7:33 PM – A bit late getting started here, but luckily we haven’t missed much. Through two innings, both Zach McAllister and Tommy Milone are perfect.
7:35 PM – Oh look. Mike Aviles is playing left field tonight. That’s weird.
I remember thinking when they traded for Aviles that it was all but certain that Asdrubal would be traded and that Aviles would become our starting short stop. That obviously would’ve downgraded our infield: even if you think Cabrera isn’t a great fielder it’s pretty evident he’s a much better hitter than Aviles.
But I remember thinking to myself, Hey self: we could really use some starting pitching on this team, and if trading your starting SS with two years left on a contract that isn’t necessarily cheap would give us a real #2 starter or a young SP stud to dream on I’d probably do it. It’s not like our system lacks for impact SS prospects and it’s also not like Asdrubal is likely to stay in Cleveland beyond 2014 and it’s also not like we have any better trade chips right now and it’s also not like some of the bigger payroll teams don’t have gaping holes at SS right now.
Anyway, that’s how I remember it going in my head. Obviously they moved Choo instead of Asdrubal, and they got more from him than I thought they would. I still wonder what they could’ve gotten for Cabrera last winter, but we’ll probably never know. And to be clear: Mike Aviles is much more valuable as a utility player than an everyday short stop. We’re in a fine place, but that hasn’t stopped me from wondering what could’ve been.
7:42 PM – TD and I have a bit of a running joke regarding Ryan Raburn. TD—who has a brother living in Detroit who witnessed the stinking dumpster fire of a season that Raburn put up there last year—is not a fan of the stylings of Mr. Raburn. He likes to point out how flawed he is (true) and how he isn’t an everyday player (true) and how he’s a fraud who will suck the lifeblood out of a team (seems a bit harsh).
And because TD has voiced such a strong and definite opinion on the matter, I enjoy pointing out to TD each instance of Ryan Raburn’s intermittent success. This is because I am a petulant child. Needless to say, these last few weeks have been fun for me.
Which is just to say: Hey TD, Ryan Raburn just led off the inning with a double off the left field wall and moved to third on a base running play that Rick Manning wouldn’t stop fawning over. AL player of the week, baby!
All for naught though. Yan Gomes and Drew Stubbs couldn’t get him home from third, and this game has officially settled in. Through three innings the game remains scoreless.
8:01 PM – I’ve been on twitter for the last 15 minutes wondering aloud whether Vinnie Pestano’s elbow issues will result in his second UCL replacement procedure (Tommy John surgery). It seems to me—and yes, I know that means nothing—that most elbow issues eventually lead to TJ. Maybe this is true and maybe it isn’t, but the fact that I immediately equate elbow injuries with 15 months off is not a good sign. Furthermore, if it came to that it would be Vinnie’s second UCL procedure, which led me to this piece, which led me to vomit in my mouth.
Meanwhile, despite another leadoff double from the Indians in the bottom of the fourth—this one off the bat of Jason Kipnis—the game remains scoreless through four, due in large part to the Kipper getting picked off in a rather bone-headed fashion.
8:26 PM – This was kind of a stupid inning, but we scored, so I suppose I’ll talk about it.
Santana led off by sending a grounder that deflected off the first baseman’s glove to the second baseman, who then proceeded to throw the ball away giving Santana second base uncontested. Because we started the prior two innings by getting our leadoff man to second, I thought for sure this was a bad sign.
Anyway, after a Raburn groundout that failed to advance Santana (point, TD), Aviles lifted a bloop single to left that moved Santana over. First and third with one out, and no one has hit the ball remotely hard.
Luckily, Yan Gomes hits balls hard. Specifically, he hit this ball hard to deep center field, deep enough to score Santana and give the Indians the 1-0 lead. Drew Stubbs followed with a weak flyout to right. If only he had full-grown arms instead of Stubbs…
Heading to the sixth, the Indians are up 1-0 and while McAllister isn’t exactly dominating (1K, 1BB) he’s been effective, giving up only two hits, both singles.
8:34 PM – I should probably talk here about Zach McAllister in more detail, because that last bit wasn’t as glowing as it should have been. I just tweeted this:
McAllister is an above average pitcher who belongs in the top half of a rotation. We have had, like, two of those guys since Cliff left.
That was after he worked another scoreless inning with another strikeout. So far this season, McAllister has thrown 36 innings with a K/BB ratio of 2.60 and an ERA of 2.75. I predicted before the season that McAllister was due for, if not a breakout season, then at least some real and tangible improvement. He’s always had pretty good K/BB ratios and he’s never been particularly “lucky” in regard to BABiP, strand rate or HR/FB tendencies. In other words, it was a smart bet to say that he’d be better than he had been.
That’s not to say that a 2.75 ERA is sustainable with a K/BB ratio below 3. But he is an above-average pitcher who gives us a good chance to win every time he takes the mound. He might be the only one of those we have right now.
And by the way, we all give the front office plenty of (well-deserved) grief for some of their short-comings, especially in regard to the drafting failures of this particular millenium. It’s only fair then that we remind ourselves that those same executives managed to turn the stinking corpse of Austin Kearns into Zach McAllister, and then turned him into an above-average Big League starter. They’re far from perfect, but they’ve pulled some pretty impressive coups in the last decade, McAllister not least among them.
Anyway, it’s still 1-0 Good Guys.
8:57 PM – After the Indians go down in the bottom of the sixth, McAllister comes back out for the seventh, allows one hit, strikes out two more, and puts up another scoreless frame. He’s now at 98 pitches on the evening. My tendency would be to pull him now to ensure he has something to feel good about. But on the other hand, I’m wrong about everything, so maybe they should keep him in. So far his line is 7IP, 4K, 1BB, 4H, 0ER. Yes, his BABiP is unsustainably low this season (.248), but that just means his ERA won’t be 2.68 forever. It doesn’t mean he’s not pitching well. He is.
9:05 PM – Excellent. They’re leaving him in to start the 8th. I like that they’re doing the opposite of what I’d do. That’s how little self-confidence I have. I cannot believe I used to coach high school baseball with all this Costanzian self-doubt.
9:05:14 PM – One pitch, one out. Groundout to Kipnis.
9:08 PM – Zach battled through that AB, but got Michael Taylor to fly out to shallow center. Now at 106 pitches with two out in the eighth.
9:11 PM – Oof. After McAllister paints the corner with two strikes, John Jaso drills a single to right on fastball that catches too much of the plate. That’s 111 pitches for McAllister, and he’s done. Francona going to Rich Hill.
McAllister goes 7.2 scoreless innings, and looked darn good doing it. His control was great, and he was down in the zone more often than not. A shame he couldn’t get through the eighth on his own, but that was pretty clearly going to be his last batter. For the season, he now has a 2.63 ERA and a 2.8 K/BB ratio. Them’s pretty good.
9:15 PM – Hill induces a groundout to short to end the inning. Going to the bottom of the eighth, the Indians still cling to their 1-0 lead.
9:27 PM – Jed Lowrie just drilled a ball right to Santana at first base. One loud and well-placed out.
9:28 PM – Cespedes follows by shooting a line-drive single up the middle. The good news is that Chris Perez looks to have decent control on his fastball tonight; the bad news is that the A’s are completely dialed in on said fastball.
9:32 PM – Oh boy, Yan Gomes has a CANNON. Cespedes, no slouch at all, got a good jump trying to steal second, but Gomes had him dead to rights by 10 feet. All of a sudden it’s two down, nobody on. Perez better buy Gomes a steak for that.
9:34 PM – Ballgame! Perez gets Brandon Moss swinging to end it.
The story of this game is Zach McAllister, and I don’t plan on downplaying that. But Yan Gomes drove in the only run of the game and managed to save the game by throwing Cespedes out trying to steal in the ninth. It’s nice when you have games that are won by guys like Gomes and McAllister.1 You still want to rely on your big dogs most of the time, but the periphery needs to step up from time to time, and on good teams that happens.
The Indians now sit two games over .500 and have scored 25 more runs than they’ve allowed, good for the sixth best run differential in the league. Michael Bourn should be coming back in the next week, and outside of Brett Myers impending recovery, things are looking up for the Tribesmen of the North Coast.
Nominally, McAllister is the fourth starter. So I’m technically right, but yes, I see your point: he’s pretty good. [↩]