August 26, 2014

Indians 5 Twins 2: Bats back the Zach attack

Zach McAllisterIt was a big and much needed uplifting night for your Cleveland Indians. They woke up in third place in the AL Central, chasing three teams for the second AL Wild Card spot, including the red hot Kansas City Royals who jumped them in the standings the night before. Losers of seven of eight, the Wahoos desperately needed a win and some sort of big inning the offense could build on.

Getting the ball from Manager Terry Francona was Zach McAllister, who still hasn’t been nearly as crisp as he was earlier in the year before the finger injury sidelined him for six weeks. The big right-hander hadn’t won a game in nearly three months and the Tribe badly needed a quality start from him. The bullpen pitched five innings in Monday night’s loss and with a day coming Wednesday, the deeper McAllister could go, the better.

After retiring the Twins in order in the first, old favorite Josh Willingham touched up McAllister for a solo blast to lead off the second, putting Minnesota on top 1-0. It was Willingham’s fifth career at-bat against the Tribe’s starter, and he was now 5-5 with three homers. You had that “uh oh” feeling right then and there. It took you back to last year’s nightmare series in Minnesota where the Indians 5-29 skid began after they were swept by the Twins at Target Field. I remember it well, I was there on my annual summer weekend Tribe road trip. But then something good happened – McAllister went into shut down mode and didn’t let up.

“I felt like maybe I was a little bit more relaxed,” McAllister said. “But the big thing was command. I think, for me, it’s being able to keep my front shoulder closed with all my pitches. Today, I was able to have a better mix rather than just going with my fastball.”

Through the sixth inning, The Zach Attack kept on pounding the strike zone against the team that had previously had his number. In three starts against the Twins in 2012, he was 0-3 allowing eight earned runs in just nine innings. His only hiccup came in the sixth and it was another case of bad Tribe defense that hurt him. After striking out Brian Dozier to start the frame, Joe Mauer singled. Justin Morneau followed with a single to center which Michael Bourn completely misplayed. The ball went past his glove and Mauer came all the way around to score. Morneau would end up on third and it looked like the Twins were in for a big inning. However, McAllister calmly struck out both his nemesis Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia to stop the threat dead in its tracks.

He would depart with six innings of four hit, two run (one earned) ball, striking out seven and walking just one.

“He got to two strikes on, I think, 18 of the 23 hitters he faced,” Francona said. “So he’s pitching ahead in the count. As he got into the game, he started getting more comfortable with his offspeed. His cutter was a little bit bigger tonight. Not sure if that was by design, but it was a pretty effective pitch. He flipped enough breaking balls in there to make them respect that. He pitched really well.”

Meanwhile, the offense provided just enough to make Z Mac a winner. They answered Willingham’s second inning homer by loading the bases with nobody out in the third. Ryan Raburn walked, Lonnie Chisenhall reached on an error and Yan Gomes hit a sharp single to left. Raburn would score on Bourn’s fielder’s choice, but that was all they would get. Nick Swisher smoked a ball right at the first baseman Mauer who stepped on first for an inning-ending double play.

An inning later they would take the lead. Jason Kipnis led off with a single and advanced to second on Sam Deduno’s wild pitch. Asdrubal Cabrera, who continues to labor in the cleanup spot, failed to even move Kipnis to third with his weak grounder to short, but it didn’t matter because the most clutch Indian of them all, Michael Brantley, came through again. Dr. Smooth singled to center, easily scoring the speedy Kipnis to put the Tribe up 2-1. They added a third run on a Kipnis RBI groundout in the fifth.

The big blow came in the sixth, which gave McAllister and the bullpen breathing room. With one out, Carlos Santana was hit in the foot by a Deduno pitch. The two were the battery for the gold medal winning Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic championship game. Up stepped Ryan Raburn. The Tribe’s best bench bat delivered in a big spot for seemingly the one millionth time in 2013 as he took Deduno deep to left for a back-breaking two-run homer, his 14th on the season. The part-time player is just one homer away from the team leader Kipnis. Where would this team be without the 32-year old Detroit castoff? Consider he has more RBIs (40) than Swisher (37) in 95 less ABs. In addition to ranking second on the team in homers, he leads the team in OPS and slugging percentage, and is second only to Kipnis in on-base percentage.

A 5-2 lead was handed to the bullpen and they did exactly what they are supposed to do. Cody Allen looked dominant in the seventh, striking out two of the three batters he faced. The box score will tell you that Joe Smith pitched a 1-2-3 eighth as well, but two of the three outs were lined shots hit right at Swisher and Chisenhall. Hey, an out is an out I guess. Closer Chris Perez came on and danced around a two-out single to record his 19th save.

Raburn put it best: “This was a good team win.”

That it was. To make the night even better, every team the Indians are battling with for the Wild Card spots, Oakland, Baltimore, Texas, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City all lost and they were able to gain a game in the standings. They now sit three and a half games back with plenty of baseball still left to play.

They will try to build on the momentum of last night’s win and take the series from the Twins this afternoon before heading out to Oakland for a big weekend series. Carlos Carrasco (0-4, 7.75 ERA) will be making his first start since early July, giving a tired Scott Kazmir a few extras days of rest. He will be opposed by right-hander Kyle Gibson (2-3, 6.43) who has an ERA of 6.41 in his last four starts.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

  • boomhauertjs

    Could be a high scoring game today…

  • Steve

    A big start for McAllister, and not just because of the results. Since coming back from the injury, he’s been a different pitcher, pretty much abandoning the splitter, and throwing the curve a lot less than usual. When got bombed against Detroit, he had thrown the fastball more frequently (84% of the time) than any other start all year. The change was big because it was also a sign about what we might expect from Kluber.

    He’s still hesitant to throw the splitter, but last night saw him going back to the breakingballs, and throwing them successfully. If he can come back to the pitcher he was before the injury, that’s a huge boost the rotation needs, and should make fans feel a lot better about Kluber when he’s back.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Nice to see Big Mac pitch better but man is it to much to ask for at least one SP to go seven innings already? This is getting ridiculous.

  • nj0

    I have been slow to get on the Yan train (at least in terms of his bat), but I’m starting to believe. While I don’t think he can keep up the current pace (.343 BABIP), it sure seems like he regularly makes good, hard contact.

  • nj0
  • The_Real_Shamrock

    His defense along with throwing out opponent base stealers not to mention the starters seem to look better with him behind the plate. Like Santana catcher is not his natural position but he sure has made the transition better.

  • nj0

    and an early start to get me through my work day

  • Steve

    That LD% is pretty low, and he obviously doesn’t have the footspeed to leg out a bunch of infield hits. That BABIP will drop sooner or later. The walk rate is not strong either, but I think he’ll have enough power to stay in the lineup.

  • CB Everett

    Can someone please mercifully relieve ACab from his (unexecuted) duties for the time being? Not sure if he’s mopey, pressing, unfocused, lost, or all of the above, but he’s a black hole right now. I know Tito wants to wait for ACab’s “big run” where he tears it up, but that could very well be in mid-December at this rate.

    Aside from the consistent bench (Rayburn, Gomes, and Aviles), really the only consistent bats this year have been Brantley, Kipnis, and to some degree Santana. So while not ideal, would it really hurt at this point to bat Brantley or Santana in the clean up spot?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Rock smells what ur cookin’! This is another example where Francona’s allegiance is not only hurting him but the team. Cabrera most assuredly needs to be moved down in the lineup. Actually the more I watch him the more I wished he’d have been traded because his value is decreasing with every game he plays now.

  • nj0

    I agree. I actually think his LD% is below where it will realistically be. But that’ll be offset by just general babip regression. Even if it doesn’t, like you said, the power is enough to keep him around.

    I just worry (as I do with all low BB% guys) that an inability to adapt his approach (which will be necessary once the league learns his weaknesses) will effectively negate his power and make him Lou Marson.

  • nj0

    I don’t see how sitting ACab helps him. But it sure does seem like he’s just not right. Playing through injury? Getting a divorce? Partying too much?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    At this point after watching his behavior you are probably correct in that sitting him won’t help but he definitely needs to be dropped in the lineup. I’d give Santana a shot at cleanup. If he struggles after something like 4-5 games then put Brantley back in but not Cabrera.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cabrera sitting, Santana batting clean-up and Carrasco down 2-0 after an inning.

  • Steve

    Definitely will have to adapt, but I don’t see the Marson path. Marson was a guy who demonstrated little power, and once he saw major leaguers, that plate discipline was rendered less effective because no one was afraid to throw him strikes. Guys will be more careful with Gomes. Now, he has to learn to manage the strike zone and draw a few walks, but I think he can go down a path more like Shoppach than Marson.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Carrasco is terrible I’m sure the Phillies miss him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Cabrera pinch-hit for Chisenhall with runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs and struck out looking just as bad as ever.

  • nj0

    Hey…. it did take four pitches though. Running up that pitch count.

  • nj0

    I didn’t mean to make a direct comparison in quality or style, just not an every day catcher.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The fourth was in the opposite batters box. I have a feeling if Cabrera could strike out on two pitches he probably would.

  • nj0

    PEREZ!!! *FIST SHAKE*

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Indians won a “big game” according to Underwood and Manning. It was a big game only because they tried to give it away in every kind of fashion. But hey they won at least.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I can’t see how this bullpen is going to hold up the way these starters barely can pitch half the game.

  • nj0

    well, to be fair carlos is like our 8th starter. hope we don’t have to see too much more of him.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That doesn’t make me feel better. I was watching Pittsburgh-St. Louis last night and there was Jeanmar Gomez pitching in extra innings. I then heard how the Pirates acquired him from the Indians for an OF who is now playing in independent league baseball. I mention Gomez because the Pirates are using him exactly how the Indians should be using Carrasco. Out of the bullpen. Hopefully Kazmir returns and that’s where CC goes.

  • nj0

    That would be nice.