August 16, 2014

Indians 5, Orioles 2: So Smooth…..

Michael BrantleyLast night in Baltimore the Indians played a game that made you proud to root for this team. Watching them battle, execute, and eventually win this one was another example of why this particular group can be easy to love.

Sure, for the first five innings you probably didn’t feel this way and I can certainly understand why. Baltimore’s Zach Britton shut the Tribe down completely on just two singles. They looked baffled as the left-handed mowed them down with relative ease. But baseball is not a five inning game. The third time through the order can be a dicey proposition at times. Just ask the great Jeremy Sowers about that.

Trailing 2-0, things got started with the smokin’ hot Jason Kipnis, who opened the sixth with a leadoff double. It seemed innocuous at the time, given Britton’s dominance, but the Tribe train was about to run over the Orioles starter. Nick Swisher, who has been struggling so mightily in June, came through with a big RBI single to cut the Baltimore lead in half. Carlos Santana followed by lacing a double to left. Now the Indians were really in business with two runners in scoring position and nobody out. After falling behind Mark Reynolds 3-0, the O’s dugout called for the intentional pass to load the bases for a Michael Brantley. Manager Buck Showalter figured he would take his chances left on left. Except he didn’t realize who he was dealing with.

“Obviously, they’re playing strategy,” Brantley said. “There’s a lefty on the mound, I’m a left-handed hitter, and I just want to make sure I can do what I can for my team — get that run in from third base however I can do it.”

The man they call Dr. Smooth has been the Tribe’s best clutch hitter most of the season and he would come through yet again. After Britton’s fifth straight ball, Brantley took a pitch right back up the middle to bring in both Swisher and Santana, giving the Indians their first lead of the night. Brantley is now hitting a robust .357 with runners in scoring position.

“Early in the game I was able to make pitches with guys on base, executing a little bit better,” Britton said. “I think I was trying to do too much after that leadoff double and things kind of escalated right there.”

That would be all for Britton, who entered the fifth with a two-hit shutout and departed as the pitcher of record on the losing end.

The Tribe had a chance to really break things open with two men on and nobody out, but reliever Tommy Hunter retired Ryan Raburn, Drew Stubbs, and Michael Bourn to end the inning.

Ubaldo Jimenez was on the other side of it. He had given up two solo homers through five innings and came out for the sixth with a lead. J.J. Hardy greeted him with a single. After Matt Wieters deep fly out to right and Jimenez at 99 pitches, manager Terry Francona had seen enough and went to his bullpen.

First up was lefty Rich Hill, who had to face a pinch hitter in Danny Valencia. He went from 0-2 to 3-2 before striking out looking. Hill then retired Ryan Flaherty on a popout. That closed the books on Jimenez, who gave up the two runs on eight hits in five and a third. I will say this about Ubaldo, this is what he is at this point – a guy that is good, not great, but is getting the job done. He isn’t pitching deep into games, but he is giving the Indians a chance to win his starts. Basically, he is a fourth or fifth starter.

“I’m very happy,” Jimenez said. “This is a tough lineup and a tough stadium to pitch in. I got in some trouble, some big trouble with bases loaded or two guys on base, and I was able to minimize the damage. It was good. It was good for the team to keep the score close.”

Meanwhile, the Tribe’s up and down bullpen had nine more big outs to get. Francona sent Hill out to face lefty Nate Mclouth to start the seventh and he got the out he needed before being replaced by Bryan Shaw. You have to give it to Hill for last night. He came in a big spot in a one run game and retired all three men he faced.

“When Rich Hill pitches like that, it complements our whole bullpen,” Francona said. “He’s thrown the ball pretty good the last few times out. Getting him on a roll will really help our bullpen.”

Shaw looked great, getting Manny Machado and Nick Markakis on five pitches.

The Indians offense was looking for insurance in the eighth and boy did they get it. Darren O’Day came on in relief of Hunter. The former Oriole Reynolds worked the count full before singling. Then up stepped that man again, Brantley. He fouled off two, two-strike pitches against the side-winding O’Day before crushing his fifth home run of the year to right field. It was his night, plain and simple.

“He’s such a pro hitter, man,” Swisher said.

“The pitch was middle-inside, kind of down,” Brantley said. “I was able to get a good swing on it. I just stayed through it the best I could. At the time, it was a big swing, and the pitching staff … came in and closed the door.”

With a 5-2 lead, Francona handed the ball to Joe Smith, who made easy work of the Orioles in order, all on groundouts to Kipnis at second. The save chance for stand-in closer Vinnie Pestano was there, the easiest of them all. Vinnie’s stuff against Wieters and Chris Dickerson was electric. But after closely missing on two straight pitches, he walked Flaherty giving Baltimore some life. Mclouth then singled, allowing the tying run to come to the plate. Machado, the stud kid third baseman had a chance to tie things with one swing of the bat and sat on a first pitch fastball. He hit a line smash toward short with Mike Aviles reached up and made a great catch on to end the game.

Tribe fans everywhere let out a sigh of relief.

Vinnie is doing his best Bob Wickman/Joe Borowski impersonation of late, but he didn’t allow a run and converted his fourth consecutive save chance.

The Wahoos have now won nine of 12 and during this latest streak, the pitching has been sensational. The starters have gone 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 29 walks. The bullpen has been just as good, 2-2 with a 2.80 ERA, 30 K’s and 13 walks.

They go for two in a row in Baltimore tonight by sending Justin Masterson (9-5, 3.48 ERA) to the mound. The Orioles will go with Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.71 ERA).

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

  • Harv 21

    Didn’t catch the whole game, but …

    - the 8th inning ABs by Reynolds and Brantley were terrific. Both were patient and disciplined and just waited for a mistake.

    - Pestano did have a 1-2-3 dominant 9th. He just didn’t get a clear strike 3 call on a pitch which even the Holy Pitch Tracker showed was in the zone. Not sure I ever said that about Borowski. Like ever. Pestano also had some very good body language out there, snorting and stomping around like he’d be ok fighting the hitters instead if they already had enough baseball for the evening. I believe that boy feels better.

  • Jaker

    9 of 12 is nice to hear, especially when you consider that we could have won those three losses.

    We are playing much better over the last two weeks, hopefully Swisher and Brantley will join Kip’s hot streak an Cabrera and ZMac will come back soon. Does anyone know how close they are to coming back? I would love to have Z for Friday’s double-header And I would love to have Cabrera as soon as possible to step in right between Bourn and Kip. I think Jason has earned the 3-hole for the foreseeable future.

  • Garry_Owen

    Baseball may not be a 5-inning game, but last night I played in a softball game that lasted only 5 innings. Run ruled. We stink.

  • JNeids

    I was gonna defend Vinnie for last night as well. If Gomes was behind the plate, the game ends on that pitch. There is NO reason for Carlos to be behind the plate in the 9th inning.

  • mgbode

    Ok, since you brought up outside baseball and the wound is still fresh from last night: 6 innings for my 7yo LL. Our season is officially over now though. We lost in the championship game last night to finish 2nd place for the city of Austin (and surrounding leagues). We are South Austin LL (SA):

    http://www.eteamz.com/texaseastdistrict11/files/7YROLDCITY20132.pdf

    Such a sad day (the end of the season), but thankfully the Tribe are there to fall back on.

  • mgbode

    I went back and watched the game last night (yeah, I’m sick), but also have to give some praise to Ubaldo. Usually, when he doesn’t have his best stuff/location he goes into a shell and implodes. Well, he didn’t have it last night and he got through innings and scraped while limiting the O`s.

  • mgbode

    I’m hoping FanGraphs does an article at some point on Indian catcher-framing to compare Gomes to Santana/Marson. Yan seems so much better at it and I’m sure it can be empirically proven. Maybe a job for Jacob?

  • JNeids

    There was that big long article a few weeks back that I only read the first paragraph of, but ever since then I notice the disparity in framing ability so much more. And it is SO frustrating to watch ‘Los.

  • mgbode

    yeah, the spring training one, right? just going over how Indian pitchers don’t get non-strikes called strikes very often compared to other pitchers and placing part of the blame on the catchers (Masterson was the main subject if I recall correctly).

    and yes, love Carlos as a hitter, but he is terrible at framing.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Brantley must read WFNY because ever since that story questioning whether he should be given a long term contract was posted Brantley has been on fire. Kudos WFNY!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh yea well my mighty Bruins choked away a 1 goal lead in less then 2 minutes to lose the Stanley Cup. So take that!

  • Adam Copeland

    I don’t get the sense that McAllister is all that close to coming back. From what I’ve read the likely starters in the double header will be Carrasco (called up as the 26th man) and Bauer.

    Cabrera may return for the series in Chicago. He’s been participating in drills and BP before games.

  • JNeids

    I can’t seem to hit reply on your other message and I don’t wanna go into non-mobile mode. But the framing article I was talking about was on Grantland, I think. Wasn’t just about the Indians.

  • Jaker

    There should be similar articles for Masterson, Gomes, Raburn, Giambi, Kipnis, Cabrera, the rest of the starters, the rotation, the economy, the Browns, my dating life, wait what?

  • Jaker

    So House is for the pen? He must be because it wouldn’t make sense to option down Carrasco and bring up a starter when we could have a reliever for three days.

  • Garry_Owen

    Hey, no shame in that. Second place is a great showing.

    I get the sadness, though. Last year, my then 8-year-old’s team also finished 2nd (though only in their league). They lost the championship game in a combined no-hitter to two pitchers that just had our guys completely intimidated. They weren’t unhittable, but we couldn’t get our guys to believe it. Oh well. It was a great learning experience – for both kids and coaches.

    (On another note, I see that some dark-hearted individual has decided to down vote this whole convo. Probably because we didn’t “stay on topic.” What a loser.)

  • Adam Copeland

    My understanding of the House call up was that he was being called up for bullpen insurance/long relief. The bullpen was heavily taxed in both Saturday and Sunday’s games, so if Ubaldo fell apart, they wanted to have an extra arm. My guess is House will now stay with the team until Friday when he’s optioned out to call up Bauer.

  • mgbode

    yeah, definitely proud they finished 2nd. even beat the team that got them back in the end (double-elimination). best/scariest moment of the champ game: my son did a perfect hockey stop on a low-liner but took it off his shin. he crumpled in a heap, but got up and hopped on one foot to get the ball and sat on 3B with it to stop the runners from advancing. went and asked him if he was okay and he just shook it off like it never happened.

    kid-pitch is a whole different beast. the team that won that level had a similar thing as you described. the pitcher just oozed confidence and could throw it over the plate consistently. made the other teams afraid to hit the ball more than anything (though he certainly ‘could’ be hit). tough to overcome the mental hurdles, which is why baseball is such a great sport (as it teaches them to do it).

  • mgbode

    oh, ok. I think I read that one as well. Fangraphs did one on Masterson I think back in Feb or March.

  • Garry_Owen

    Amen, brother.

    Story re kid pitching (not that you asked): In our league (it may be LL rules – if so, it needs to be changed) a kid can only pitch up to 4 walks. Once he walks 4, the other team’s coach comes back in to pitch, at least in the regular season. Now, on our team, we didn’t mess around. We actually pitched to the kids so that they could learn to play the right way. But other teams? Notsomuch. In one game, our kid walked 4, then their coach/mom came in and proceeded to loft these slow rainbow beauties to every batter (“here, sweetie, hit this”). Naturally, they all hit, they all scored, and our guys were demoralized. That should be absolutely illegal, and any coach that does it should be flayed, drawn, quartered, and burned at the stake. (Good thing they also hit the 5 run per inning limit, though. I’d also mention that we “didn’t keep score,” but who would I be kidding? Every kid keeps a highly accurate score in his head.)

  • enjoymoreradio

    There was a sizeable Tribe contingent at Camden Yards last night. Much fun was had, making up for the miserable 100 degree game the Tribe lost last year which I attended in Baltimore.

  • eangel

    I was at the game last night in Baltimore, with my husband and 19 & 22 year-old sons. When we cheered in the 6th, after Swisher singled in Kipnis for the Tribe’s first run, we were immediately heckled by the O’s fans around us. Since I have lived away from Cleveland for many years, I have attended many games as a visiting fan in several cities (Tribe, Cavs and Browns). I am used to good-natured heckling from the home crowd, and my hubby and sons are also used to this and were not looking for a fight. I must say that the fans in Baltimore over the past few years are terrible in this regard. The guy that started it last night was mean-spirited, and immediately went to yelling out things about LeBron. Another guy, who was not with the first guy, joined in and started yelling things about the Browns and Ravens. My older son is 6’5″, and had an Indians jersey on, and I think their comments were mostly directed to him. He couldn’t care less, and is actually more of a Phillies and Flyers fan than anything because he grew up in SE PA, but he also roots for the Tribe. This was all going on behind us, as we were sitting four rows off of the field. My son turned around a few times and was laughing, but the first guy never stopped once he started. He kept yelling out how much Cleveland sucked, and actually never said anything about the Indians or baseball. The entire crowd of O’s fans around him, including a family with four young kids sitting directly behind us, all were laughing at the guy and occasionally joining in. It was a sad example of how bullying is accepted in society today, and how the mob mentality can escalate. Again, this was mean-spirited and was clearly being done to try to engage us (probably my tall son), which we did not respond to. The guy continued with this for the rest of the game, and of course as long as people around him laughed, he felt empowered to keep it up.

    Even though we ignored this for the most part, it made our experience much less enjoyable. I was so glad the Tribe held on in the 9th to seal the victory! The guy started dropping f-bombs in the 9th, the family with kids was still there, and my hubby wanted to say something to the guy, but chose not to. Had it not been the 9th, I would have texted the Camden Yards security number.

    We live closer to Philly than Baltimore, and attend many games there as well. Their fans are much-maligned, but we have never encountered this at Phillies or Sixers games, only good-natured banter. (I know better than to go to Eagles games as a visitor.) This is the third consecutive visit to Camden Yards with a similar experience, last night’s being the worst. I will probably think twice before spending hundreds of dollars to attend a game there again.

  • eangel

    I agree, there were lots of Tribe fans at the game last night. Unfortunately, none were in our section to help ward off the bullying we experienced. I think I was at the same 100 degree game last year also, it was a Saturday in July I believe.

  • mgbode

    we had the rule of ‘once through the order’ rather than the 5run rule, but we do keep score. let me tell you when you have 9 players and the other team has 14, it’s not much fun.

    anyways, what always gets me are the coaches/parents who go on one knee and toss the ball like they are throwing a dart. within the rules, but not very sportsmanlike (and then when a grounder goes up the middle, they do nothing to get out of the way since they are on a knee impeding the defense).

    still, I’ll take the little nuances like that any day over the parents/coaches berating their kids over every little mistake.