ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Somewhere around the fourth inning, Cody Anderson realized he was chasing perfection.
“I kind of knew that everything was going pretty smooth,” Cleveland’s rookie right-hander said after taking a bid for a perfect game into the seventh inning of his second major league start on Monday night. “I just tried to keep throwing strikes and keep the approach the same.”
Anderson, facing the Tampa Bay Rays for the second time in eight days, didn’t allow a baserunner until Grady Sizemore homered against his old team on a 1-2 pitch with one out in the seventh. Rather than history Anderson settled for his first major league win as the Indians rolled to a 7-1 victory.
Evan Longoria followed Sizemore’s hit with a single. Longoria reached second base on an error before the 24-year-old Anderson retired the last five batters he faced as Cleveland ended a three-game losing streak.
“That was impressive,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s two starts in, but he’s faced a team for the second time, so they’ve seen him. Last time out, he flipped some good breaking balls. Today, he had a real good plan on his fastball … and he had a real good changeup.”
Yan Gomes had three hits, including a solo homer in the eighth for the Indians, who limped into town after being shut out in both games of a doubleheader at Baltimore on Sunday. Michael Brantley also had three hits, including a RBI single, and Jason Kipnis drove in a run off rookie Nathan Karns (4-4) with one of his three hits.
Anderson, who limited Tampa Bay to six hits over 7 2-3 scoreless innings in his big league debut at Progressive Field on June 21, struck out two without a walk in eight innings. He threw 100 pitches.
It was the second time in less than a week that an opposing pitcher has flirted with a perfect game against the Rays. Toronto’s Marco Estrada took a bid into the eighth inning on June 24 before giving up an infield single to Logan Forsythe in a game the Blue Jays eventually won 1-0 in 12 innings.
Karns also started that game for Tampa Bay, which has lost five of seven. His luck got no better as Anderson dominated.
“It’s a pretty simple approach. He kind of comes right after you with a bunch of strikes,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “When you command the (strike) zone and get ahead, you’re going to have good outings, and that’s what he did.”
Francona held a team meeting at Tropicana Field on Monday afternoon to “remind guys of what we stand for,” and it didn’t take the Indians long to begin putting a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings behind them.
Kipnis doubled on the third pitch of the game and scored on Brantley’s single. The Cleveland lead-off man then singled in the second, driving in Gomes for a 2-0 lead.
The rocky start for Karns came on the heels of his strongest performance of the season. The 27-year-old right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning against Toronto last Wednesday, but the Rays were unable to take advantage of the outing because Estrada was even better for the Blue Jays.
The Indians put together nine hits in six innings against the Tampa Bay starter, but couldn’t give Anderson a bigger cushion to work with because they went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position while Karns was on the mound. The Indians pulled away late when Gomes homered off Kirby Yates and then added four more runs in the ninth – two on wild pitches.
“That game could have been 5-0 in multiple innings,” Cash said. ” It actually felt like we were down by much more than two throughout the course of that game.”
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH
Anderson became the third pitcher to make his first two big league starts against Tampa Bay. Sean Henn did it with the New York Yankees in 2005 and Jimmy Gobble did it with the Kansas City Royals in 2003.
Indians: Francona said OF Nick Swisher (knee) had a light work day Monday after “pretty physical workouts” over the weekend. Swisher is taking batting practice and running in the outfield.
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermaier started after being out of the lineup the previous two games with sore legs. … 1B James Loney (broken left middle finger) took batting practice and could begin a minor league rehab assignment in the next few days. … RHP Jake Odorizzi (oblique) is scheduled to make a rehab start Wednesday for Class A Charlotte.
Rays RHP Erasmo Ramirez (6-2) will making his first start Tuesday night since leaving an outing June 20 against Cleveland with a right groin strain. The Indians counter with RHP Danny Salazar (6-3).
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)