating throughout most of his outing. He only struck out two, but he walked just two and put two runners on base in the first five innings.
Whether he lost a little focus trying to check the catcher’s signs through a sea of runs or merely became slightly more vulnerable, McAllister gave up two runs in the sixth on Alex Gordon’s two-run homer, and then allowed another run in the seventh on Tony Abreu’s RBI single.
By that point, there was no reason not to go to the bullpen, so Alomar did.
When hitters who have struggled most of the season suddenly break out in a double-digit display of power, the postgame music in the clubhouse gets turned up a notch higher, and players who customary avoid the media suddenly show up at their lockers.
The 15 runs match the Tribe’s season high, and Sunday was the first time the team had scored 15 at Progressive Field since Aug. 27, 2010. Coincidentally, or maybe not, it was against the Royals.
Alomar sent out a patchwork lineup that did not include Michael Brantley or Ezequiel Carrera.
“We had a couple of guys banged up,” he said. “I just had to throw some guys in there, and we were 9-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Nobody tried to get too big. They just did their jobs. It’s always good to win [a late-season] game when you can give your young guys the opportunity to play.”
The biggest hit of the game was Asdrubal Cabrera’s second career grand slam and first since April, 2009, when he hit his first at Yankee Stadium.
Ironically, Cabrera bunted for a single in his first at-bat of the 10-run fifth. By the time he came up again, the 12th batter of the inning, the bases were loaded with two outs. He picked out a 1-and-1 pitch and launched a fly ball that cleared the 19-foot fence in left for his 16th home run of the season, pushing his RBI total to 68.
Cabrera had picked up a pattern among Royals pitchers.
“The past couple days, they all are throwing me a curveball, then a changeup then a fastball,” he said. “So I was waiting for that and got the fastball a little in.”
Among the season-high 19 hits were five for extra bases: doubles by Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis, Jack Hannahan and Matt LaPorta, in addition to Cabrera’s home run.
It’s not that Alomar doesn’t relish seeing his guys bang a double off the wall or a homer over it, but the preponderance of singles indicated to the manager that nobody was trying to swing his way into the hall of fame on one pitch.
“Last night we hit some balls hard at people, but some at-bats weren’t so good,” he said.
Choo has been a doubles machine lately with four in the past four games. Cabrera was one of three Indians to produce three hits, Jack Hannahan and Lou Marson being the others. Choo, Jason Kipnis and Casey Kotchman had two hits apiece.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.