The Tribe finished up their second West Coast trip of the young season with a three-game set in Anaheim. For some odd reason, its the second time the Indians have played the Angels at The Big A (MLB’s scheduling always makes no sense) and they certainly are glad they won’t have to face them again anytime soon.
Just as they did in the first series, the Tribe lost two of three to the Angels, but the games were all unbelievably close. Sunday’s game was the capper; a 6-5 loss where the Baltimore Chop was renamed “The Anaheim Chop.”
Though the Indians lost two of three, they finished the trip 3-3 against the two best statistical pitching staffs in the AL. I said beforehand 3-3 would be a positive trip before it started so I will take it. Sure, I’m greedy, I would have loved 4-2 and was disappointed with yesterday afternoon’s outcome, but at 22-11, the Indians could play .500 ball the rest of the way and still be in great shape for the playoffs.
Where to start….
I have never seen a series in which a team had more infield hits. The PD’s Paul Hoynes said “sixteen of the Angels 34 hits this weekend never left the infield.” STO’s Rick Manning said they had 11 “infield hits.” Maybe there is a distinction between the two, but regardless the infield hit killed the Indians all weekend and was LA’s best friend.
The worst came with the Tribe leading 4-3 with two outs in the eighth inning yesterday. With a man on second, Mark Trumbo’s high chopper off the dirt went over reliever Joe Smith’s head and Orlando Cabrera’s threw was just a hair late to keep the rally going. To make matters worse, Peter Bourjos hit Smith’s next pitch square off the plate. The ball bounced probably 30 feet in the air and all Smith and the rest of the infielders could do was stand there and wait for it to come down. When it did, the speedy Bourjos was easily on first and the score was tied.
“It’s a frustrating feeling,” said Smith. “All you can do is watch.”
As they had done all series, the Angels took advantage of the extra outs. Erick Aybar’s two-run double off of Smith was the difference in the game.
“When I played, I got some hits like that. The dirt in front of home plate is really hard,” said OC.
A tired bullpen got no rest this weekend. Like the Oakland series, every game against the Angels was close, therefore the bullpen got another workout.
In Friday night’s 2-1 loss, Justin Masterson went seven innings, but this 11 inning affair came a day after a 12 inning marathon in Oakland. Raffy Perez, Vinny Pestano, and Joe Smith all worked for the second straight day. Tony Sipp and Chris Perez were unavailable, and Chad Durbin had gone two innings in Oakland on Thursday as well. Acta had no choice but to use long-man and little used righty Justin Germano.
Germano faced four batters and gave up four hits.
In Saturday 4-3 win, once again the bullpen was called upon in a close game. Alex White went six innings, throwing 100 pitches, so he was not coming out for the seventh. Sipp, Pestano, and Chris Perez closed out White’s first career win with three scoreless innings. Pestano worked his third straight game.
Then yesterday, Fausto Carmona was brilliant for seven innings, but looked to be out of gas. In line for a win after the Indians took a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth, Manny Acta went to Raffy Perez and Smith. Save for the lucky infield hits with two outs, Perez and Smith had done their jobs.
The positive: Look at how many quality options Acta can turn to in late game situations in front of Pure Rage. One day it can be Pestano from the right side, the next it can be Smith. If he needs a lefty, he’s got Sipp and Raffy. It’s a rarity in Major League Baseball these days that the Indians are lucky to have.
The negative: Because of all of these close games of late, the aforementioned relievers are logging a lot of work. Sipp and Chris Perez lead the team with 16 appearances each. Pestano and Raffy Perez are one behind at 15. Smith (nine appearances) would be right there if he didn’t spend the first two weeks on the DL. It is definitely something to monitor as we get deeper into the season.
Alex White gets his first Major League win. After watching the rookie work his way out of jams in Saturday’s 4-3 win, it was easy to see why he comes with so much hype. White was hitting 95-97 consistently with his fastball while mixing in his secondary pitches. Seemingly every time he put runners on, he would come back and recover.
In the fourth, Aybar touched him up for a one-out triple. He then pitched around Bobby Abreu and walked him with first base open. White could have easily given in, but instead, he induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Maicer Izturis. In the fifth, two more Angel infield singles from Jeff Mathis and Trumbo opened the frame. Neither player would advance as White retired the next three with ease.
The most impressive came in the sixth. Nursing a 4-2 lead, White walked Torii and gave up a single to Howie Kendrick. Hunter would score on a sac fly but then once again, Trumbo reached on an infield single (is this guy for real?). White had one batter left in him with the tying run on second. On his 100th pitch, he K’d Mathis swinging. He pumped his fist into his glove as he walked off the mound.
Another thing to love about White is his maturity. Read his quotes from after the game. The kid gets it.
“We played well and I was fortunate enough to hold them off long enough to get the bullpen in there. This team is playing so well, I knew it was going to come as long as I pitched well. It’s one of those things you’ll remember forever. I’ll never forget where I was and who I was pitching against.”
“I think the biggest thing was just getting my first start out of the way,” White said. “It wasn’t my debut anymore. It was about winning. It was just a great feeling to be able to go out there and compete today. My job was to get us deep in the game and give us a chance.”
You gotta love this kid. Do the Indians dare send him out in favor of Jeanmar Gomez when Carlos Carrasco is ready?
More good news, the Indians come home for six games. Manny Acta says he loves some home cooking, and who could blame him. The Tribe has won 13 straight at Progressive Field and it feels like they have been on the road for months. By comparison, the second place Kansas City Royals have played 23 games at home to the Indians 15.
A hot Tampa Bay Rays club comes in for three games. Like they did on the West Coast trip, the Tribe will have to face some quality pitching. Ace David Price goes Wednesday and a rejuvenated James Shields will battle them Thursday. Things get started Tuesday night as Josh Tomlin (4-1, 2.43 ERA) looks to rebound from his first loss of the season. He will matchup against Wadsworth’s Andy Sonnanstine (0-0, 2.19 ERA). Yours truly will be in the Social Suite, live-tweeting from the game.