Masterson walked three last night over his five innings pitched, which doesn’t sound terrible until you consider the circumstances. His first walk was issued to the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning, Nick Markakis. Quite obviously, Markakis scored the Orioles’ first run. Masterson’s next walk was issued in the same inning to Corey Patterson, who didn’t score, but extended the inning long enough for Matt Wieters to score the O’s fourth run. Then, to drive the point home, Masterson walked Adam Jones the next inning which allowed Felix-Freaking-Pie to hit a three-run home run.
As Manny Acta would say, “Unfortunately, our two worst enemies showed up: walks and poor defense. That cost us.” He added, “We could have a few more wins if we had 120 less walks and 30 less errors. I know it’s a challenge that we have in front of us, but it’s there and we need to face it. We need to get better at it.”
Sure, the Indians made a costly error last night—a Luis Valbuena booted ball in the fourth—an inning that would eventually plate four Oriole runs. But I have two retorts to Acta’s designation of blame: (1) the Orioles had three errors last night, and we didn’t score 14 runs; and (2) when you play Luis Valbuena at third base, you’re officially not allowed to complain about his defense.
No, it’s the walks that I blame. Maybe three walks in five innings doesn’t sound so bad, but it is—especially with only three strikeouts. Without those walks, the Indians have a good chance to win last night.
Why? Well, for one thing, two of Masterson’s three free passes came around to score. But more than that, walks drive up pitch counts and extend innings. Masterson was one strike away from getting out of the fifth inning with no runs scored and less than 90 pitches on the night. Then he walked Jones and let up the home run, and all of a sudden the Indians were trailing 7-6 rather than leading 6-4. And instead of coming out for the sixth with a two run lead facing the bottom of the order, he surrendered the lead and barely finished the fifth, leaving Tony Sipp, Frank Herrmann, and Hector Ambriz for the Orioles to prey upon.
And prey upon they did. The Orioles hit four stinking home runs last night, three of which came off of our bullpen. Their home runs accounted for nine of their total runs on the night.
Let’s put our bullpen into some perspective: sometimes Tony Sipp is very good, and sometimes he pitches like Joe Borowski—last night was the latter. Sometimes Frank Herrmann looks great, and sometimes I wish he’d just go back to Harvard—last night I was having Ivy League thoughts. But every time I see Hector Ambriz, I know we’re going to lose. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Since May, Ambriz has pitched in TWO games that the Indians have won, and both of those games have been won by five runs or more. During that same time, Ambriz has pitched in THIRTEEN losses. In other words, Hector Ambriz is as useful a pitcher as Andy Marte. And that just stinks.
But let’s get to the good news. We did score eight runs last night: I’ll allow you to recover from your temporary shock. This lineup—sans Santana, Sizemore, Hafner, and LaPorta (he was 0-5 on the night)—managed to score eight runs. Sure, this is partly the byproduct of facing something called a “Jake Arrieta” for a good portion of the evening and a rather porous defense. But still, the Indians had the lead on two separate occasions, and even threatened a minor rally in the ninth.
Who were the bright spots? Michael Brantley reached base safely in three of his five plate appearances, with a homer, an RBI single, a walk, and three runs scored. Now that’s a leadoff man. Jordan Brown contributed with two doubles, while Jason Donald added two hits and two runs scored. We had nine hits on the night and five of them went for extra bases. Not too shabby.
Oh, one more thing. Asdrubal Cabrera made this play. You’re welcome.
The Indians go back to work tonight, sending Josh Tomlin (1-1, 2.79 ERA) up against Brad Bergesen (3-9, 6.26 ERA). Since the All-Star break, the Tribe has won three series, lost three series, and split a four-game set—all against some of the best teams in baseball. The subsequent portion of the schedule (facing Baltimore, Seattle, Kansas City, Detroit and Oakland through the end of this month) should be a good indicator for whether that strong play was a fluke or a sign of things to come.
Last night notwithstanding, I’m believing in the latter.