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Indians Indians Archive Rotation Hopefuls Shut Down Cubs
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Chisenhall batsIt was a good day in Mesa for two Indians pitchers battling for spots at the back of the rotation, as the Indians beat the Cubs 9-2, their second victory at HoHoKam Stadium in six days, behind seven strong combined innings from David Huff and Zach McAllister.  The two hopefuls allowed two runs on seven hits, without surrendering a walk and striking out five.

David Huff got the start for Terry Francona on Saturday, and it looked as though it might be a rough day for the Tribe’s 2006 first-round selection.  After Cubs starter Chris Rusin set the Tribe down in order in the first inning, lead off man David DeJesus poked a double up the middle.  Hot-hitting prospect Javier Baez hit his 2nd home run of the spring to center field to give Dale Sveum’s club a 2-0 advantage.  Huff bounced back to retire the side on a couple of ground balls and a Nate Schierholtz swing and miss.

Huff allowed just two hits after the Baez dinger; a Johermyn Chavez double in the 2nd inning that he was able to pitch around and a Baez single on pitch that Huff jammed him on, that just landed where the Indians were not, in the 3rd inning.  Huff was confident that if he’d seen Baez a 3rd time, he’d have known how to handle him.  Familiarity, or lack thereof, with some of these National League hitters proves difficult for Tribe pitching, as they get ready for the 2013 season. The Tribe lefty erased Baez when he caught him leaning for the caught stealing with Wellington Castillo at the plate, then got Castillo looking on the 7th pitch of the at-bat.  Huff got up on Castillo 0-2 before falling to 3-2.

If there was any way to look down on Huff’s day, it’s that he either, got up in the count early and lost the hitter or, when he wasn’t getting first-pitch strikes, he had to battle back.  He faced 12 batters through 3 innings, which got the pitch count up, and threw 47 pitches.  32 of them were strikes; by my math, that’s about 68%, which Huff says is about average.

Zach McAllister threw four innings of solid relief, striking out 3 of the 14 batters he faced.  Though former Indian Luis Valbuena managed to punch a two-out single up the middle, no damage was done for the former Yankee product, getting Schierholtz looking, after falling behind 2-0, and he froze Chavez on strike 3 to end the 4th.  McAllister threw the pitches he wanted when he needed them, finishing off all three of his strikeouts on the fastball, and getting a big groundball out to finish the Cubs off in the seventh inning.

Brian Bogusevic singled with one out after the stretch, which is far different going into the bottom of the 7th inning at Wrigley Field than it is in Mesa.  The Cubs starting first baseman Brad Nelson came to the plate with two groundouts in his back pocket already and gave McAllister the 4-6-3 double play he was sought.

One thing McAllister got that Huff did not on Saturday was run support.  Rusin had faced the minimum through two, and Cedric Hunter ground ball to Baez at short had it looking like he wouldn’t give anyone in the Indians lineup a second look at him through three, but the ball got through for a single.  Michael Bourn grounded out to second base to end the third inning, which was the end of Rusin’s day.

The Tribe had a little more luck with the sticks for Zach McAllister, starting Jason Kipnis’s solo home run off of Brooks Raley that cut the Chicago lead to 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning.  Raley set the next three Indians batters down in order, including Nick Swisher’s second strikeout of the day.  Things got a little worse for Raley in the Tribe half of the fifth; Lou Marson worked a lead off walk, before Ezequiel Carrera’s flyout to center field.

Carrera would be the last Tribe batter that Raney faced not to reach first base.  Juan Diaz singled to bring Marson home from second, after a Castillo passed ball.  Hunter and Bourn went back-to-back with base knocks for the Indians’ 2nd and 3rd hits of the inning to give the Indians a 3-2 lead, before Sveum said “uncle”.  Alberto Cabrera got Kipnis to ground into the 4-6-3 double play to stop the bleeding, but it was only temporary as Cabrera had his coming too.

The Indians broke things wide open in the 6th inning, scoring five times in an inning that saw Francona empty his bench.  Jason Giambi took 4 wide ones, then Ben Francisco came into pinch-run for him.  The pinch-runner went from 1st to 3rd, which Francona says is something they’ve been working on, on a Nick Swisher single.  Enter Mike McDade for Swisher on first base and eventually at first base defensively.   Francisco scored on a Lonnie Chisenhall sacrifice fly to deep left field.  That brought up Lou Marson with McDade still on first, but the big first base prospect was erased, attempting to steal second.

Marson drew a two-out walk, and he went 1st to 3rd on Carrera’s single.  Then, it was time for Carrera to generate some offense with his speed; “That’s his game,” Francona would comment after the game.  He took second base and advanced to third when Baez failed to catch the throw from the Cubs catcher.  Marson scored to make it 5-2, and Cedric Hunter blew this one wide open with an Earl Weaver special 3-run jack after Juan Diaz walked.  It was 8-2 Tribe when Tim Fedroff, in for Bourn, struck out to end the inning.

Francisco would double in the eighth and come around to score on a McDade single.  That made it 9-2, which stuck for the final two and a half innings on Saturday.  Matt Albers worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and only an Alberto Gonzalez walked prevented Joe Martinez from facing the minimum in the ninth.

The Tribe is back in action on Sunday at their home field in Goodyear, where they will take on the Texas Rangers, who beat them soundly in Surprise last week.  The first pitch is at 4:05 ET/1:05 AZ; Carlos Carrasco will throw it.  Ron Washington will counter with Robbie Ross on the bump for the Rangers.

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