The Indians opened up a three-game set in Oakland last night against the relevant again Athletics. The Indians struck first in a big way, but their starting pitching failed them again as did the bullpen while the offense powered down after the fourth inning in a 6-4 loss.
Zach McAllister started out strong, and for the first three innings, pitched like the guy who has quickly become the most consistent and effective starter after being a Columbus Clipper for a good chunk of the first half of 2012. He scattered a few hits, but he was able to keep the ball on the ground and add a few strikeouts with that low-90’s fastball.
In the fourth inning, the Indians got their first three on base via a Carlos Santana walk, a Michael Brantley double1, and a Jason Donald single. Then, Shelley Duncan worked starter Jason Milone to a full count before he found a fastball to his liking, which he crushed for his first career grand slam. Just like that, Duncan had his 11th homer of the season, the Indians had their second slam of the season, and the Tribe gotten out in front with a 4-run lead.
But2, as has happened so many times this season with the Indians’ starting pitching, McAllister was unable to prevent the Athletics from striking for response runs to negate the offensive effort the past inning. McAllister lost command of the strike zone by falling behind 3-0 to Chris Carter and allowing a single then walking Brandon Moss. After a strikeout of Jonny Gomes, McAllister hung his first of multiple breaking pitches in the inning and surrendered a RBI double to Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, a .167 hitter coming into the game, had four hits in his four trips to the plate. Zach would allow two more on a RBI groundout and a RBI single after being ahead two strikes on Cliff Pennington.
In the fifth, ZacMac finished the job of erasing the lead, letting up one more run almost entirely credited to Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes doubled and then stole third base off the Marson/McAllister battery. McAllister has had a serious issue with holding guys on base this season, and that problem only continued with a pair of steals last night. Cespedes’s steal allowed a sac fly off the bat of Carter. McAllister lasted 6 innings, allowing 8 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts.
With the Tribe bats shut down for the rest of the evening3, the bullpen couldn’t keep the game tied. Joe Smith retired one batter in the seventh only to start the eighth by allowing two to reach base. The Tribe went to their most consistent bullpen arm in Vinnie Pestano. But, for the second straight outing, Pestano struggled and some of his fastballs caught a little too much of the lower half of the plate. Two bloop singles allowed the inherited runners to score, and the Athletics had their lead. Arguably the single most consistent weapon on the 2012 Indians, following up a 21 inning scoreless streak, Vinnie Pestano was the last piece of the foundation to show a crack or at the very least show that he is human after all. The Indians went quietly 1-2-3 in the ninth against Grant Balfour.
Another item of note was Jason Donald starting in left field last night. As our own TD pointed out via Twitter, it seems to show how little confidence that the team has in Donald at third when Lillibridge is in the lineup as well and playing third instead of Donald. Lillibridge is the more experienced outfielder, after all. Donald had a lot of action out in left and seemed to do an admirable job playing balls off the wall and even made a sliding catch in the spacious foul territory heading towards the stands.
Tonight, Corey Kluber takes the hill against former Indian and geriatric sensation 39-year-old Bartolo Colon. It should be a “fun” one.
(Photo: Ben Margot/AP)