8:02 PM – The way Carlos Carrasco has been pitching of late, I figured starting a liveblog recap an hour into the game would put us roughly in the bottom of the first inning. But you know what they say about assumptions in the Bible, don’t you? (It’s against it.)
Anyway, Carrasco is working on a perfect game into the fifth inning, while his counterpart James Shields is looking pretty good himself. This game is approaching its halfway point and we’re scoreless.
8:05 PM – Welp. There goes the perfecto. After retiring the first 13 Royals he faced, Carrasco gives up a hard-hit single to Lorenzo Cain to right. Jinxety-Jinxy-Do.
That said, Carrasco is looking sharp—pitching on both sides of the plate with good separation and command. I mentioned this to Craig on Sunday, but I find it odd how quickly the rotation seemingly has been converted from contact-groundball types to power-strikeout-flyball guys. Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister are all guys who get it up in there in the mid-90s and induce lots of swings and misses. We’ve come a long way from 2009, when Jeremy Sowers had the single worst swinging-strike rate of any pitcher in Major League baseball. In fact, let’s look a quick chart of the Indians starting pitchers over the last five years.
|SEASON||Swinging Strike %|
That’s a 26% improvement. Granted, everybody is swinging and missing more than they used to, but not to that degree. I think it’s pretty clear the organization has shifted its philosophy toward power arms with the ability to miss bats. We can talk about why I like this so much some other day, but given the choice between worm-burner contact guys and high strikeout power guys, I take the latter.
Meanwhile, Carrasco strands Cain and he’s through five scoreless innings with only 56 pitches.
8:29 PM – Yuck. For the second time tonight, the Indians load the bases and do not score. There are at least three things that are worth noting about the bottom of the fifth inning:
- With Jason Giambi on first and one out, John McDonald worked the count full (I know, right?). Because McDonald is a fairly good contact hitter (scrappy, old, etc.), Francona decided to send Giambi to avoid a GIDP. Unfortunately, it would seem that good contact hitters do not always hit the ball into fair territory. To wit: Giambi was sent four times on foul balls into the stands, which meant he had run more than any 84 year old man should ever have to. Anyway, the strategy ended up working, as McDonald grounded out third moving Giambi to second.
- Despite the scoreboard, it’s pretty clear that James Shields is getting worked over pretty good by the Indians lineup. He’s now walked four through five innings and has thrown 100 pitches, or roughly twice as many as Carrasco. This likely means the Indians will get a shot at the soft underbelly of the Kansas City bullpen at some point this evening, which can only be a good thing.
- Mike Aviles drilled a single to left field, way too hard for Jason Giambi to even think about scoring on. But still, I think it’s worth mentioning how well Aviles has played in Asdrubal’s stead. His defense has been good, he’s driving the ball hard at least once a night, and the lineup has churned along roughly as before. He’s no Cabrera for sure, but he’s a wonderful bench player to have, one for whom I’m sure Manny Acta would’ve traded a few fedoras. Throw in Yan Gomes and it’s hard to believe the bounty Cleveland received for a somewhat fungible bullpen arm like Esmil Rogers. 1
8:48 PM – You kinda had this feeling, but after Carrasco worked out of a bit of trouble in the top of the sixth, Santana leads off the bottom half by taking Shields deep to right for a 1-0 lead. On the one hand, it feels like we should be up four or five, but on the other, ‘Los home runs make everything feel so good.
8:55 PM – I feel like I owe you more commentary on Carrasco, but he’s just going too quickly for me to keep up. He’s now through seven scoreless innings with 84 pitches, four strikeouts to only one walk, and three hits allowed. Yes, there’s some good BABiP luck in that line, but he’s also had quite a hand in controlling the game: he continues to work quickly and in the strikezone. Amazing how things like that tend to work out over the long run, especially for guys with his raw stuff. So far this evening he’s lowered his ERA from 15.26 to 7.98.
9:08 PM – After 90 pitches, Carrasco is done for the night in a move that feels…well…a bit premature to me. Carrasco allowed a hard hit single to Chris Getz to lead off the eighth, followed by a sacrifice bunt to put Getz on second with one out. Francona is going to Bryan Shaw to work to the lefties Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer. Platoon splits be damned.
9:16 PM – Damned indeed. Gordon lines out to third, but Hosmer dumps a weak flyball into shallow center that scores Getz from second. The run gets charged to Carrasco, and his pitcher win goes out the window.
I understand that the bullpen options are limited right now, especially the left-handed ones. But to me that’s all the more reason to have let Carrasco battle through the eighth inning. I really like Terry Francona as a manager, but I will simply say that his bullpen usage often confuses me. It’s not that I think he’s wrong; it’s that I just don’t get what he’s doing. I suppose that’s what post-game press conferences are for, but once again I’m sort of scratching my head here.
Anyway, Carrasco’s great start is for naught: we’re tied 1-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
9:41 PM – Real life intervened, and while I was crooning my six-month old to sleep, it appears the Tribe bullpen has gotten itself into a spot of bother. Again. This time, Shaw lets up a double to Butler and a walk to Cain. Rich Hill induced a bunt, but couldn’t field it cleanly and all of a sudden the bases are loaded with no one out. Matt Albers, who kind of seems like he’s just Bryan Shaw but without stirrups, is coming on to face Miguel Tejada.
9:46 PM – Carlos Santana’s defense is approaching unacceptable levels. After SPECIFICALLY CALLING FOR A TWO-STRIKE PITCH IN THE DIRT, he fails to block it and lets the go-ahead run score from the third. As Rick would say, I have negative emotions right now.
9:51 PM – And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the only run that scores. After Santana’s error, Albers gets Tejada to line out, then a weird squeeze that didn’t work, and Gordon flyout ends the inning.
The problem is that now I’m even madder at Santana than I was when I just assumed they’d score five runs that inning.
Heading to the bottom of the ninth the Tribe trails 2-1. McDonald is set to lead off, which I guess means a Drew Stubbs pinch hit appearance?
9:53 PM – OK. Johnny Mac is batting for himself against Derek Holland. Serenity now. Insanity….now.
9:55 PM – Underwood is explaining that the bench is short: you really only have Stubbs and Gomes, and you don’t want to use your backup catcher. OK. Two things. First, you don’t need eleventy thousand bullpen arms who suck: seven will do just fine. Second, a short bench is not the same as a non-existent bench. It’s the ninth inning of a one-run game. If not now, when? What are we preparing for, nuclear winter?
9:57 PM – McDonald flies out. I HAVE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS.
9:58 PM – On a first pitch fastball, Michael Bourn drills a double off the base of the wall in left center. Bourn thought about third, but wisely pulls back to second. Aviles coming up with a chance to tie the game.
10:00 PM – Bourn to third on a wild pitch. 2-2 count to Aviles with one out. This game is trying desperately to rip my heart out now.
10:03 PM – Aviles strikes out on a 99-mph fastball. Kipnis coming up.
10:04 PM – Kipnis grounds out to Getz to end the game. That was very frustrating.
I’m reticent to react too quickly to games like these, as my Momma said there’d be etc. On the other hand, this game felt particularly….squandered. Did Carrasco have to go just then? Couldn’t somebody…anybody…teach Carlos Santana how to block balls in the dirt? Why does Terry Francona seem to make decisions that are designed specifically to make me twitch? And for the love of God, no more John McDonald in back-to-back games—I have a delicate constitution.
Look, you don’t win a lot of games when you strand eleven runners and score only once. I get that. The Indians have been pretty lucky so far this season (nine shutouts? really?) and it was great to see Carlos Carrasco look good again. But because we did so poorly over the last month against good teams, it becomes imperative that we win against the middling sections of the schedule. This was one of those winnable games, and pissing it away like this leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth—especially as it slid the Indians down to third place in the division.
But tomorrow’s a new day and Ubaldo’s a new pitcher and even a non-gymnast like Derek Zoolander learned that sometimes you just have to get back on the horse.
Photo: Chuck Crow/PD
- Full disclosure: of all the silly things I’ve thought about the Indians over the years—loving the Kerry Wood signing; Grady Sizemore apologist to the bitter end; David Dellucci…well no, I never went there—my questioning of the Esmil Rogers’ trade remains one of my worst calls. I thought Aviles was a replacement level player and Yan Gomes wouldn’t sniff our roster. So yeah, I should probably stop calling it the “Esmil Rogers Trade” now. [↩]