April 19, 2014

Indians 10 Mariners 8: Yan Freaking Gomes and the Mariners Defense – a Lethal Combination

yan GomesI have been to hundreds and hundreds of baseball games in my 37 years on this earth. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a game like this one. The beauty of baseball is that every time out, you may see something you have never seen before. Today was one of those days.

Like the great Mr. Skin says, “Let us fast forward right to the good parts.”

The Indians carried a 6-5 lead into the eighth inning and turned it over to resident set up man Vinnie Pestano, who was activated off the DL Friday. Vinnie is still trying to work himself back into a groove and showed some immediate signs of rust. Kyle Seager hit a rocket shot, no-doubter to the seats in right field to tie the game before Pestano could record an out. The 19,390 fans in attendance sat in stunned silence. However, the Indians still had two more shots to finish off the sweep.

“With this lineup, you can go back in the dugout look guys in the eyes and say, ‘Come on, boys pick me up,’ ” said Pestano. “And they’re all in. It’s not deflating by any means. It’s like, ‘OK, let’s go back to work.’ “

After Oliver Perez and Carter Capps disposed of the Indians in order in the bottom half of the frame, manager Terry Francona called on his closer Chris Perez to pitch the ninth.

The last time we saw CP, he had given up back to back homers in a blown save Saturday, which the Indians eventually came back and won.  It seemed like just a blip on the radar. Mariners skipper Eric Wedge called for pinch hitter Endy Chavez, a slap hitter with 26 homers in 999 career at-bats coming in. Naturally, Chavez took a 0-1 93 MPH fastball over the wall in right-center to put the Mariners on top 7-6. Perez’s long weekend turned longer. The boos didn’t cascade down on him the way he did Saturday, but later we would learn how vicious some so called “fans” can be towards the embattled closer. Perez would walk two before retiring the side.

“It’s a slump — a little slump, mini-slump,” said Perez.  “It happens once or twice a year and you just have to keep grinding, keep trying to make good pitches and get through it.”

The Tribe needed to get to Tom Wilhelmsen if they were going to continue their winning streak. The Seattle closer carried a sparkling 0.50 ERA into the game and hadn’t blown a save in 11 chances. With one out, Jason Kipnis beat out an infield single. After Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, Nick Swisher hit a flair into right field which got down for a hit, moving Kipnis to third. It would be up to Carlos Santana, who has quietly dropped in production over the past three weeks. The Tribe’s catcher/DH/1B has hit just .190 in May with three RBIs. His roller to first base looked like the end, but Justin Smoak’s flip to Wilhelmsen covering the bag was dropped. When I tell you it was an easy play, I mean it was a play that is made 999 out of 1,000 times. The Indians are just that hot. Everything seems to go their way these days.

With new life, they moved onto extra innings. The Tribe bullpen, which had already seen two scoreless innings from Matt Albers in relief of Scott Kazmir, two more from Bryan Shaw, and an inning apiece from Pestano and Perez, turned to their last top tier bullet, Joe Smith. Smitty easily retired the first two men he face but then out of nowhere, Smoak, who had just two homers on the season, tattooed a pitch into the mezzanine seats in right, again putting Seattle on top by a run.

So let me get this straight, the Indians three-headed monster, which has been dominant for close to two and a half years now, was touched up for solo homers in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings? This was the first time that this has ever happened to them in the same game. And the offense was supposed to come back from this again? I mean, how unlikely would this comeback win be?

“You don’t look up very often and see your opponent score in three straight innings and you win,” Francona said. “That was interesting.”

That is why baseball is the best.

Wedge had already used his closer Wilhelmsen, so he turned to lefty Charlie Furbush for the third time in the series to face the bottom of the Indians order. He started by falling behind in the count against Michael Brantley and watched as Dr. Smooth delivered his second hit of the game. Drew Stubbs, brought into the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Raburn (who hit a three-run homer in the second), was sent up to the plate to bunt. He did so, dropping one in front of home plate where Furbush fielded it, bobbled, and fired to first in an attempt to get the speedy Stubbs. Stubbs may have beaten the throw, but it didn’t matter, because Smoak dropped the ball.

It was the umpteenth time the Mariners defense let them down over the four games in Cleveland.

So up to the plate stepped Yan Gomes, the Tribe’s backup catcher and newly minted cult hero. The Yanimal already was 2-4 with a homer in the game while gunning out two Mariner baserunners on steal attempts. With men on first and second and nobody out, Gomes was up there to bunt. He tried not once, but twice. Both times, he failed. He eventually worked the count full. And then, this happened.

The Yanimal’s three-run walk-off homer finished off a game that nobody who was there will ever forget. Just when the Mariners thought they finally had the Indians beaten, the Progressive Field magic took over.

“Moments like that, you just want to get back to your teammates,” said Gomes, “just run around and make sure you don’t miss a base. It was exciting. You just don’t know what to do with your hands. I was like, `Wow, this game’s done.”

Gomes finished the day with three hits and four RBIs. Someone is going to have to explain to me how the organization is going to keep him off this roster in favor of Lou Marson. The Yanimal is here to stay folks, and is a huge part of the deepest Tribe bench in years.

The Indians swept the Mariners in a four-game series which featured three walk-off winners. Three. That is pretty amazing when you think about it and extremely deflating for the Mariners. The Grinder must have been thinking to himself  “this had to happen here of all places? ”

“Best game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Perez. “It was the craziest, most fun … obviously, it stunk to give up a home run, but it was still fun.”

It was the Tribe’s fifth straight win and their 18th in 22 games, extending their first place lead over Detroit to two and a half games as they welcome the Tigers to town for a quick two-game set beginning Tuesday night.  They have won 13 of their last 15 home games and have outscored their opponents 85-45. Tribe fans would love to see more of that against the Tigers, who have their two best pitchers lined up, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The Indians will counter with Corey Kluber and Ubaldo Jimenez.

( photo via Chuck Crow/PD)

  • Trent

    Like the article, but when did we trade Masterson to the Tigers? Haha, might want to put the right Justin in the article.

  • Alan

    Unless the craziest trade imaginable happened today, I’m guessing DET is sending Verlander to the mound this series… Not Masterson

  • stryker1121

    I’m thinking blip on the radar for CP. Velocity was there, location wasn’t. Did anyone ask him about the shoulder today?

  • Hypno_Toad

    Not an Indians article without mentioning the attendance at least once…..

  • Jaker

    There’s no logical way Marson plays over Santana/Yanimal. Gomes needs to be in the lineup more often (When have we EVER said that about Sweet Lou?), getting Carlos more days at 1B, DH and just flat out rest. Reynolds being able to play 3B and Swish playing RF is awesome considering how versatile it is making our lineup.

    On Perez: he’s a good closer, one of the better ones in baseball, but he is in a decline and he is closing in on free agency where he will most definitely go elsewhere (I can’t think of anyone who has ever wanted a change of scenery more than him). That’s the only reason I want him traded. Not because of his twitter remarks, but because he represents value, and we could get a young SP prospect for him. His value was highest a year ago, but has been in deline ever since then. If Shaponetti/Tito think we need him to make the playoffs and (gulp) make a run in the fall, then keep him. But if they think Pestano, Shaw, Allen, Smith or someone else can replace him, well then I think we may be involved in some controversy soon. Remember, an unhappy Nomar was traded during the season Tito brought a WS ring to Beantown…

    But anyway… This is the most fun I’ve had watching the Tribe in 5 years! Roll Tribe! Walk off Windians!

  • boomhauertjs

    Those defensive lapses remind me of the Tribe, circa 2003-2010…

  • Natedawg86

    One of the things that has helped the emergence of Gomes is the poor play by Chiz. This has allowed Reynolds to move to third, and Santana to spend some more time at first/dh.

  • Natedawg86

    2 Blown saves by CLE and they still swept? Pretty awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/mrcdebenz7 DJM

    Anyone making Yanimal T-shirts yet because I’m in line to buy if they are

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’ve got a big boy crush on the Yanimal and I also would like a t-shirt to make sure everyone knows it. Not only is he blasting with the bat, but he’s gunning down runners at an obscenely high rate while calling a solid game from behind the plate. What the heck were the Blue Jays thinking? It’s been said a million times and I’ll say it again… Esmil Rogers for Gomes and Aviles? Unreal.

  • JK

    No s***! This is ridiculous.

  • JK

    Yan should be in the lineup close to everyday at C. He’s hitting very well right now & his defense/throwing out base runners is unreal. DH Carlos & start Yan.

  • Steve

    The Indians have shown that they properly value their pen arms, willing to turn them into something else when a deal presents itself and rarely overpaying. I would guess a Perez deal never happened because there hasn’t been much demand for a closer over the last twelve months. Would you give up talent and $7 million a year (and more next) for him? And I see no way you’re going to get a young SP, unless by young, you mean low minors.

  • nj0

    I’m glad to see Yan playing well and think he has clearly earned the right to be the backup catcher on the roster. That said, the guy has played 17 games as an Indian. Lets not set our expectations too high right away.

  • nj0

    Perez is a classic example of the home town crowd overvaluing their talent.

  • ToxicToast

    The Carlos Santana slump has me a little worried despite how great the Yanimal is. Santana seems like he’s back to rolling all kinds of weak grounders to second like he was last spring and early summer. But his double and deep flyball outs were somewhat encouraging yesterday.

  • Steve

    Rationalism and caution is not allowed here. Everything is either great or awful.

  • Jaker

    If a team thinks that they will resign him and that a closer is the last “piece of the puzzle” then yes, I think someone would. I hate to throw around hypotheticals(who am I kidding, I love doing this), but the Cardinals have an amazing amount of depth at SP with plenty of great prospects. Wacha comes to mind as a guy that might have a hard time breaking through in STL considering all the talent in front of him. All we need is our old buddy Eddie to start blowing saves.

    Remember, it only takes one team to make a trade. If they like a guy, it won’t matter what the rest of the league thinks

  • nj0

    He wasn’t going to hit .400/.500/.700 all year.

    Santana is a much better hitter than Gomes.

  • nj0

    The Cards took Jason Motte, a fairly successful reliever, and turned him into a closer. When he went down, they took Edward Mujica, a fairly successful reliever, and turned him into a closer. I can’t help but think that if Mujica struggles, the Cards will next-man-up-it with a fairly successful reliever and turn him into a closer. I don’t see such a savvy organization overpaying for a closer (and one who has struggles of his own).

  • Steve

    On top of what nj0 said, I don’t see any way you get Wacha for a middle of the pack closer.

    Off the top of my head, the first comparable I think of is the Wickman for Max Ramirez trade. The Indians got an interesting guy that was in A ball at the time. That’s my basis for the an estimate for a return for Perez.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    This is the worst thing you have ever said, Steve.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I have a buddy who is a big Tigers fan who thought that the Tigers should be able to trade Brandon Inge last year for a quality AAA prospect. It was very satisfying letting him know that the Tigers would get nothing for Inge and like it. Another example of the homer value bump.

  • Steve_Not_Chad

    “That is why baseball is the best.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahhahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  • Steve

    Well, I’m glad I have you here to monitor me then at least. At least two people liked my comment though. The ticks tell never lie!

  • Steve

    *The tickets never tell a lie*

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think you picked up on it, but just to be sure… I was kidding around playing off of your 2nd sentence.

  • woofersus

    He’s had a few deep flyouts over the last week. He’s still drawing walks at his usual rate as well, and not striking out much more than his historical numbers. He has made poor contact a little more than earlier in the year, but he’s also hit some balls right at people. It’s just one of those stretches every hitter has. I’m sure he’ll get it back in sync.
    Every analyst or baseball person I’ve read or heard interviewed has been VERY high on Santana, even before his super hot streak to start the season.

  • woofersus

    If you think it’s bad here you should go read comments on the Indians website. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t even look anymore.

  • woofersus

    I see what you did there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davelb87 David W. Elbrecht

    I see what you did there…

  • woofersus

    After two poor outings it’s easy to feel that way, but if he performs at basically the same level he did in the last two years over the course of the season (and I don’t see any decline in his stuff or ability to locate it so that’s what I expect) then he’ll be considered a top tier closer by the trade deadline. (there are more bad closers and blown saves around the league than I think people realize)

    Nobody was willing to give up enough to trade him in the offseason, but SOMEBODY will have been too optimistic about their bullpen and will blow a bunch of leads, and they’ll get desperate for a real back-end stopper. If the Indians really want to move him and he’s been pitching well, I suspect July will present some opportunities.

    That said, I don’t see anybody moving a middle-of-the-rotation starter for even a top level closer straight up, so if the Indians are buyers at the deadline Rage probably stays. Why weaken the bullpen for a position player or a prospect? They could bundle him with somebody else from AAA I suppose, but if they are in contention and they move him they better be darn sure Smith and/or Pestano can take over that role. Last I looked Pestano was only ok against lefties, and a closer has to be effective against both sides.

  • Steve

    I’m not even considering the last two outings. I think the Wickman comparison is fair. Good, solid closer, but certainly not one of the elites.

    At midseason, you’re only going to be dealing with contenders, and I have a tough time imagining a contender that will give you major league ready SP at the deadline.

  • Steve

    I need an edit button, and badly.

    And yeah, we’re on the same page Pat, mostly at least. I’m fully ready to overreact if we knock around the Tigers top two guys this week.

  • nj0

    Perez also makes $7M a year with two arb years left. So getting him means paying him a lot next year too, unless a team plans to let him walk.

  • woofersus

    It certainly happens, but that isn’t the same. Inge was past his prime at 35 and coming off a year with a WAR of -1 and a batting average just under .200. If they had traded him in 2009 when he made the All-Star team as a backup despite less than stellar numbers, then sure, a AAA prospect is feasible. (not a prime one, but still decent) He peaked in his late 20′s, and he was never quite the caliber player the home crowd might have thought him to be, except maybe in 2006.

    Aside from closers being generally overvalued compared to a utility fielder with average power and a high strikeout rate, Chris Perez is 28 and in his prime still, has been an All-Star the last two years, and is putting up pretty respectable numbers. It’s a little unfair to look at this year’s stats right this second, as he just had two bad appearances and things will probably average out, but last year he converted 39/43 save opportunities and had a WHIP of 1.127, a .222 BA against, and 9.2 K/9 compared to just 2.5 walks. On top of that, he wasn’t dramatically worse against one side of the plate. His ERA+ was down to 109 last year, but it’s back up to 178 this year, which represents his highest since his 2010 breakout.

    No he’s not Mariano Rivera, but he’s not a one year wonder either, like so many closers have been and he’s a quality closer in his late 20′s. If anything the home crowd undervalues him a little.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    He’s an above-average closer… unfortunately that just doesn’t tend to be worth much anymore. Perez being overvalued has more to do with fan perception (and I’m talking about intelligent fans, not the guys who troll Cleveland.com) than it does with him not being good at his job. There are still a lot of highly intelligent people who think that you can fetch more for a guy simply because he has the term “closer” attached to his name, but I don’t think there’s any proof that GMs think that way.

  • woofersus

    It’s not a completely unfair comparison, but it depends on which year(s) you compare. Wickman did usually get the job done (sometimes despite himself) and even had a slightly better save conversion rate than Perez, but looking at their career stats it looks like Wickman had a significantly higher WHIP and a lower K/BB ratio, as well as a BA against of .263 vs CP’s .208. He threw strikes, but couldn’t make guys miss nearly as well. There were a few years where Wickman was very good, but most years I’d take Perez. (who admittedly doesn’t have as much history – he might fluctuate just as much over time)

    It’s worth noting that the Indians got a halfway decent quality prospect for Wickman when he was 37, and had an ERA over 4 and a WHIP over 1.4. Max Ramirez was rated the 20th best prospect in Atlanta’s system. He didn’t develop into much and we traded him for Kenny Lofton in 2007, but that’s a separate matter.
    You’re right that nobody is going to trade a MLB ready SP for him straight up, and because of that I think he probably stays if we’re in contention, but I don’t buy the notion that there isn’t value to be had.

  • woofersus

    You don’t have one? I have one. Are you signed in with Discus?

    Yes, I fully expect a loss in the next two days. If there isn’t one I will probably lose all measure of reason too.

  • woofersus

    Yeah, not like 6-8 years ago, but it’s swung back around a little when some of the closer-conversion projects crashed and burned in year 2. He’s still worth more than just any bullpen arm.
    Lets not underestimate the general value of a good bullpen arm either. We picked up Esmil Rogers for basically free because the Rockies gave up on him, but after pitching well for 3 months here we turned him into Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. A fairly one-sided deal I know, but still, a left handed power bullpen arm is what Toronto needed, and we were the beneficiaries.

  • Steve

    Sure, I won’t suggest there isn’t value. But I still think its a guy far away from the majors, not someone who can help us this year or even next.

  • nj0

    While they may undervalue his on-field performance, I think they overvalue his trade value. Very few teams nowadays want to or can spend $7M+ on a closer. $7M a WAR isn’t good spending and most teams know that.

    Plus, Perez’s price tag is just going to keep going up through his arbitration years. I just don’t see getting much return on a 60 IP guy who will probably be banking around $10M next year and more the next.

  • woofersus

    That’s fair. If somebody wants to trade for him it will probably be a big market team who wants the help right now, and will worry about his contract later. And because of the contract it’s probably easier to trade him during the season than after. I’ve said all along I think he stays if we’re in contention. The Indians will probably try to figure something out with his contract next year and if they can’t, he won’t be here. I don’t recommend spending $7-10M on a closer next year either. I don’t really think anybody is going to go to arbitration with him next year. If he won’t sign a reasonable 3-4 year contract, he probably ends up on waivers.