8:08 PM – It’s far too late to consider this a live blog recap per se. I remember the salad days of this Indians team, back when I could count on the starting pitching being so terribly inefficient that I could sit down an hour or so into the game and we’d be in the top of the second. No more—not with this staff and not with Corey Kluber throwing darts. So what’s good news for the rotation is inevitably bad news for my ability to live-blog. I tend to think this is more than worth the tradeoff for most of you.
Whatevs. We pick this one up in the bottom of the fourth, with the Indians up 1-0 over Jose Quintana and the White Sox. Kluber is looking sharp, at only 42 pitches through four scoreless innings.
8:13 PM – Aviles, getting the start at 3B, is on first with one out, and Brantley rips a double to right center. Aviles comes around to score to make it 2-0 good guys.
8:28 PM – Much has been made over the last few days of the July 31st trade deadline, and I suppose that if I’m good for anything, I should drop some #HOTTAKES into this recap.
Here’s what I think. First, the Rzepczynski acquisition is a smart one, I think.1Two years ago he was dominant for the Cardinals and a crucial piece of their World Series win. This isn’t to say that he’s still that guy, but for his career his numbers against lefties are remarkable: 26% strikeout rate against an 8% walk rate and a 2.87 FIP. For a team so terrified of their left handed options that they regularly allow Joe Smith to face lefties with the game on the line, the move makes plenty of sense, especially considering his controllability and team option. Even if we can only use him for one or two outs at a time, it’s still an extra bullet in Terry Francona’s arsenal, and that alone is a good thing.
The consequence of the Rzepczynski acquisition, of course, was that somebody on the roster had to go, and that somebody was Vinnie Pestano, who I heart with all my heart. Emotional agape aside, I have no problem with moving Vinnie to Columbus, and largely agree with everything TD wrote here. My thoughts here are twofold. First, I still believe that Vinnie Pestano’s elbow ain’t right, and Columbus isn’t where you go to fix issues such as these. You go to Dr. James Andrews and get Tommy John surgery. I know he’s already had the procedure once, and that second UCL replacements have a spotty history, but if he’s not good enough to be up here (he’s not) then you might actually think about fixing the problem rather than delaying the inevitable. Which is just to say if Vinnie gets Tommy John next season, I’ll be super-pissed. Second, I guess I find it interesting how few players on our roster have minor league options left. I’m so used to the dregs of 4A filling up the bench spots that it’s a little jarring to realize that additions mean you have to move somebody you actually like/know a little bit. This is a good problem to have—it means our roster isn’t execrable. It’s just new to me and I’m still getting used to it. Sorry, but that’s about how hot my takes get.
And hey look, Corey Kluber threw another scoreless inning and we’re heading to the bottom of the fifth, 2-0 good guys.
8:41 PM – Perhaps we should talk briefly about my new man-crush, one Corey Kluber. Did you know that among AL starters with at least 100 innings pitched that he ranks: 9th in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 5th in xFIP and 7th in strikeout rate? He’s been perhaps the most remarkable starting pitching story in the League, and nobody really knows about him. Part of that is that he’s been a bit unlucky, sure. Nearly 15% of his flyballs have become home runs, and that’s bound to come down a bit, and his BABiP is .320, which also seems due for some regression. The moral of the story: Corey Kluber is already good, and will likely see even better results. The Indians have lost some big trades in the last five years, but I think it’s fair to say that getting a guy like this for a few months of Jake Westbrook is about as big a win as you’ll find. Oh, and he’s under team control for five more years.
8:47 PM – After Bourn flies out to start the bottom of the fifth, Swisher and Kipnis put together great at bats and draw back-to-back walks, pushing Quintana’s pitch count to nearly double Kluber’s for the evening. Asdrubal grounds into a fielder’s choice, but Santana drives a double to left to score Swisher. Quintana gets Aviles to pop weakly to second to end the inning, but his night has to be done at 109 pitches through only five innings. (Kluber is at 54.) Indians up 3-0.
8:53 PM – Well, this was bound to happen. Jon writes nice things about a person, so that person must immediately mictorate the bed to prove Jon an idiot.
Kluber gives up a lead-off single to something called “Josh Phegley”, and after a ground out moves him to second, an Alexei Ramirez double plates the White Sox’ first run of the evening. Alex Rios follows with a single to center to score Ramirez on a questionable call at home plate, allowing Rios to move to second. Adam Dunn puts a single through the hole of the shift at short stop to score Rios, and all of a sudden we’re tied at three. I could point out that only one ball that inning was hit hard (the double), and that Kluber’s BABiP tonight is .350, but those would be excuses. I’m sorry you guys. All I can say is that I really messed up.
9:07 PM – Because I spend these recaps writing about whatever I feel like, you might not have realized that Mark Reynolds was in the lineup tonight—especially given that I mentioned Aviles got the start at third. But he is, playing first base and batting eighth. Now, we all knew pretty much what we were getting when we signed Reynolds: something like a .220 hitter who was going to strikeout with reckless abandon but hit 20+ home runs. The saberist in me would like to point out that he’s on pace to hit .214 with 20 to 25 home runs and a strikeout percentage exactly in line with his career average—basically what we should have expected from him in the first place. But the flesh and blood human being that has to watch these piss-poor at bats feels like there is no end to this story other than continued horror and flailing failure that prolongs an infinite misery. So it is an honest question: is he broken and done with and DFA-able, or is he the same guy as he was at the beginning of the season running into the bad luck that was due to befall a hitter like him? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps the more interesting question is whether he fits in this lineup even if he performed to expectations? I have no answers here, only painfully tired questions.
By the way, he struck out if you were wondering what prompted this screed.
9:12 PM – Kluber throws a scoreless eight-pitch seventh, giving me no time to praise him. Probably best for all of us.
9:20 PM – Michael Broun draws a leadoff walk off Chicago lefty David Purcey, so I’ll talk about him now.
Bourn’s strengths as a player are supposedly twofold: fielding and baserunning. For a guy who’s about average at getting on base with below average power, both of these skills need to shine through. Let me say that I find him to be a very good centerfielder, and his speed has been a nice addition to the basepaths.
But am I allowed to be a little disappointed by the stolen base numbers so far? In one of the first pieces I ever wrote at WFNY, I demonstrated that any base stealer needs to be successful at least 72% of the time to benefit his team; otherwise, you’re costing more runs than you’re adding. Well, Bourn has a 62% success rate this season, which is troubling in an albeit small sample size (13 for 21). What’s perhaps more troubling is that his lack of success seems to have kept him from running at all. 21 stolen base attempts is exactly half of what Jacoby Ellsbury has attempted.
All this is just to say that I thought he’d run more, and I thought he’d be better at it.
Bourn doesn’t try anything with the lefty on the mound, and Kipnis grounds into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
9:30 PM – Kluber with another scoreless inning. He’s now through eight innings with five strikeouts, no walks and 87 pitches. Even though he got bit by the BABiP bug in the sixth, this is the kind of start that keeps me thinking that Corey Kluber isn’t just a decent option, but a really good MLB pitcher.
9:36 PM – Purcey just sliced through the middle of the Indians lineup with ease: Cabrera foul out, Santana flyout and Aviles ground out. We’re going to the top of the ninth, and methinks Kluber is coming out for it.
9:39 PM – Yep. And with a flyout from Adam Dunn, Kluber has officially recorded the longest start of his career. He has about as many pitches as Quintana had through four innings (89), and he’s facing Konerko with one down and nobody on.
9:42 PM – After striking out Konerko, Kluber gives up a groundball hit to Gillaspie and his night is done. Francona going to Cody Allen to face Viciedo. It’s a move I sort of like (if you’re going to the pen, use your best reliever), but sort of don’t (I’m not sure Kluber wasn’t the best option).
A quick note on pitch counts and efficiency. Tonight, Corey Kluber recorded 26 outs on 95 pitches, or about one out every 3.6 pitches. So far this season, Ubaldo Jimenez has recorded 337 outs on 2,041 pitches, or one out every 6.1 pitches. There is value in that efficiency. Ubaldo’s prodigal ways have resulted in an average of only 5.1 innings per start for him, putting undue strain on the bullpen. So yes, being good certainly helps, but being efficient does too.
9:47 PM – Viciedo lines a single to right center that moves Gillaspie to third. All of a sudden the White Sox are a passed ball from taking the lead. Drat.
9:51 PM – Ummm. Cody Allen just walked Gordon Beckham to load the bases. I TOLD YOU NOT TO TAKE KLUBER OUT. (Didn’t I? DIDN’T I??))
9:55 PM – After getting behind in the count on some questionable calls, Keppinger singles to center to score two runs and I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE KLUBER IN I SWEAR I DID!!
9:58 PM – Allen strikes out De Aza swinging, but the damage is done and the Tribe will need some late inning magic as the trail 5-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Brantley, Reynolds and Stubbs due up.
10:03 PM – Brantley does his part with a lead-off double and Giambi coming on to pinch hit for Reynolds.
10:05 PM – After going down in the count 1-2, Giambi gets plunked by a fastball on his elbow. Lonnie Who Loved Baseball on to pinch run as the tying run, which means Drew Stubbs is batting for himself. First and second, nobody out.
10:07 PM – Stubbs squares to bunt, and back spins it out to the pitcher. Stubbs hustles all the way and, on a close play at first, gets the call. Bases loaded with nobody out. I can only imagine the White Sox feel like they’re going to lose, and I say that knowing that the Indians still need a lot to go right to win this game.
10:10 PM – Bourn drives a long flyball to the deep left center, which allows all the runners to move up and the lead is cut to 5-4. Second and third, one out, Brohio coming up.
10:11 PM – Wow. White Sox decide to intentionally walk Swisher to get to Kipnis to hope for the double play. Bases loaded again, one out. Kipnis coming up needing a flyball to tie it.
10:14 PM – For a second, I thought he got all of it, but it’ll do the job. Kipnis with a sac fly to the warning track to tie the game. Winning run moves to third base. Two outs and Asdrubal coming up.
10:17 PM – Cabrera goes down swinging and we’re heading to extra innings. Chris Perez coming on to face the 2-3-4 of Chicago’s lineup.
The good news is that our bullpen is loaded and theirs has already worked four innings tonight. The bad news is that I’m generally not excited about a battle of the bullpens under any circumstances. The news that is up for debate is that I might not be getting up at 5:30 AM to go for a run, as I’m stuck with you mooks for a bit longer.
10:24 PM – Gomes comes on to catch, which moves Santana to first. I find this to be vastly reassuring from a defensive perspective. Anyway, Perez looks good, striking out two in a scoreless tenth. Santana, Aviles and Brantley due up. If we win, it’s walk-off style.2
Santana drives a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall for a walk-off home run. Indians win it 6-5, scoring twice in the ninth to tie it and once in the tenth to win it.
You hate to say that this is becoming routine, mostly because it’s so much damn fun that you’d feel guilty. But there wasn’t a point during this recap that I honestly thought we were done for. That doesn’t mean we can’t lose, but it does mean I don’t think there are games we can’t win. Something of a minor difference perhaps, but it feels great. Again, the analyst in me says that teams can’t continue to win close games—the Indians are now 7-1 in extra innings and that would seem unsustainable—but there’s a feeling that perhaps they’re doing something special, something….beyond. Whether that holds up to analytical scrutiny or the drudgery of a 162 game schedule we can answer another day, but for right now this team is exciting and fun. They’ve given us a reason to watch and to be happy again. There will almost certainly be meaningful baseball in September, which I’ve missed terribly.
Tomorrow (or today, or whenever the hell you read this) the Indians are going for a four-game sweep of the White Sox and an eight game winning streak. They currently stand alone as the second AL wildcard. They’re 11 games over .500 and 2.5 games back of the best run differential in baseball. Depending on whom you trust, their playoff odds are between 43% and 48%.
We could ask for more, but we’d be jerks.
Some people have taken to calling Rzepczynski “Scrabble”, because of how difficult his name is to spell (is “scrabble” hard to spell? Oh. I get it.). I have decided to call him “Ctrl-V”, because I will NEVER be typing his name again. I’m working on creating a Rzepczynski-macro, in fact. [↩]
Yes, this has technically been true since 9:55 PM, but I’m just now getting around to actually thinking about it. [↩]