Yan Gomes belted two home runs for the Cleveland Indians, the second one a two-run shot in the sixth, and the Tribe went on to stun the San Francisco Giants 12-11 tonight at Goodyear Ballpark, under warm clear skies. Though the Giants scored four runs in the top of the first inning and led at one point, 6-1, the Indians came storming back in the third to score seven more, taking a 9-6 lead. Before fans had recovered from Cleveland’s third-inning onslaught, the Giants reloaded and erupted for another five in the top of the fourth, to take a precarious 11-10 lead.
Cleveland pitcher Zach McAllister got rocked in the first three innings for six runs on nine hits, with two walks and four strikeouts, but Ryan Vogelsong got torched even worse, allowing a total of nine runs on eleven hits in just two and two-thirds’ innings. Whether it was because the two teams were playing in an American League park or not, I do not know, but this was a different brand of baseball than what I have been seeing thus far.
The two teams scored in seven of the first eight half-frames of the game, racking up 21 runs on 27 hits. There were a total of six home runs and six doubles, with three walks handed out for good measure. If there is a bright spot for Giants’ pitching in these first four innings, it’s that they did not walk any batters. By the time the game was over, and the calculators were put aside, the totals for Indians were 12 runs, 20 hits, 1 error and 8 left on base, while the Giants had 11 runs, 17 hits, 1 error, and 12 left on base.
For Vogelsong, when things began to fall apart in the third, modern technology was almost incapable of keeping up with the carnage. There were already two outs before the Indians even scored once, and yet they went on to hammer Vogelsong for seven runs altogether in the inning. The big blow was a three-run blast off the bat of Jeff Francoeur, but there were also run-scoring doubles by Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera, and run-scoring singles by Bryan LeHair and Jason Kipnis. Daryl Maday finally got the last out for the Giants when he induced Carlos Santana to fly out to left fielder, Juan Perez.
Before the Indians could even get comfortable after scoring their third-inning touchdown, Colt Hynes came on to pitch in the top of the fourth, and San Francisco kicked it into gear again. Brandon Belt singled, Hunter Pence doubled him to third, and then after Hector Sanchez knocked in his third run of the day with a sacrifice fly, Brandon Hicks made everyone forget about Vogelsong’s meltdown, by homering over the left-center wall, making the score now 11-10.
Vinnie Pestano opened some eyes in the fifth, by convincing three consecutive Giants’ batters to take called third strikes. I couldn’t see the action, but it sort of reminded me of Little League days, when those bats would remain stationary. Still, it’s pretty electrifying when a pitcher puts on that kind of a performance. Along with Pestano, four other Cleveland pitchers, Blake Wood, Lee Chen-Chang, Scott Atchison and Brett Brach went on to shut out the Giants over the last five innings, Brach getting the save.
For the Giants, Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, Pence and Sanchez had two hits apiece, with Pablo Sandoval, Tyler Colvin and Sanchez each hitting home runs, and Sanchez knocking in three altogether. But even though the Giants did go ahead in the fourth, 11-10, Santiago Casilla gave up a two-run jack to Yan Gomes in the sixth to put the game on ice.
The San Francisco Giants fielded an intriguing lineup tonight against the Indians, one that in a different universe might have fared reasonably well, especially when playing in a cavernous ballpark like AT&T. With an infield of three-fourths regulars, the Giants elected to start Brandon Hicks at second. This kid brought his Grade A Sneakers with him to camp and he has been lighting up the tabloids with his fine showing. His three-run homer in the fourth gave the Giants a temporary one-run lead.
In the outfield, along with Hunter Pence, were Tyler Colvin and Juan Perez, both in the hunt for a fifth outfield spot. Each had an extra base hit in that explosive first inning, Colvin’s a two-run homer that gave the Giants an early 2-0 lead. Both Sandoval and Sanchez went deep to start off the third, when the Giants took a 6-2 lead.
It was a tale of two games, one filled with furious action and one quite the opposite, but in the end the Tribe retained the best record in the Cactus League, while the Giants will try and forget that it was their fifth starter out there tonight. That’s our job in the spring; believe me when I say that after tonight, forgetting is the best thing we can do.