Baseball is a game of extreme ups and downs. The Indians won 12 out of 14 games with an offense averaging 6.5 runs per game and mashed their way to the league lead in home runs. On Monday, they were supposed to have a well-earned and much needed day off. But thanks to April rainouts, The Tribe played a traditional doubleheader against the New York Yankees. They would split the pair, but other than a Jason Kipnis first inning solo home run, the offense failed to score a single run.
After the brief spot at home, they went back on the road to Philadelphia for an interleague matchup with the Phillies. Ex-Tribe manager Charlie Manuel sent out rookie Jonathan Pettibone to the mound, a right-hander that the Indians had not seen. In the second inning, the bats looked like they were regain their mojo. Nick Swisher opened the frame with a single. Carlos Santana followed by going the other way for a double, which landed just fair down the line. After a Mark Reynolds pop out (on the first pitch) failed to bring in a run, Michael Brantley singled two center, scoring both Swisher and Santana. The inning ended with Drew Stubbs and pitcher Scott Kazmir striking out, but the offense was off to a good start, or so it seemed.
The game really changed course in the third.
The Tribe loaded the bases on a walk (Kipnis), and two hit batters (Swisher and Santana). Reynolds stepped to the plate again with a chance to drive in runs. With two strikes on him, the Tribe’s third baseman hit a flair towards shallow right field. Out went first baseman Ryan Howard on a full sprint. Howard dove for the ball, which hit off of his glove right at the base line and landed foul. It looked as though two Indians would score, but first base umpire Dan Iassogna—who made a very questionable call at second base late in Game 2 of Indians-Yankees on Monday—immediately ruled the ball foul. It was tough to tell on the replays, but it appeared that the ball hit Howard’s glove in fair territory. The rule states the ball should be ruled based upon where it was touched.
Not only should two runs have scored, but Santana was running hard around third and may have scored a third Tribe run. At a minimum, the Indians would have carried a 4-1 lead. Out of the dugout fired Tribe manager Terry Francona to protest the call.
“The umpire said he knew the ball hit his glove,” said Francona. “I was asking if his glove was in fair territory when it happened. He said he was pretty sure it was in foul territory.”
Give credit to Reynolds for being stand-up about it. “”I couldn’t tell, but I’ve got to put a better swing on a ball than that. It’s definitely frustrating. We had a bunch of opportunities to score some runs, but some nights you just don’t have it.”
He eventually ended the inning by popping out to second. In his first two at-bats, Reynolds stranded five. But he wasn’t done.
“I think I set a major league record for runners left on base,” he said.
Kazmir was coming off of his best start of the season, a six-inning, 10-strikeout, one-run performance last Thursday against Oakland. In the first inning, he gave up a solo homer to backup infielder Kelly Frandsen, getting a start at second with Chase Utley receiving a night off. He wiggled his way through the order the first time through, but he had a feeling he wasn’t himself early on.
“[The slider] wasn’t good in the first inning, and then we just abandoned it,” he said. “That’s something that you know I’ll get more confident in as I pitch. It won’t happen anymore. Even my last two starts, it was effective especially as a strikeout pitch.”
With one out in the fourth, Kazmir gave up a single to Domonic Brown and then walked Carlos Ruiz. He was looking for a ground ball at somebody with eighth place batter John Mayberry Jr. coming up. Instead, Mayberry doubled to center, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
“I was pretty much fighting myself the whole game,” Kazmir said. “I never got into a rhythm.”
Despite that, Francona sent the Tribe lefty for the sixth inning, with Kazmir due up second in the top of the seventh. Brown greeted him rudely with a laser shot home run to right, which chased him from the game. Cody Allen relieved him and finished the inning.
Meanwhile, the offense was being stymied by Pettibone and could never come up with the big hit when they needed it. In that sixth inning, Swisher got things started with a single, but was quickly erased on a Santana double play ball. Pettitbone would go six and two-thirds before the bullpen took over.
“When he (Pettibone) needed to, he got a double play. He kept us off balance. We didn’t square up on a ton of balls. I thought he pitched a pretty good game,” said Francona.
The Wahoos had another great chance to tie the game in the eighth. Facing lefty Antonio Bastardo, Asdrubal Cabrera lined a triple off the wall in right center. The ball carromed back so far, Cabrera wanted to go for the inside the park home run, but was smartly held by third base coach Brad Mills. Unfortunately, it was as far as Asdrubal would get. Swisher struck out looking for a big first out. Santana was given essentially the unintentional, intentional walk to set up a double play. Out went the lefty Bastardo, replaced by right-hander Justin De Fratus. Here was Reynolds with another shot to do damage.
Again, he popped out to second. On the night, he left seven on base.
Manuel made another pitching change, going to lefty Jeremy Horst to face Brantley. Horst got ahead 0-2 before striking out Brantley to end the eighth.
At that point, it was all but over.
The Phillies added two insurance runs off of Bryan Shaw and Rich Hill in the eighth to account for the final tally.
“As a team, we’ve been pretty hot,” Francona said. “It was one of those games where I thought if we hang around here, that at one point we’d string a long inning together and we never did.”
The quick two-game set ends this afternoon at 1:05 with Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.64 ERA) facing off with lefty Cole Hamels (1-5, 4.18 ERA).
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)