When you score five runs, you should win the game. The Indians were on their way to doing so last night, but one of their more reliable and consistent pitchers made two quick mistakes and a comeback victory was snatched away as the Seattle Mariners took the rubber match of the three-game series, 6-5, on the same day the Indians traded their starting shortstop and failed to bring back any starting pitching help.
I stress this last point because after Corey Kluber, the Indians rotation is a mixed bag. Take last night’s starter Zach McAllister for example. The big right-hander has bounced back and forth between Columbus and Cleveland and hasn’t established himself as a guy manager Terry Francona can count on. With Justin Masterson now gone, McAllister, amongst others, will have the chance to get a longer look to see if they fit into the future plans. Unfortunately for Zach, he continues to look like a 4A pitcher.
Heading into last night, McAllister’s spot was already dicey. Then he went out and did himself zero favors. Zach relies heavily and almost exclusively on his fastball. Everyone knows it. And it is not as if he is throwing 97-98 mph—he is more in the 91-92 range. These days he isn’t fooling anyone as even an offensively-starved team like the Mariners can tee off him.
The Indians staked McAllister to a 1-0 lead after a Jason Kipnis leadoff double, a Jose Ramirez sacrifice bunt, and an RBI single from Michael Brantley. He gave one back after a pair of hits and a sac fly in the top of the second and then watched as the wheels came tumbling off the wagon in a three-run Mariner third. Endy Chavez singled to open the frame and came home of Dustin Ackley’s line drive homer to right. Chris Taylor singled and scored on Robinson Cano’s double.
“Response runs” is a term we have become all too familiar with this season, usually when the Indians pitchers are giving them up. However, in the bottom of the third, the offense fought back against lanky right-hander Chris Young. After a Mike Aviles walk, Jason Kipnis blasted his sixth homer of the season to the seats in right-center to inch the Tribe closer. They would tie the game at four after a one out Brantley triple (misplayed badly by Corey Hart) and a sac fly from Carlos Santana.
Francona sent McAllister out for the fourth, but it was a short stay. With a fresh nine-man pen, Z Mac was going to get a quick hook. Two batters into the inning, Tito called for lefty Nick Hagadone. Zach’s line left a lot to be desired – three and a third innings, four earned runs on eight hits. He didn’t register a walk or a strikeout. For a guy fighting for his rotation life, this was not a great lasting impression.
“When Zach’s looked good, he’s down with his fastball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And even when he doesn’t really locate in or out, if he’s down, he’s OK. When he’s up, balls start to get elevated. And they were getting under some of the offspeed pitches”
This tells you where McAllister is right about now:
McAllister’s last 7 starts for Cleveland: 0-4, 9.88 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, .345 average, 27.1 IP.
“It’s definitely something you can work through,” said McAllister. “It’s a thing of being able to do it. I’ve done it before, I know I can do it. It’s just getting back to it.”
With equally underwhelming Josh Tomlin lined up on the same day in Columbus, we may see another flip flop between the two coming soon.
The game then turned from a slugfest to a pitchers duel. Young departed in the sixth were it launched a battle of bullpens. When that happens, the Indians usually have the upper hand. Hagadone, Scott Atchison, and Marc Rzepcyznski gave the Tribe three and two-thirds of scoreless work which brought the game into the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Ramirez beat out an infield single and Brantley walked. Seattle skipper Lloyd McLenndon called for right-hander Danny Farqhuar to face the red hot Santana. Carlos continued his magical two-month run with an RBI single the other way which nearly hit Ramirez as he ran to third. His speed had him square with relative ease and the Tribe had come all the way back to take the lead.
Things were lined up perfectly for set up man Bryan Shaw to pitch the eighth and closer Cody Allen to handle the ninth. Except Shaw, who has been so good this season, picked an inopportune time to stub his toe. Kyle Seager, Indian killer number one now that Paul Konerko has slowed down, walked to start the eighth. UP stepped power hitting catcher Mike Zunino. Shaw left a hanger over the middle of the plate and Zunino deposited it over the wall in left field to put Seattle back in the lead.
“You know when you go to your bullpen that early, if somebody has a hiccup, it’s runs,” Francona said. “Our guys did a really good job when we turned it over. Shaw uncharacteristically wasn’t commanding.”
In Shaw’s last seven outings, he has given up six earned runs in seven and two-thirds. Maybe the crazy work load is finally starting to catch up to him? COuld be, but one thing is for certain, the Indians have to get better starting pitching than they did in July. Outside of Corey Kluber, the rest of the options posted a miserable 5.35 ERA in 111 inning pitched while averaging just over five innings per start.
The offense went quietly over the last two frames as the Indians missed a chance to get back to .500 for the 15th time this season. Now they welcome in the last place Texas Rangers for a three-game set where they will honor both Tom Hamilton’s 25th anniversary as radio play by play announcer tonight and unveil the Jim Thome statue on Saturday.