Blue Jays 5 Indians 4: Francona’s faith costly as Tribe hands one to Jays

Joe Smith

Joe SmithThe Indians are making a habit of giving away games they shouldn’t lately. It’s becoming all too costly in the race for the AL Central title. Mental lapses happen from time to time, but they certainly can’t arrive in the ninth inning with the score tied. And I am not just talking about the players on the field.

On Tuesday morning, I took manager Terry Francona to task a bit regarding some questionable in game decisions in the late innings of a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers. Last night, he was at it again. Tito deserves all the credit in the world for the culture change surrounding this club. But if he is going to get the praise, he also needs to be questioned when things he does/doesn’t do affect the game negatively.

It shouldn’t have come to this, really. During the first two innings of the 5-4 loss, the Indians offense peppered their former teammate Esmil Rogers. Michael Bourn and Asdubal Cabrera opened the game with back to back singles against the newly converted Blue Jays starter. Neither would score as Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play and Nick Swisher struck out. The second inning started with back to back walks to Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana and an RBI single from Jason Giambi. A big inning was supposed to be in the cards with runners on the corners and nobody out, but it never happened. Lonnie Chisenhall flied out to shallow right, Drew Stubbs struck out, and Bourn grounded out.

It was that this time where I turned to my son and said “you can’t let this guy off the hook, this will come back to haunt us later.”

Sure enough, Rogers began blanking the Tribe from that point forward. He would pitch six innings, allowing just that lone run on four hits.

Tribe starter Justin Masterson was putting a runner on base each inning, mostly via the walk, but like Ubaldo Jimenez a night before, he kept working out of jams. Into the seventh inning, the Tribe was clinging to that 1-0 lead. With a tired bullpen in need of a rest, Tito sent out Masterson for another inning. He gave up a one out double to Adam Lind, but recovered to get Colby Rasmus on a ground out. When he walked Maicer Izturis – his fourth of the game – it was obvious Masterson had run out of gas. But Francona wanted him to get that last out. When he walked backup catcher Josh Thole to load the bases, Masterson had to be done, right?

Nope.

I truly couldn’t believe Tito let his starter stay in the game to face Emilio Bonafacio. All he had warming in the pen was rookie Preston Guilmet, who had yet to throw a Major League pitch. He decided to stick with Masterson.

Naturally, Bonafacio, a .028 hitter, singled in two to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.

“He didn’t command all night,” Francona said. “We had several walks. But his two-seamer, it was so violent that it was almost hard to keep it in the zone at times. That’s a good thing because they can’t hit it. But, there was a lot of base runners for a good amount of hits.”

If that was the case, then why leave him out there so long?

Guilmet came on to strike out Muninori Kawasaki to end the inning.

The offense still had three more chances to tie things. They did so in the bottom of the eighth. Facing All-Star lefty Brett Cecil, Bourn singled and stole second base. After Cabrera struck out, Kipnis grounded out, moving Bourn to third. Swisher then worked a walk, bringing the most clutch Indian of them all, Michael Brantley, to the plate. Dr. Smooth’s sharp liner got past shortstop Jose Reyes to tie the game. Santana followed with a single to left, but it was hit so hard, Swisher had to be held at third. With a lefty on the mound, Ryan Raburn was called to pinch hit for Giambi. Toronto manager John Gibbons countered with righty Neil Wagner, a former Tribe farmhand. Raburn would strike out.

With the scored tied at two in the ninth, Francona called for Rich Hill, one of his fresh arms. He recorded two outs, but walked Colby Rasmus. Pinch hitter J.P. Arencibia was brought out of the dugout for to replace Thole. Francona had two righties warming: Bryan Shaw, who faced four batters the night before, and Joe Smith, who had worked the previous three games. He called on Smitty to work his fourth straight game. Arencibia took Smith’s first pitch to left for a single. He previously was 0-4 with three K’s against Smith in his career. Smith clearly didn’t look right as he couldn’t find the zone and walked Bonafacio to load the bases. Shaw was ready, but Tito stuck with Smith, who shouldn’t have been pitching at all.

The sidewinder got ahead of Kawasaki 1-2, but left one over the middle of the plate which the Jays rookie took into left-center. It broke an 0-18 slump. Two runs would score, but Bourn misplayed the ball off his glove and hurried a throw towards second. The speedy Bonafacio ran hard the entire way and scored from first as Kipnis’s throw home was off line.

“I said I was good,” said Smith of his performance. “I felt all right, but I wasn’t good. That was far from that, that’s for sure.”

 

The blunder proved extremely costly.

Trailing 5-2 potentially instead of 4-2, the Tribe attempted the miracle comeback against Jays closer Casey Janssen. With two out, Bourn singled and advanced to second on catcher’s indifference. Cabrera singled him in to bring the trying run to the plate. Kipnis then walked with Cabrera on third, twice more advancing without a throw. Swisher stepped to the plate as the winning run. He hit a ground ball to Kawasaki at second. The game should have been over there, but he rushed the throw, which got past Lind at first base, allowing Cabrera to score. Kipnis made it to third. The next man up was the guy who the Tribe wanted in this spot, Brantley.

Gibbons had seen enough of Janssen and called on ace set up man Steve Delabar. Brantley got a first pitch fastball that he liked, but flew out to center to end the game.

This was a frustrating loss to say the least for the Indians, who fall to three and a half games back of the first place Tigers, who won last night 8-5 over the Chicago White Sox.

Today’s rubber match will feature the Major League Debut of the Indians right-hander Danny Salazar. The strikeout machine has been mostly a five inning pitcher in his starts for Columbus, so it should be interesting to see how he is handled should he do well against Toronto. The Jays counter with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (8-9, 4.77 ERA), who they beat on Opening Day in Toronto.

(photo via Scott Shaw/PD)

  • Adam Copeland

    I get that Francona wanted Masterson to get through the 7th to save the bullpen, but the way he managed the situation was very odd. In the end, he ended up using Guillmet, Pestano, Smith and Shaw before the game ended. After Masterson couldn’t throw strikes to a backup catcher hitting .111, he has to be pulled. Guillmet shouldn’t be the only guy warming up (why wasn’t Pestano at least warming too?), but his fresh arm is still a much better bet even in that tight situation than Masterson, who was DONE.

    Then in the 9th, I guess I’m OK bringing on Smith to face Arrencibia because he’s owned that guy, but after he singles, you have to pull Smith. He’s worked 4 straight games and the only reason you went to him was to get Arrencibia. Yes, Shaw has been bad, but he’s not completely spent.

    As you point out TD, the Tribe probably lost this game in the 1st 2 innings when they had a chance to break things wide open and only came away with 1 run. The Indians have lost way too many of these types of games lately. In 3 of their last 5 losses, they’ve now allowed the other team to take the lead in the 6th inning or later. Not good.

  • Natedawg86

    Everytime we have a chance to get a little closer in a winable game, we need to finish them. 3 games over .500 after 91 games is not going to get it done. We are going to need at least 92 W to snif a chance at PO. That being said, we would have to go 45-26 the rest of the way out unless the wheels fall out on Det. Need to win these winable games. Instead of looking at a sweep this afternoon, we need to win to take the series. This is a key game as we go into the allstar break playing a team that has been hot lately. Winning 3 of the next 4 gives us 50 W at the break. Hopefully that happens. Roll Tribe

  • Harv 21

    Frustrating, sure, but there’s some important stuff we need to remember before hanging Francona: the bullpen is getting real taxed by this 6 1/3-and-fly starter routine. I think it was Joe Smith’s 4th straight night of work. Tito’s trying to give Pestano a breather and mentally rehab him – but still had to use him. Perez had worked 4 straight days. Shaw’s been out there daily.

    In these long stretches without rainouts a starter or two needs to get into the 8th inning. Sometimes it’s better to go 8 1/3 and give up 3 runs than go 6 shutout innings but have to leave because you’ve thrown 105 pitches and walked 4 guys.

    Also, hear,hear for the 9th inning rally, started with no outs and down to their final strike repeatedly. Make a trade, Chris. The seeds of good stuff has been planted.

  • Natedawg86

    Not only was Masterson not throwing strikes, his pitch count was high! Only time he should be near 120 in July is if he is in the 9th inning going for a Shutout

  • Adam Copeland

    I agree that the failure of the starters to consistently pitch into even the 7th inning is slowly but surely undermining the entire bullpen. The Tribe also doesn’t even have a real long man in the bullpen, so if the starter blows up early, they can’t even count on a guy coming in to just get them through 3 innings or so. That’s why if the Indians are going to do a deal it makes sense to acquire an innings eating starter. You can then move one of your less reliable starters to the bullpen.

  • Natedawg86

    Brantley had 3 strikes left when he got out

  • Brian R.

    There is no excuse to let the Jays 8 and 9 hitters beat the Tribe last night. Letting 3 runs score on Kawasaki’s hit is the biggest injustice of all. Yes the bullpen is taxed and yes Masterson was gassed that last inning, but to allow a runner to score from first on a ball hit to shallow left center is so frustrating.

  • boomhauertjs

    Bourn’s defense has been really disappointing. Stubbs had a dumb error last night too.

    Francona might be better in the clubhouse, but I honestly think Acta was a better in-game manager (with the exception of never arguing with umps).

  • Harv 21

    and your point is ….? The previous guys got on with two strikes. Brantley was facing an excellent closer with nasty stuff. He got his pitch, a fastball strike. He doesn’t have wait for the guy’s nastiest pitch to swing.

  • Garry_Owen

    Two nights ago against the Tigers, I thought I had reached my frustration peak. I was wrong. I fear I was wrong last night, too; and that scares me, I’m afraid.

  • Natedawg86

    I was just messing with you. I don’t get the games but was watching updates on my phone. I almost turned it off after the Jays got those runs, but I kept following just in case. I was thinking to myself, Brantley has been so hot, but he can’t come through every time. I agree with you though on your prev post

  • Harv 21

    those walks to the bottom of the order, even putting them in good hitters counts … If I live long enough to make it to a nursing home, that’s probably what I’ll be incoherently mumbling about.

  • Harv 21

    ah, the first sensations as the scar tissue falls off. Here’s a little gauze if you feel you need it. You’re doing just fine.

  • mgbode

    I was infinitely more frustrated from the Tigers game. Mostly due to that game being against Detroit and this one against Toronto.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m pretty sure that’s not scar tissue. It’s bleeding real bad like.

  • Harv 21

    What color? If it’s brown and orange we need to move you to another floor.

  • Garry_Owen

    I was able to discern last night that the real source of my frustration was the freaking huge number of Blue Jays fans at the Jake. It sounded like a Toronto home game – just like those Tigers games felt like Detroit home games.

    And those posers got to leave the park as winners. That eats at my craw (and I don’t even know what that phrase means, or if it’s even a thing)!

  • Garry_Owen

    Hard to say. At this point, the orange and brown and red and blue and scarlet and gray are all mixed together, so it’s all some shade of brown. Thank Jeebus I don’t care about the Cavs. Talk about a muddled mess!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Glad Francona is here but I agree that his loyalty is not only hurting him but the team. The bullpen is a mess. You are seeing why guys like Shaw and Albers were available. Pestano isn’t 100%. Smith has never been a favorite of mine until a year ago he wasn’t exactly reliable. Perez. Well he’s Chris Perez.

    I also agree with those who put some of the bullpen woes on the starting rotation. Point of fact is the starters do not pitch deep into games anywhere remotely enough which means alot more work for the relievers. Granted this doesn’t seem to be a problem in Pittsburgh where Melancon and Grilli work almost every other day but unfortunately in 2013 for the Cleveland Indians it’s a problem. This just shows how volatile a bullpen can be from year to year.

    Lastly you start adding up these games where “the little things” result in losses and you just might have your deficit come the end of September.

  • Natedawg86

    Don’t know why you are stil seeing traces of scarlet and gray, that should have all but cleared up by now at least for the time being.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yes, for the most part. You’re right. That scarlet I see might just be extra Indians red.