Stephanie Storm’s final thoughts on the Indians 7-3 over the visiting Kansas City Royals Saturday night, as the Tribe jumped out to an early 6-1 lead and held off a ninth-inning rally to even the weekend series.
1) Rookie starting pitcher T.J. House picked up his first major league win after limiting the Royals to three runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. House was so thrilled to finally notch a win in his seventh big league start, he didn’t mind being stuffed into a laundry cart, wheeled into the shower and doused with beer by his mischievous teammates.
“I’ll take it every time after a ‘W’,” said House with a dimpled grin, his black hair slicked back and still wet from the congratulatory beer shower.
The lineup card from the game and four of the evening’s baseballs had been put aside for House as keepsakes.
“He kept the ball down,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Even when they scored, he kept the ball down for a chance to get a double play. “The only ball that was elevated was the home run (to Danny Valencia in the sixth inning).”
2) House became the first Indians left-handed starter to earn his first career victory since David Huff did June 7, 2009 at the Chicago White Sox. The outing was his second-consecutive quality start and the third overall.
“Every game he's pitched, he's given us a chance,” Francona said. “That's not an easy thing to do. It shows he can compete and get major league hitters out.”
3) In fact, House has limited the opposition to three or fewer runs in five of his seven starts to so far. Even Kansas City manager Ned Yost acknowledged House’s performance.
”He did a nice job of limiting the damage and threw the ball very well,” Yost said. “Every time we got something going, he found a way to put an end to it. He had a nice, tailing fastball, and a nice change-up.”
4) Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to House is his poise. Poise to wait seven starts before finally getting that elusive first win and poise on the mound in general when things don’t go his way.
“I wasn't getting too nervous (about notching a win),” he said. “My job is to go out there and give the team a chance at a win. It came at the right time at home and in front of the fans.”
5) Michael Bourn left the game in the eighth inning with left hamstring tightness after scoring on Michael Brantley’s RBI single. While Francona was quick to say on his own that the injury wasn’t in the same area as the location where the speedy center fielder required off-season surgery, more details won’t be known until Sunday at the earliest. Regardless, the incident marks the fourth this season for Bourn and his nagging hamstring.
6) Before Bourn’s setback, he pulled the Tribe even at 1-1 with a lead off home run in the third inning, marking his third longball of the season. In the fifth inning, he recorded his third outfield assist of the season when he threw out Billy Butler, as the Royals designated hitter tried to advance from first to third on a Valencia single.
7) Jason Kipnisproved his manager correct in the third inning when his RBI double to left center field put the Indians ahead 2-1. Before the game, Francona said we’ll all know when Kipnis’ swing is finally coming around when he begins to hit the ball to centerfield, and left center field. Kipnis finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored and RBI as one of Tribe’s five players with multi hits on the night. He’s also raised his average 12 points over his last 10 games from .241 to .253 – a stretch in which he’s gone 13-for-32 with five doubles, seven runs scored and two RBI.
8) First fans chanted O-H-I-O for Nick Swisher as he came to the plate in his initial plate appearance in the second inning. Then they promptly turned on him and booed heartily after he struck out in his first two at bats. In the fifth inning, Swisher was back to being a hero worthy of thunderous praise when he finally came through with a two-run single with the bases loaded and no outs. Such is the life of a struggling veteran, whose inconsistent defense and spotty offense has turned him into a one-dimensional designated hitter.
Over the last week and a half, Swisher has been taking balls in the outfield as a possible back up position. If Bourn is out of the lineup for any length of time, the possibility of Swisher seeing game time in the outfield increases.
9) In the department of hey-we’ll-take-it-anyway-we-can-get-it - it’s hard to tell if the Tribe racking up seven runs on 14 hits was due more to the offense finally heating up or it simply taking advantage of facing Jeremy Guthrie. Lord knowns the Indians saw enough of Guthrie teeing balls up for years after the club made him their first-round draft pick (22nd overall) in 2002. Either way, the 14 hits were the most in a home game since the Tribe pounded out 17 in their 11-10 victory over the Detroit Tigers May 21.
The middle of the Tribe lineup Saturday combined to go 11-22 with three RBI and five runs scored, with each batter recording a multi-hit effort that was led by Brantley’s three-hit performance.