CLEVELAND: Even a team playing out the ever-shortening string doesn’t want to blow a seven-run lead, especially when a new manager is at the helm. But in the end, interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. guided the Indians to an 8-5 win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night at Progressive Field.
As a trophy from his first managerial win, closer Chris Perez presented Alomar with a ball. What will he do with it?
“I don’t know,” Alomar said. “It’s all full of beer.”
Alomar has felt stress morph into fatigue the past two days, as Manny Acta was dumped by the club with six games left in the season.
“It was a hard day, yesterday and today,”Alomar said. “That’s because we have a lot of respect for Manny.”
The best place to be, Alomar discovered, was the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the dugout, where he could be enveloped in his favorite sport.
“I just wanted to get to the dugout, so I could relax, and we could play the game,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous, but I was anxious to get the game going. It feels more natural for me in the dugout. I feel comfortable there.”
With the last of the season’s Friday night fireworks shows having abused the last eardrum, it was up to the team to provide the entertainment for the home fans. And the Tribe delivered, scoring eight runs in five innings.
David Huff started and pitched six innings, allowing three runs but only one through the fifth. Huff (3-0, 2.86 ERA) was far from dominating, allowing eight hits but no walks and striking out five.
“Huff did a terrific job, throwing 75 percent strikes,”Alomar said.
Alomar tried a little pregame humor on Huff.
“He told me this is my first game managing, so don’t disappoint me,” Huff said. “He said it with a straight face to make me know about it. But it was good.”
Huff’s mission since being recalled earlier in the month, was to demonstrate to the team’s deep thinkers that he can pound the strike zone with his fastball, an approach that has long been emphasized by various pitching coaches along the way.
“I wanted to throw as many strikes as I could and get off the field so our offense could get out of the dugout,” Huff said.
He gave up a run in the second on three hits, the last an RBI double off the bat of Adam Moore. After retiring 11 of the next 12 batters, Huff broke down briefly in the sixth, giving up a single to Alex Gordon and a home run to Billy Butler.
When Scott Maine gave up two more runs in the eighth, Alomar slipped into combat mode.
“When K.C. came back and we led by three, I figured I’d have to do some thinking and talk to the guys [coaches] in the dugout,” Alomar said.
The Indians had put a scorching hurt on Royals starter Will Smith, who limped through three innings, giving up nine hits, six runs and two walks. In a broad sense, he was a disgrace to left-handed pitchers, who have dominated the Tribe all season.
But the Tribe didn’t leave out the Royals’ bullpen, which gave up two runs and seven hits in five innings.
It was that relatively rare game in which the Indians were able to string hits together.
That started in the second, when Lonnie Chisenhall, Brent Lillibridge and Ezeqiuel Carrera each singled for one run; and the consecutive hits streak reached five with Shin-Soo Choo’s double and Cord Phelps’ single, producing two more runs.
Phelps’ place in the lineup was one of the first managerial decisions made by Alomar.
“We decided to put him in the second spot because that’s where he was comfortable in the minors,” Alomar said. “Mike Sarbaugh and I talked about that.”
Sarbaugh was Phelps’ manager in Triple-A Columbus, and will act as Alomar’s bench coach until the end of the season. Phelps responded with three singles and one RBI.
The Tribe scored once in the third on Russ Canzler’s single and Chisenhall’s two-out double. Three more hits in the fifth, including Jason Kipnis’ two-run single, produced the rest of the Tribe’s scoring output.
“We’ve been playing pretty decent the last four or five days,” Alomar said. “Guys have seen so many lefties, they’re starting to figure them out.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.