7:01 PM – So tonight it’s Justin Masterson going against Phil Hughes. And if I recall correctly, the Yankees have a few left handed bats in their lineup, against whom Justin has been known to struggle. For his career, Masterson has allowed left handed batters a .284/.364/.423 line, which is pretty scary.
But Masterson’s been on a four-game tear lately, so we can pretty much boil this one down to how he performs. Pregame, Cleveland is +160 to win this game, which might be odds I’d consider. Might.
I also might be a degenerate.
7:09 PM – Have we documented in this space the degree of contempt I maintain for the “Bleacher Creatures” of Yankee Stadium? If not, let it be said, let it be written: they are losers. Along with all “Let’s Go, BLANK BLANK!” chants and grownups doing wave, the Bleacher Creatures seem childish and hollow in the worst way: they demand conformity and resist creativity. In short, they epitomize all that I disdain.
7:15 PM – Choo leads off the inning with a walk, but both Cabrera and Santana pop out weakly. Along with a Kipnis fly out to right, that ends the inning.
I have a feeling we’ll know quickly whether or not Justin has his good stuff tonight.
7:21 PM – Despite looking impressive against both Jeter and Granderson, Justin walks A-Rod on five pitches, which is generally not a harbinger of good things to come. On top of that, he’s now facing a lefty in Cano. I hate walks, and among AL teams, only the Blue Jays’ rotation has issued more. No team in baseball has a worse K/BB rate among starters than the Indians. I again would like to point out that these things DO matter, even for non-strikeout pitchers. Maybe even ESPECIALLY for non-strikeout pitchers.
7:25 PM – Masterson gets out of it on a little tapper down the third base line that required a good deal of athleticism from our Jamaican hurler. 0-0 through one.
7:30 PM – I have quite a bit of Indians’ miscellany on my mind tonight, so please excuse the occasional rambling sidebars that I’m quite certain I’ll be writing this evening. In fact, let’s go ahead and get to one right now.
The STO team just mentioned that Carlos Carrasco pitched a bullpen session today, which reminded me of what this rotation should have been coming into this season. Carrasco was our only strikeout pitcher before he got hurt, and while the addition of Ubaldo was supposed to have added to that pile, we all know that didn’t quite go as planned. On top of that, we planned on slotting Fausto Carmona into this rotation. Not only does that guy no longer exist, but his doppelganger still isn’t allowed in the country.
I guess I’m saying that perhaps I should stop knocking this starting rotation so vociferously. There aren’t a lot of teams who can effectively lose two of their top five pitchers and manage to throw new arms into the mix with any degree of success. In other words, depth, piles, etc.
7:49 PM – After the Tribe goes down again fairly quietly in the top of the second, the Yankees take the lead on what can only be classified a dubious call. But it should never have gotten that far.
Let’s summarize, counting the things that really matter: Teixeira leads off the inning with a walk. He scores on what may have been a foul ball with two outs. Granderson follows that by driving in two with a double to left-center.
Switching out the leadoff walk for an out1 would’ve resulted in a scoreless inning. Instead it’s 3-0 Yankees. And Masterson’s thrown 58 pitches through two innings (h/t @WFNYTD). Wheeeee!
7:59 PM – Gosh that was disheartening. After Hannahan and Chisenhall lead off the inning with back-to-back singles, Choo grounds into a double play and Cabrera flies out to right to end the nascent threat. You tend to think that with as many batted balls as this lineup produces, it’s bound to generate some runs sometime soon. Then again, we’ve scored five runs in our last 30 innings. Yuck.
8:12PM – More ramblings…
So Chris Perez opened his mouth again, this time to the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner. I don’t know if Perez is trying to get run out of town, and I don’t particularly care. I’ve wanted to trade him for two years now, so I’m guessing my take isn’t worth a hill of beans.
Anyway, I don’t think I really care about the stuff his said about the Browns or LeBron James. I understand if you do, but I just can’t bring myself to sink any more emotional energy into our hirsute loudmouth.
What I actually found most interesting in the piece (and what Matt and Rick were just talking about) was what Chris had to say regarding run differentials:
“It’s been kind of weird, honestly,” closer Chris Perez said. “If we’re ahead after five, we win. And even if we’re down by one or two, it seems big. It’s just one of those anomalies.
“When we get beat, we get beat. It’s usually big runs. And when we win, it’s close. The run differential is not going to be there.”
Yeah. He knows that’s not sustainable, right? There is no evidence that a team can win all its close games while getting blown out in all the others en route to a winning record. What’s happened so far this season in close games is almost certainly flukey—after all, we don’t even have the karma-wunderkind of Orly Cabrera on the roster, so how could this stretch possibly be grit-related? The point of the run-differential is that you’ve played losing baseball, on the whole. We understand you’ve lucked into some wins, but we must make this clear: HOPING FOR GOOD LUCK IS NOT AN REASONABLE STRATEGY FOR A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL TEAM.
So yes, feel free to be upset by Perez’s feelings on the Browns or LeBron. I’ll continue to be amazed by his inability to separate luck from skill—something he’s built a fairly lucrative career on, if you ask me.
By the by, Masterson sent the Yanks down in order in the bottom of the third, and Hughes returns the favor in the top of the fourth. Still 3-0 Bombers heading to the bottom half of the fourth.
8:23 PM – Ramble on…
Speaking of Chris Perez and run differentials, much has been made of the fundamental issue Kepner’s piece was really driving at: the Indians’ SHOULD NOT have as many wins as they do based on the runs they’ve scored and those they’ve allowed. I wrote at length about the subject of run differentials and what they mean here, but the point is really simple: you can’t win more games than you lose over the course of a long season by being consistently outscored. Pretty basic, yes? The Indians have been lucky to have won as many games as they have based strictly on their respective levels of scoring and allowing runs.
This premise leads to the (somewhat facile) conclusion that the Indians are not a good team. Now, this could be true, certainly. But it’s not necessarily true. In other words, it doesn’t follow that because the Indians have played poorly, that they are a bad team. There could be gobs of talent that’s just been under-performing so far this year. For instance, Carlos Santana is better than this. Ubaldo Jimenez is better than this. Even Casey Kotchman is probably better than this. So yes, this team can (and might) play better.
But we should be clear: they have not played well this season. They have the good fortune of being within spitting distance of first place. But we must remember, it’s good fortune, not good baseball, that’s put them there so far.
The Indians fail to score in the top of the fifth, stranding another base runner. Were it not for my sidebars, I have a feeling this recap would be nine words long.
8:38 PM – If the Yankees score insurance runs in a game that the Indians have no chance of winning, do they really count?
Another leadoff walk, and one more run that wouldn’t have scored if that walk had been replaced with an out. I know this is a silly game to play, but this game should be a scoreless tie. Here’s the scoring sequence this time:
A-Rod lineout (1 out; could be two)
Cano Single (Granderson to third, one out; should be man on first, two outs)
Teixeira sac fly to center (Granderson scores, two outs; should be inning over, no runs)
Is this logic a bit reductive? Yes, it is. But remember that most players make outs more than 70% of the time when you don’t walk them. It’s a risk worth taking.
8:47 PM – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Indians get two base runners on with less than two outs, but they fail to score as the heart of the order disappoints.
This time the failure falls on Kipnis and Santana after Choo and Cabrera had one-out singles off Hughes. Watching Carlos struggle through this slump is like watching a car crash while passing kidney stones: it’s painful as hell but you can’t look away. He is not the same guy he used to be. Not close.
It’s still 4-0 Yankees, heading to the bottom of the sixth.
8:52 PM – Masterson gritted his way through the sixth, but he’s at 114 pitches now, so you have to think his night is over. His line: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 K, 3 BB and a reminder that two of those walks led directly to his four runs allowed. I’ll stop now. Maybe.
9:03 PM – Ridiculous. Lead-off double from Brantley. He doesn’t score, of course: Damon ground out, Kotchman pop-out, Hannahan foul-out.2 Our lineup is infuriating right now.
9:09 PM – A-Rod home run off Tony Sipp. Sipp has now allowed four home runs in his last 5.2 innings pitched. A variation on our theme: he’s struggling. Yankees take a 5-0 lead through seven innings. Turn out the lights….
9:18 PM – Hannahan plays the role that Manny Acta probably should have, going after the third base umpire for missing the call on the foul out from the previous inning.3 This results in Hannahan’s ejection, which is sad and silly.
Good for Jack, rah-rah, bad for Manny for not sticking up for your guys, and not cool from the 3B ump for over-reacting. Agreed, yes. But there’s a whole forest of bad baseball out there tonight, and just one tree of a bad call that I’m sensing is going to get too much attention due to some over-zealous copy-writers…
9:23 PM – Oh hey, you guys! Nick Hagadone is struggling! Lead-off single to Swisher followed by an Andruw Jones single to right and a Carlos Santana passed ball sets up second and third with nobody out. I was going to write a footnote about Carlos Santana, but then realized I have thousands of words built up for him that will have to become its own post. Needless to say, I’m not pleased.
9:30 PM – Yankees score again, but only once, making it 6-0. But after the start to the inning I just described, I suppose that was rather merciful of them.
9:33 PM – This is one of those win-win situations: either the game ends quickly, and I get to go to bed or it takes a long time and the Indians come back. I really am an eternal optimist at heart. I swear. Let’s zoom in here.
9:34 PM – Kipnis leads off by ripping a ground-rule double to centerfield off Cory Wade. I guess we should note that the Indians really have been hitting the ball hard this series. Just been unlucky. And as I discussed above, perhaps they’re “due” for an unlucky streak.
9:36 PM – Santana grounds out to second. I need to create a macro that writes that sentence so that I don’t develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
9:37 PM – Brantley fouls out to third base. As Rick Manning noted, “If he touches it with his glove, he’s gonna give it to you.” Taking this quote out of context makes me uncomfortable. Two down, Damon coming up.
9:38 PM – Damon bloops a gift single to center to score Kipnis from second. Shut out broken up, 6-1 Yankees. Champagne is quite obviously in order. Kotchamn with the chance to make the last out two nights in a row.
That’s six runs in 36 innings for YOUR Cleveland Indians, by the way.
9:41 PM – Kotchman knew that I had a joke all planned out, so he smacks a single up the middle, sending Damon to third. Jose Lopez steps up.
9:41:30 PM – Perhaps Jack Hannahan knew what he was doing by getting ejected? In his stead, Lopez crushes a ball to left field for a three-run home run. That’s 6-4 Yankees. Again, let’s allow Rick Manning to explain:
“It’s unfortunate that it’s the ninth inning with two outs.”
Preach on, Baseball Prophet. Preach on.
Cory Wade gets pulled for Rafael Soriano. Lonnie, who loved baseball, is coming to the plate.
9:45 PM – Chisenhall grounds out to first to end the game.
You kind of had the feeling that the Indians were eventually going to score here: they were just hitting the ball too hard not to. But Masterson was outpitched. The lineup was outhit. The bullpen couldn’t stop the bleeding. In other words, they deserved to lose that game.
This team seems to be at a crossroads, after losing four in a row for the first time this season. I think I’m less worried than some about what comes next. For instance, I don’t really care if we add a player through a trade. I don’t assume that we’ll be competitive in September. Mostly, I want to see if the players I believe in are worthy of my faith, and I’ll find that out no matter what happens. I believe that Santana can be great. I believe Kipnis can be very good. I believe that Choo has more power than this, and that Masterson can throw more strikes, and that Ubaldo can’t be this bad.
And no matter what the team does at the periphery of the roster, this team will succeed or fail based on the assembled core of Santana, Kipnis, Masterson, Ubaldo, Choo and Cabrera. If those six perform at their peak, we’ll be in a division race. If they don’t, it won’t matter who we add in a trade. So yeah, I’m OK watching this team struggle so that it can become the team I want it to be.
But damn if it’s not hard to watch sometimes.
Tomorrow the Indians send Ubaldo to take on Andy Pettitte at 1:05 PM in hopes of avoiding the sweep. Yikes.
this is not far-fetched, as Teixeira’s batting average is only .254 [↩]