This was one of those games where you find yourself thinking, “oh boy…here we go.” The Indians managed to pull ahead 2-1 in the top of the eighth, setting the stage for the duo of Pestano and Perez. Perez comes into the game and and with one bad pitch surrenders a solo shot to Jose Bautista. I immediately thought that this could be the beginning of the end for the Tribe. Toronto has some big bats in that lineup, even if they’ve been silent for much of the series thus far. One more bad pitch, one more swing, and the Blue Jays were going home with the W. Fortunately for the Indians, they weren’t the team that would make the final, fatal flaw. The next bad pitch would come from Sergio Santos and Mark Reynolds didn’t let him get away with his mistake.
The Indians’ offense wasted a number of opportunities, many of which started with the hot bat of Michael Brantley. Ubaldo Jimenez never really even gave Toronto that many opportunities. Like Perez, and like Santos, he made just one bad pitch to Maicer Izturis, the Blue Jays’ number 8 hitter, and Izturis hit it out. That was the only run Jimenez would allow over six innings; he allowed just three hits, striking out six and walking two. As Ryan M. mentioned recently, Jimenez’s improved control was key. He limited his walks in spring training, and he did the same tonight. In fact both walks came with two outs and nobody on, and neither led to any damage. Jimenez had nice movement on his pitches and kept the Toronto hitters off balance. Even though we haven’t seen much from their offense over the past two games (they’ve scored just three runs combined between last night and tonight) it could be because the Indians’ pitching shut them down. Masterson had some control issues last night, and you got the feeling that things could have unraveled for him at several points during the game (even though they did not). Jimenez seemed to be in command the entire time tonight, outside of that one bad pitch to Izturis. In the bottom of the sixth, Jimenez got a third strike call on Jose Reyes when he painted the inside corner. Reyes was irate over the call, but it was a brilliant pitch. If he locates his pitches that well all year, we could maybe finally exercise the demon known as “bad Jimenez.”
Prior to the broadcast of the game tonight, the STO/Fox Sports crew showed a private moment between Michael Brantley and his father Mickey as Mickey appeared to give Michael some batting advice. I’m not sure what his dad suggested tonight, but perhaps they should talk before every game from now on. Brantley, who went 1 for 2 with 2 walks last night, went 4 for 5 tonight with an RBI and a run scored. I’m a big fan of Brantley’s, so I’m really hoping this is the start of a really great season for him.
Since I mentioned the offensive positives (Brantley and the Reynolds bomb) I have to also mention the negatives. The Indians stranded 10 runners on base tonight, and outhit the Blue Jays 10-5. While I’m glad the Indians were able to pull out the win in extra innings, if they would’ve plated a few more of those base runners, they never would have put themselves in that position in the first place. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall just looked bad tonight; everyone has a bad night now and again, but Kipnis really struggled this spring. I hope that he just hasn’t found his timing yet, and that this isn’t a lingering/nagging injury of some sort.
Otherwise, there was a lot to like about this game. Jimenez dazzled and had fantastic control. Brantley put on an offensive show, and the Indians got a big hit from Reynolds when they needed it the most. There were even a few positives with Chris Perez, despite the blown save. While that is obviously annoying, Perez pulled it together and got out of the inning without further damage. It’s the kind of thing that you can forgive now that the game ended in a win, but it would frustrate you if they ended up losing. The Indians had a bit of luck go their way as well, when Toronto made a costly error in the eighth inning. In a game this close, you have to minimize your mistakes or pay the price. Just one bad pitch can kill you.
– Since Scott Kazmir won’t be making his start on Saturday, the Indians will have to use someone in his place. It can’t be Carrasco, since he will still be serving his suspension. There was speculation that Corey Kluber would come up from Columbus, but now it sounds like it may be Trevor Bauer. Bauer was due to start for the Clippers tonight, but Joe Martinez went instead. It could mean that they plan to use him Saturday, or maybe just that they wanted to keep their options open for the time being. I didn’t think we’d be answering that question from our preseason predictions so soon, but it looks like we will.
– The Indians claimed RHP Robert Whitenack off waivers from the Cubs today. They moved Frank Herrmann to the 60-day DL in order to make room for him on the 40-man roster. Whitenack had a fantastic start to the 2011 season with the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies (4-0, 2.39 ERA) before he was derailed by Tommy John surgery in June of 2011. He’s struggled some since his return, but if he can find his pre-surgery form this could be quite a grab.
– The new film “42” on Jackie Robinson will be out in theaters on April 12. In anticipation of the film, I will be participating on a live chat on Canada.com this Friday at 1 p.m. ET. (It will take place at that link.) I’m part of the panel of experts that will discuss the life, career, and legacy of Robinson. If you’re interested in the subject, or just want to learn more about it, I recommend checking it out.
The Indians go for the sweep tomorrow as Brett Myers takes on Mark Buehrle. (And I’d be lying if I said Brett Myers didn’t make me nervous.) The Indians haven’ t started a season 3-0 since 1998.