Before I get into the recap of Saturday night’s game, I think it’s important to put the Indians start into proper perspective: the Tribe opened up their season with six games on the road against teams with very legitimate aspirations to win over 90 games and advance to the postseason, so hoping for anything more than a 3-3 split over those six games would certainly be a bit ambitious. After the loss on Saturday, the good news is that the Indians go into Sunday with a chance to win and earn a 3-3 split on the season-opening road trip.
That, however, is about the only positive Indians fans can take out of this game. Trevor Bauer and the mop up crew out of the pen walked a bajillion Rays (Note: ESPN and Baseball Reference are telling me the Indians combined to walk NINE batters, which might as well be a bajillion, so my original point stands), Lou Marson got laid out and injured in a home plate collision with Desmond Jennings, Trevor Bauer had to bat because of the aforementioned injury to Marson (Santana, the Indians only other catcher, was the DH. Oops.), and on top of all that the Indians were shut down and shut out for the second consecutive day.
In many ways, this loss is more frustrating than any other regular loss because the Indians repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and/or failed to capitalize on opportunities that could have scored or saved runs. The big problem, however, is all the walks that are being issued by our pitching staff. Throughout the course of the series in Toronto, Indians starters walked Jose Reyes to lead off the game two out of three times, which is patently unacceptable. Trevor Bauer apparently saw that during his short stint in Columbus and thought to himself “If walking the leadoff batter is cool, then I’m Miles Davis,” and then he went out and proved that point by walking the first four Rays that he saw. Thanks to some shoddy base running by Matt Joyce and a stellar throw from Ryan Raburn (more on him in a few moments), Bauer was able to escape the first having only given up the one run that he delivered to the Rays on a silver platter.
Unfortunately, even though Bauer escaped the jam while only allowing the one run, the game was effectively over at that point, as Alex Cobb was good enough to shut the Indians down for the second straight night. The Indians did threaten in the top of the second inning, but a Lonnie Chisenhall GIDP (one of two on the night for the Chiz Kid) short-circuited that rally. The Indians again put two runners on with no outs in the third inning, but an extremely questionable sac bunt attempt by Michael Bourn and bad situational hitting by Asdrubal Cabrera again ended the potentially rally.. From that inning on, the Indians would never again be in position to threaten the Rays lead, and the home squad coasted to victory.
In honor the Tribe’s nine walks, I present my Nine Random Baseball Thoughts that I am left with from tonight’s game:
1: Desmond Jennings is really good. For whatever reason, Desmond Jennings’ name is often not mentioned in the discussion about the best young outfielders; I suppose some players can get overshadowed when two potential all-time greats (Bryce Harper and Mike Trout) are prowling outfields on a daily basis, but the lack of respect is still strange. Jennings may not hit for a lot of power or for a high average, but he’s shown a tremendous amount of speed and plate discipline in this series. In Friday night’s game, the at-bat in which he worked a count from 0-2 to a walk opened the floodgates a little bit on Zach McAllister, and tonight Jennings impact was again felt early and often. He walked in the first and scored, but it was what he did in the third inning that really stood out. Leading off the inning, Jennings again walked and then immediately stole second AND third base; Jennings had such a read on Bauer that Marson had no shot on either throw. Jennings was also responsible for the injury to Marson (it was a completely legitimate baseball play, by the way), which directly led to Bauer being forced to bat–… err, stand there and halfheartedly pretend to bunt until the umpire called three strikes. In any case, Desmond Jennings has had his fingerprints all over both Rays wins in this series so far.
2. It’s probably not smart to DH your only other catcher. I can’t really blame Terry Francona for this one, because how often does your starting catcher get hurt in the game and need to be replaced? Apparently, the answer is “often enough.” After Marson’s injury forced him out of the game, it forced Santana out of the DH role and back into the catching gear. I suspect that from now on Santana will either have the day off or play first when Marson relieves him behind the plate. I can’t see Francona putting the team in a situation where this could happen again.
3. I am a little concerned about Trevor Bauer. Okay, I’m a lot concerned, I’ll be honest. His stuff was okay tonight: he hit 93 on the Trop’s radar gun with his fastball and mixed in some secondary pitches that rarely did anything except add balls to the pitch count. Normally I’d say he’s a young pitcher and the coaches will work through it, but there are two factors to consider: 1) Bauer has an unorthodox style and training regimen that he does not want to change, and 2) He’s now made 5 major league starts (4 with ARI) and he’s walked 20 batters in 21.1 innings, which is way too many. If he can’t figure out his control, and he continues to resist modifications to his delivery/focus/training, then this may be the Trevor Bauer we’re stuck with. I hope not, I sincerely do, but these are red flags that are popping up early.
4. I was pleasantly surprised by Tropicana Field. I live in Florida and took a (rather long) drive to see this game in person, having never been to the Trop and wanting to see as many ballparks as I can. I asked a friend of mine who used to live in Tampa what he thought of the Trop and he was unequivocal: “There is NO atmosphere. It’s in the middle of NOWHERE. Completely random. None of the baseball sounds sound right. The crack of the bat is sort a deadened thud. It stinks and sort of looks like a tropically themed basement that was only half finished.” I found this to be untrue (though this probably has a lot to do with changes made since 2008), as I had a good time at the game. It was a nearly sold out (!!) game, and the crowd was very into the game at first (though they became more subdued as the game lost all semblance of drama), and everything else about the baseball experience was okay to good. I really, really liked what the team did with the left field party deck that Longoria hit a HR into to clinch a wild card berth on the last day of the season in 2011. The deck area is now called 162 Landing, and I won’t go on about it. If you’re interested, check it out by clicking here.
5. The relative ease of getting in/out of downtown Cleveland has spoiled me. For years I have heard Tampa residents claim that the reason they don’t attend Rays games all that well is because getting to Tropicana Field is a pain, and I can now attest to that fact, as well. I planned my trip well (or so I thought) and merged onto I-275 (through Tampa to St. Pete) at 5:20, which should have left me plenty of time to go 20 miles and park and have time to explore the park before first pitch. The 20 miles from Tampa to St. Pete (plus trying to park) took me nearly two hours, and so I barely even made it to my seat before first pitch. This is a totally new experience for me, and I realize now that Cleveland actually handles their traffic flow pretty well. I’ve attended plenty of events in downtown Cleveland and I’ve never one experienced the backbreaking gridlock that I fought through today. Appreciate it, Clevelanders, get out to a game!
6. Ryan Raburn: Surprisingly Effective. The Tampa fans sitting next to me and I were going back and forth bemoaning Ryan Raburn (I don’t hate the guy personally, but a sub-Mendoza line finish in 2012 invites some scorn), but I have to give him his due: his first two at-bats ended with a extremely hard-hit balls. If he can come in once a week and make good contact with the ball, he could be a valuable piece of this team for the duration of the season.
7. I am not giving up on Lonnie Chisenhall. I didn’t think the second GIDP tonight was his fault (he hit it up the middle, it glanced off the pitcher and right to Escobar at short), but he is scuffling. He did hit some foul balls hard tonight, and he didn’t strike out, which is progress. I still see big things this year for the Chiz kid, and I am remaining patient. For now.
8. What the heck was up with that sac bunt? I honestly don’t know who called for the sacrifice bunt in the top of the third, but that was a really bad baseball play. At the time the score was 1-0, and Raburn and Marson had worked their way on base with nobody out. Why is Bourn giving himself up here and playing for one run? It’s the third inning, play for a big inning! It was only Friday night when Bourn was the entirety of the Indians offense, so why in the world is he bunting here? I have no idea.
9. Cody Allen has looked really bad thus far. If walks by a starting pitcher bother me, walks by a bullpen arm absolutely drive me insane. Allen has walked 3 in 3 IP this season, as well as allowing 6 hits (a tidy 3.00 WHIP for those keeping score at home) and allowing 3 runs. I would have to imagine he’s on a pretty short leash at the moment; I would not be surprised if we see Brett Myers in Allen’s role sometime within the next couple months.
That’s all I have for this game. The score ended up being 6-0, but with the way the Rays were hitting with RISP (they were not) and with all the walks, this game could have easily been 10-0 or worse. The Rays had a total of 19 baserunners and only scored 6 runs. Yeesh.
Tomorrow (today?) the Indians will go for the win the series finale, which would secure a nice 3-3 record to start the season. Justin Masterson will take on David Price at 1:40pm EST.
Until next time.
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