7:00 PM – Manny Acta has rejiggered his lineup again for tonight’s game. Since we all know (including Manny Acta) that lineup construction doesn’t really matter all that much from a run-scoring perspective, we can only believe that Acta is trying to send a message. Message recipients in bold:
7:14 PM – Choo just homered off Alex Cobb to right center to lead off the game, but it looks like they’re going to check on the replay.
7:15 PM – I was worried about this. They send Choo back to second base, which is pretty lame, because rather than playing the ball and getting it back into the infield, BJ Upton threw his hands up in the air and complained. Choo would easily have gotten to third on the play, but instead he gets sent back to second base. I think this is the rule–no matter what, if it’s ruled not to have left the park, it’s a ground rule double. Boo hiss.
7:24 PM – We almost didn’t score that inning, which would’ve been pathetic. After Choo was sent back to second base, Asdrubal grounded out to second base, advancing Choo to third. Then Kipnis hit a grounder against a pulled-in infield that didn’t score Choo. Now two outs. Luckily, Cobb followed with a passed ball to score Choo, and a Brantley walk just for good measure. Lopez ends the inning with a strikeout. 1-0 Tribesmen.
7:35 PM – Despite working a scoreless bottom of the first, we might want to note two things regarding young Zach McAllister’s performance. First, he threw 25 pitches that inning; TD requires me to mention first inning pitchcounts in every recap. Second, of those 25 pitches, only 10 were strikes, resulting in two walks. This is not what we call a propitious beginning.
7:54 PM – Rather than discussing the second inning, which was long and boring, let me present three quick points that deal only liminally with today’s release of former first round draft pick Trevor Crowe:
First, here’s a quote from the Indians’ 2010 Media Guide regarding John Mirabelli and his tenure as the team’s Amateur Scouting Director:
From 2000-07 he coordinated and directed the club’s endeavors in the June First Year Player Draft. During his tenure as the head of scouting the Indians drafted players such as Jeremy Sowers, Ryan Garko, Trevor Crowe, Tony Sipp, Ben Francisco, Aaron Laffey, Beau Mills, Jordan Brown, Chris Gimenez, David Huff & Jensen Lewis to name a few.
I’ll remind you that this blurb is meant to be complimentary in nature, which is patently absurd. I’ll also remind you that Mirabelli was PROMOTED to Vice President of Scouting Operations based on the track record outlined therein. Finally, I’ll remind you that the syntactical construction “…to name a few…” is a particularly smug phrase, even moreso in the context of the aforementioned overwhelming failure.
Second, a table presented, without subsequent comment:
|YEAR||1st Round Pick||Career WAR||Indians WAR|
Third, a haiku:
To be the worst pick
Of All, Crazy Eyez Rally
Killa, Takes Mad Skillz
8:01 PM – Back to baseball. For the third inning in a row, the Indians get their leadoff man on, this time by way of a Johnny Damon opposite field double. Since June 1st, Damon is batting .264/.312/.425. Make no mistake: this is not an impressive line for a defensively impaired corner outfielder. On the other hand, it’s probably the best option we have right now. I can’t tell if that’s encouraging or depressing, but it is probably true.
Choo drives Damon home with an opposite field double of his own.
After an Asdrubal strike out and a swipe of third base by Choo, Jason Kipnis drives a double to the gap in right center to score Choo and open the lead up. Still only one out and our cleanup hitter (!) Michael Brantley comes to the plate.
Since June 1st, Michael Brantley has hit .336/.396/.517 (.914 OPS). Do you know the last Indian to have .900 OPS season and at least 400 plate appearances? None in 2011. None in 2010. Not 2009 either. In 2008 Shin-Soo Choo had .946 OPS, but only played about half the season (370 plate appearances). Not even in 2007 when the Indians won more games than any other in baseball did the team have an everyday player with an OPS above .900. Nope, it was 2006, when both Grady Sizemore (.907) and Travis Hafner (1.097) mashed the ball all over the place. That’s how good Michael Brantley’s been over the last month and a half.
Anyway, Brantley walks for the second time tonight, but Jose Lopez hits into some tough luck on liner to third base that doubles off Jason Kipnis. 3-0 Good Guys.
8:48 PM – McAllister, despite having minimal command of his fastball, manages to send the Rays down in order in the bottom of the third, using mostly his changeup.
In the top of the fourth, the Indians meant to continue the onslaught. Except they didn’t. Hafner leads off with a walk, followed by a Santana single 1 , and a Kotchman walk to load the bases with no one out. Let’s pause and consider the following run expectancy chart:
Which means we were expected to score between two and three runs that inning. Here we go….
After a Damon strikeout, Joe Maddon pulls his starter after only 3.1 IP. Choo pops out and Asdrubal strikes out swinging or looking, it doesn’t really matter, since the inning is over and my crest has fallen off.
Since July 1st, Asdrubal is sporting a .143/.192/.184 line. That’s a .376 OPS, kids. Neat.
8:53 PM – As Joni Mitchell once sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that when you can’t score in a bases loaded, no one out situation that the Rays will make you pay in the subsequent half inning?” Anyway, McAllister opens the inning by allowing three straight hits to put the Rays on the board, the third of which drilled McAllister’s pitching arm. Men on first and second, 3-1 Tribe, still no one out.
8:56 PM –It turns out that Joni Mitchell was Canadian, so that song was actually about ice hockey, not baseball. McAllister induces a groundball double play from Desmond Jennings followed by this gem from Asdrubal to end the inning. .376 OPS, but still got glove, it would seem.
9:01 PM – Jason Kipnis leads off the top of the fifth with a double to the left-center gap. This is important for two reasons: (1) The Indians have had their leadoff man reach base IN EVERY INNING SO FAR and (2) the Indians have had FIVE DOUBLES tonight. Needless to say that we should have so many more runs than we have.
9:07 PM – Michael Brantley draws another walk, which is three on the evening. In his last 21 plate appearances, Brantley’s made four outs. Which is re-gosh-darned-diculous. 2 First and second with nobody out.
9:12 PM – You’re not going to believe this, but the Indians found a way not to score again. Jose Lopez grounded into a double play and Hafner popped out to second. Inning over.
9:17 PM – McAllister is now through five fairly uneventful innings. He’s been lucky not to have his hits coincide with his walks, as he’s given up three of each. Nonetheless, 1 ER through 5 IP is nothing to to turn one’s nose up at, regardless of the inciting circumstances.
9:29 PM – Yuck. Asdrubal Cabrera strikes out again. Leaves two base runners on. Again. Indians should have eleventy runs, but don’t. In fact, they have only three. Still 3-1.
9:42 PM – After McAllister sends the Rays down again in the bottom of the sixth, Kipnis leads off the seventh with a walk. That would be eight walks for the Indians tonight. Also, six out of seven of their innings have begun with the leadoff man reaching base safely. THEY. HAVE. THREE. RUNS.
9:51 PM – Strike ‘em out, Throw ‘em out DOUBLE PLAY to end the inning!! This game stinks!
9:54 PM – You can’t say you weren’t expecting it. On the first pitch of the inning, Desmond Jennings takes Esmil Rogers DEEP to left field for a solo HR. 3-2 Indians. This is where we might have been able to use all those scoring chances….
10:00 PM – After retiring Molina and Johnson on consecutive groundouts, Rogers walks Will Rhymes on four pitches. If you’re counting at home, that’s 0.2 IP, 1 HR, 1 BB for Rogers. I’ve seen better outings.
In related news, Tony Sipp enters the game to face Carlos Pena. Joe Maddon, who has evidently not seen Tony Sipp pitch this year, pinch hits Sean Rodriguez. I’m ascared.
10:07 PM – Sipp walks Rodriguez on four pitches, and then throws ball one to Ben Zobrist. Evidently, this is sufficient proof of his (in)abilities, because Acta goes back to the pen for Vinnie Pestano. This is the right move, probably, but you wish that between Sipp, Hagadone, Perez and Barnes you had at least ONE left hander you could count on. We have none. So Vinnie will face a left-handed batter, which is not ideal.
10:10 PM – Vinnie does his Vinnie thing. Strikes out Zobrist on four pitches, which should leave him fine for the eighth inning.
You don’t like to see him being asked to go more than an inning at a time too often, but this was necessary: the team’s lost two in a row and is starting to fall out of the division race. Losing this game would be entirely unacceptable, and you get the feeling that everyone knew it.
Still, there’s two innings to go.
10:17 PM – The Indians buck the trend, and get no one on base before not scoring in the top of the eighth.
10:31 PM – We shouldn’t gloss over the considerable trouble that Vinnie got himself into that inning. But we’re going to anyway, because narratives.
Vinnie struck out BJ Upton and Brooks Conrad that inning. I tweeted this the other night, but it’s worth repeating because of how ridiculous it is. For his career, Vinnie has now faced 237 right handed batters. He has struck out 110 of them. That’s 46%. That’s gross, and more important than a Luke Scott opposite field single. So there.
10:38 PM – You’re never gonna guess what happened, you guys. We got our leadoff man on! Jack Hannahan ripped a single up the middle.
10:38:03 PM – Shin-Soo Choo grounded into a double play. Stop getting your hopes up.
10:41 PM – Asdrubal Cabrera is terrible. Fourth strike out tonight for him. Tenth for the Indians, which means the fans in Tampa get a churro or something.
Inning over. 3-2 Indians heading to the bottom of the ninth. Rage coming on.
10:44 PM – Perez strikes out Johnson to lead off the inning. Two of the four pitches were breaking balls. Slightly odd for CP.
10:46 PM – Will Rhymes grounds out weakly to second base. Two down. I’m truly exhausted.
10:47 PM – Hey look! Hideki Matsui’s ears are still enormous! Anyway, he’s pinch hitting now.
10:48 PM – CP wasted no time this evening, though his competition was, er, compliant. Perez strikes out Matsui looking for his 26th save of the season.
Games like these need to be won, if only because losing them would incite contempt and self-flagellation to rival Dimmesdale. This was an ugly game. But it was an ugly win, which can’t be discounted. And yes, there were positive things to take from it. Getting men on base to begin an inning is a good thing. Pestano and Perez are good things. Kipnis, Brantley, Choo, and yes, even Damon looked like good things.
But let’s not wallpaper over the glaring issues here. Outside of two (maybe three) bullpen arms, this mafia looks short a few firearms. Half the lineup is laughable. If you believe in clutch hitting, we sure don’t have it. This team remains, despite our best hopes, horribly flawed.
Which brings us to the trading deadline. You have to imagine something is in the works, but without any major trade chips, you wonder how much we might be able to land. An addition would be great, but without seriously improved play from the pieces we have, this second half could be rough.
But a win’s a win, and this team needed this one. Tonight they’ll go up against decidedly tougher pitching in Matt Moore. Opportunities cannot be so prodigally tossed aside.