CLEVELAND — Teams can be guilty of pressing with two outs. The Indians produce.
On the strength of one gargantuan inning Thursday night, Cleveland breezed by Cincinnati to win 7-1 and complete a two-game sweep of its intrastate rival at Progressive Field.
The Indians, who have been the majors’ best in the department, scored all seven runs with — you guessed it, two outs.
Cleveland entered the night leading the big leagues with an OPS of (.819) and a slugging percentage of (.470) with two outs. The Indians now lead the majors with 119 two-out runs.
“We were having a tough time breaking through,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of his team, which went scoreless over the first three innings before stringing together six consecutive RBI hits off Reds starter Homer Bailey. “That was impressive. We just kept extending the inning. That was really fun to watch.”
It was particularly fun for Cleveland’s starting pitcher, left-hander Scott Kazmir, who worked his longest outing since 2010, and easily his best in eight starts for the Indians.
Kazmir (3-2, 5.13 ERA) allowed just a run on eight hits, while striking out five over seven innings.
“To be able to stretch it out that far, it felt good,” said Kazmir, who didn’t allow a run until the Indians had already exploded in the fourth. “Now, it’s documented. There’s a couple outings that I thought could have gone my way and I could’ve gotten stretched out more.”
“I was really, really impressed,” said Francona, whose team pulled within a halg game of first-place Detroit’s lead in the Central Division. “He just kept sticking that fastball and pitching downhill. It was pretty obvious from the first pitch of the game that he had good stuff.”
Kazmir used that stuff to perfection when he encountered his only real trouble in the third inning.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with one out and had All-Star Joey Votto at the plate, but Kazmir thwarted the threat by getting the Reds’ first baseman to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
“That was a big at-bat right there,” Francona said. “One of the most dangerous hitters in the game, and he gets him to roll one over.”
“That was huge,” Kazmir said. “I knew I could get a ground ball and I made the pitch.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose club swept the Indians in Cincinnati on Monday and Tuesday, left town impressed after the favor was returned.
“They can hit,” Baker said. “The Indians have been hitting since the beginning of time. It’s just a matter of how they pitch. They’ve got an improved team, big time. They aren’t the same team we played last year.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.