I should have known how this night was ultimately going to end when I arrived at the park at 5:45 p.m., a full hour and a half before game time, and all of the Kipnis giveaway jerseys were already long gone. (But more on that in a bit). I completely forgot to check the weather and didn’t bring my jacket. Since I had plenty of jersey-less time to fool around, I pulled up the weather map on my phone to see a big green blob heading for Cleveland. By the time the game started, we were not only dodging raindrops but also flying baseballs (my seats are in the outfield reserved section) from the home runs surrendered by starter Scott Kazmir. After sitting there for several long, cold, wet innings, the rain stopped and the sun came out. The Indians started to climb back from their 5-0 deficit, to the point where they had a 6-5 lead. With the way everything else had gone, I shouldn’t have been surprised when it all started to unravel. To be fair, I wasn’t that surprised…it didn’t make it any less annoying though.
In my opinion, there is a lot of blame to go around tonight. It seems like everyone is trying to pin this loss on Nick Swisher, because of foul pop he missed in the ninth inning. I’m not saying that I’m letting him off the hook; it was a boneheaded play when the Indians could least afford a boneheaded play. However, Kazmir never made it out of the third inning, giving up five earned runs and three home runs (he was really lucky they were all solo shots). He walked four and gave up four hits in just 2.2 innings pitched; his ERA is creeping close to six. Kazmir put them in a 5-0 hole before the Indians had even batted through the lineup a full time. To say this is all Swisher’s fault, is to ignore the fact that Kazmir just didn’t have it tonight…it was obviously one of those nights. But I credit Terry Francona with the quick hook on Kazmir. I was a little surprised he pulled him quite so early, but by going to Matt Albers he stopped the bleeding and gave the offense a chance to make this a ballgame.
For the most part, I have few complaints about the offense. Jordan Zimmermann came into tonight with a 9-3 record and a 2.00 ERA. Except for May 29 against Baltimore, Zimmerman had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start. In his two prior starts against the Mets and the Twins, he allowed zero earned runs. The Indians managed to get six earned runs off of him in five innings; a pretty impressive feat. Michael Bourn went 0 for 5, Ryan Raburn went 0 for 3, and Jason Giambi went 0 for 4 (dropping his line to .179/.283/.440), but otherwise everyone had at least one hit. Mike Aviles went 3 for 4, Kipnis went 2 for 3, and Michael Brantley doubled in two runs. Aviles doubled in the ninth with two outs, but there would be no 2-out magic tonight; Bourn hit the ball hard down the line, but Adam LaRoche was right in its path and snagged it to end the game.
The last two parties that should receive some blame for this one are Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano. The usually fantastic Smith gave up a game-tying home run in the eighth inning to pinch hitter Chad Tracy – a man with a .145/.185/.242 batting line. That’s a batter he should have gotten out, but instead he let him even the score. After the botched foul pop in the ninth, I think a lot of people knew what was coming. The woman behind me was beside herself saying over and over “you know this is going to be a go-ahead home run now.” And sure enough, Pestano gave up the go-ahead run to Anthony Rendon; a .333 hitter than had yet to hit a homer this season. Pestano has struggled this year as well – that was the fourth home run he’s allowed this year, even though it was technically unearned due to the error. He’s still a great pitcher, but he’s had his share of problems this year; his ERA is up, his home run rate is up, and his walk rate is up. There’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around, but I’ve started to become a bit uneasy when he enters the game.
As disappointing as this night was as a whole, it seemed fitting that the Indians got your hopes as high as possible before letting you down in the end. It looked like things were improving when the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and the Indians came back. Alas, it was all a mirage and the most disappointing moments were saved for the eighth and ninth innings.
– The Kipnis jersey is the first limited giveaway item I’ve missed out on. I always come about 45 minutes to an hour early, and there are always plenty left at that point in time. Today, even 90 minutes early was not enough; and it probably ran out even earlier since there were no traces of empty boxes laying around at the gate. I understand the idea behind limited giveaway items – you save money because you’re not buying 30,000-40,000 of something only to have 20,000 people show up. It also gets people to the park earlier, where they’re more likely to buy food and drinks. Tonight, I happened to see a lot of people walking around and hanging outside of bars wearing the Kipnis giveaway jersey as I was walking to the park. If people are using the re-entry policy to grab the jersey and go eat/drink elsewhere, and come back for the game, then how much does it benefit? I guess I’m just frustrated that even 90 minutes wasn’t enough. A lot of other people seemed much, much more frustrated than I was.
– I’m starting to become concerned about Scott Kazmir. I haven’t given up on him yet, and I’m not ready to banish him. In many ways, he’s like the rest of this team – very streaky. He’ll put together a few great starts in a row, making you think he’s turned the corner. Then there are a few terrible ones in a row, and you’re back to being frustrated. His velocity seemed fine tonight, but his control was obviously pretty bad. Since I sit in right-center field, I don’t have a good handle on pitches most nights; it’s really hard to tell with certainty how good or bad a pitch may be. I could even see from out there that Kazmir was really all over the place.
– On a lighter note, I started to laugh hysterically during the fireworks tonight because I couldn’t stop thinking “what if they had fireworks on Puppypalooza night?” The mental image of roughly 1,000 dogs all simultaneously melting down was sadly, one of the high points of my night.
– In the rubber match tomorrow, Stephen Strasburg will come off the DL to face Corey Kluber. I never had much faith in Kluber, but I’ve really started to enjoy watching him pitch over the past couple of months. The last time Strasburg pitched at Progressive Field, it was 2010 and he was making his second major league start. I remember that they were actually selling “Strasburg” t-shirts here in Cleveland, but did not yet have Carlos Santana shirts (he had been called up a few days before). Even though they lost, the Indians did manage to get to him three years ago. Hopefully in the rematch tomorrow the Indians can come away with the game and series win.