Tribe hopes comeback win signals turnaround
Murphy hits go-ahead double, combines with Brantley to drive in five
CLEVELAND -- David Murphy pulled into second base and gave a hard clap of his hands. What had been shaping up as a discouraging Easter Sunday at Progressive Field turned into a good day at the ballpark for the Indians.
With his double down the left-field line in the sixth inning, Murphy helped Cleveland overcome a rough outing from starter Carlos Carrasco and avoid a sweep at the hands of Toronto. The Indians picked up a 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays, salvaging a victory to wrap up what had been a disappointing series.
Cleveland is hoping this is more than a one-day turnaround.
"Hopefully, this is exactly what we need to get on a roll," Murphy said. "We hadn't been playing terrible, but we definitely haven't been playing characteristic of ourselves."
The win was certainly welcomed by the Indians, who had dropped seven of nine games heading into Sunday's finale with the Blue Jays. The struggles had reached a point where Tribe manager Terry Francona felt compelled to call a team meeting following Saturday's loss.
One day later, the Indians found ways to overcome some of the issues that have plagued them early on this year. Murphy delivered the decisive blow, but there were a variety of guys who played a role in adding one to Cleveland's win column.
"I think that's probably the best way we are as a team," Francona said. "I think that's the way we're built, to get it across the board."
The turning point on Sunday came via a helping hand from Toronto's bullpen.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was picked off and caught stealing by Blue Jays lefty Aaron Loup for the second out in the sixth inning, providing little hope for a Cleveland club that has been scratching and clawing for runs of late. Then came a lapse for Loup, who issued three straight walks to Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases.
"I guess I just have to say it was one of those days," Loup said. "Chalk it up to one of those rare days where you just kind of don't have it."
The trio of walks set the stage for Murphy, who has been one of Cleveland's top hitters overall -- especially with runners in scoring position -- in the early going this season. Murphy slashed an 0-1 offering from Loup down the left-field line, sending the ball bouncing far enough to give all three baserunners time to score.
The three-run double from Murphy snapped Cleveland's 0-for-15 drought with runners in scoring position, and pushed the Indians to a 5-4 lead. On the young season, Murphy is batting .500 (7-for-14) with six extra-base hits with runners in scoring position, and he has a .342 (27-for-79) average in his career with the bases loaded.
"I thought Murph was an outstanding pickup this winter," Francona said. "He fits everything we're looking for. He's a great teammate and just wants to do the right thing. He's a great guy to have around."
Nick Swisher used a sacrifice fly to plate Lonnie Chisenhall in the seventh for an insurance run.
That was a sufficient cushion for the Indians' bullpen, which finished the job across the final three frames. Closer John Axford did his part in the ninth, earning his sixth save of the season after giving up two singles and a walk to load the bases.
On the final play, Kipnis was positioned perfectly behind second base, where he fielded a game-ending grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion.
"I was glad [third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh] spends as much time as he does looking at the defense," Francona said, "because we had them swung around with a pretty drastic shift. Kip was sitting right there."
The comeback by Cleveland effectively erased the damage done by Carrasco, who now has a 7.31 ERA through three starts this year. The big right-hander was perfect through the first three innings, but then yielded three runs in the fourth and another in the fifth, before bowing out after 5 2/3 innings.
Dating back to June 29, 2011, when Carrasco last won a start for Cleveland, he has gone 0-11 with an 8.28 ERA and 1.98 WHIP in 16 starts. It is worth noting that he missed all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, and he spent a portion of last season in the bullpen. Against Toronto on Sunday, he yielded four runs on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks.
"I think they knew the second time through the lineup what pitch was coming," Carrasco said, "because that's what I did from the first inning through the third. I think I missed my spot twice. ... I think that's the big difference in what I did."
The Indians (8-10) struck first against Jays righty Brandon Morrow, who was charged with two runs on three hits in his five innings. In the second, Morrow watched a 3-2 pitch to Brantley rocket down the right-field line and over the wall for a solo home run. In the fourth, Brantley delivered again, pulling a pitch into right for a run-scoring double that trimmed Toronto's lead to 3-2.
Over the past week, Murphy and Brantley have accounted for 12 of the 17 RBIs that Cleveland has produced as a team.
The Indians know they need more contributions throughout the lineup, and are hoping Sunday can be the win that gets things going in the right direction.
"We're not really clicking on all cylinders," Murphy said. "We know we're going to at some point. We have that sense of urgency to get to the point where we're clicking on all cylinders. A day like today is one of those days that can get you rolling."