In a game no one would ever accuse of being crisply played, the Indians suffered an ugly 7-4 loss to the Red Sox Saturday.
It was a frustratingly sloppy game the Tribe absolutely deserved to lose.
* Committed two costly errors.
* Had Asdrubal Cabrera thrown out at home plate, and later Cabrera was almost thrown out after a wide turn on a single to right.
* Saw Mark Reynolds make one of the worst (most awkward might be a better description) bunt attempts I’ve ever seen in my life.
* Were fortunate that a heads up play by Yan Gomes turned a pop up that inexplicably dropped in the infield into an out.
* Had the eighth inning unravel starting when Michael Brantley misplayed a double off the base of the Green Monster. Later in the eighth, Brantley and Cabrera misplayed a popup into the final nail in the coffin and gave Boston a two-insurance-run gift. (And I know some will want to use “the wind was doing awful things to the ball” excuse, but I’m not buying it. The Red Sox certainly didn’t seem to struggle with it too badly. Either way, you have to be aware of what the wind is capable of and play heads up baseball. The Indians didn’t do that Saturday.)
But all of that is the window dressing to the real issue Saturday. This week’s bullpen meltdown doesn’t belong to Cleveland’s favorite whipping boy Chris Perez, but the man so many want to take his place, Vinnie Pestano. His eighth inning line is something the poor guy will have nightmares about: 1 inning, four hits, four runs, two walks.
If Pestano looked like Pestano in getting knocked around, I’d be more than happy to write Saturday off to “it happens to every reliever not named Mariano Rivera” and move on with confidence he would be fine next outing.
I’m no mechanics expert, however to my very amateur eye his arm slot looks off, and clearly the velocity and command are not what we’re used to seeing. Saturday he was throwing 87-88 and hitters seemed to be squaring him up pretty well. When he found the strike zone that is (31 pitches and only 17 strikes).
One thing that can cause mechanical and control problems – injury. Pestano and the Indians have said the reliever landed on the DL earlier this month with “elbow tendinitis” that has been an ongoing issue and he just needed rest. And until Saturday his numbers since he came off the DL weren’t terrible. (3 innings, two strikeouts, only one hit – though it was a costly home run – and one walk.)
We’ve been down this road with pitchers who get hurt, come back and try to gut through the pain but everything is just a little off. Even the good performances aren’t so dominant, and they’re getting by mostly with guts and guile. And that road often ends with the words surgery. I certainly hope I’m overreacting to an unexpectedly bad Pestano performance. But this situation has some all too familiar beats to leave me completely comfortable as the Indians continue on this brutal stretch against .500, playoff contending teams.
As for starter Scott Kazmir, who went five innings and a season-high 107 pitches but didn’t figure in the decision, he was inefficiently effective. It certainly won’t go down as the prettiest start of his career, and command again was a struggle, especially early, as he walked four to go along with five hits. But he also struck out six and got out of trouble each time expect for two one-run innings, both set up by sloppy mistakes. One was Kazmir’s own, a balk in the second that moved a runner to second allowing him to score on the following single, and the other was Ryan Raburn’s misplayed ball that the right fielder compounded by missing the cutoff man when the Indians had a chance to gun down the runner at home.
* Fun with small sample size: Can we all agree that Mark Reynolds shouldn’t bunt. Ever. I know he was doing it for a hit against the shift and not a sacrifice, but Reynolds has two sacrifice bunts in his career, and none since 2008.