Pardon my terrible puns, but this is the second frustrating game I’ve written about in the past three days. If I don’t make some corny dog-related references, I may end up pulling a Nick Hagadone on my poor, defenseless wall. This one ended up as a doggone pitching duel on Puppypalooza night; one that saw the Indians strand 11 runners on base. Carlos Carrasco dazzled, giving up just one earned run on four hits, striking out four and walking one in 7.1 innings pitched. James Shields had a similar line for the Royals – his one mistake was a solo home run to Carlos Santana in the sixth inning. In all, Shields allowed four hits, striking out five and walking four (a pretty high walk total compared to his typical performance). The Indians couldn’t take advantage of the higher number of free passes. They gave themselves such a thin margin for error (a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning) that small things were going to burn them. It makes me wonder why Terry Francona chose to go with Rich Hill and Matt Albers after Bryan Shaw was pulled.
Shaw was the victim of some bad luck. A bloop double that fell into no-man’s land just beyond the infield scored the tying run from second in the eighth. What surprised me was the fact that Francona went to Rich Hill to face David Lough with runners on first and second and nobody out. I know, I know…it was a lefty-lefty match-up. However, Hill has a 7.79 ERA and he hasn’t exactly shut down lefties – they’re hitting .242/.366/.424 off of him this year (compared to right-handers, who are hitting .371/.452/.514). Lough ended up bunting, and Hill fell down and wasn’t even able to get the out at first. After that, Francona went to Matt Albers.
A lot of people seem to hate Matt Albers, but I don’t – at least not in certain situations. I think he does great in mop-up duty as a long man, or in low-pressure situations. He came in after Scott Kazmir on Saturday and stopped the bleeding. Albers has had success in those scenarios. I cringe to see him enter the game at such a make-or-break moment though. Perhaps Cody Allen and Joe Smith were unavailable today? I would have felt much better with Allen in that situation. To be fair though, it wasn’t the disaster it could have been. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the wild pitch, criticizing Carlos Santana for not staying in front of it. Yes, that was bad, and yes, that gave the Royals a 2-1 lead. Again, you put yourselves in a position where a small mistake like that could create a great amount of damage. And to be perfectly honest, to have the bases loaded with nobody out and only allow one run to score, I’ll take that any day. I thought the Royals would leave that inning with at least two to three additional runs.
I also saw a lot of complaints around the Internet this evening about Francona letting John McDonald bat in the ninth, rather than going for a pinch hitter. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a choice – the only players left on the bench were Yan Gomes, Drew Stubbs, and Nick Swisher. If you burn through Gomes, then you have no backup catcher if the game were to go into extra innings. Kansas City closer Greg Holland is right-handed; Stubbs is currently hitting .212/.229/.350 against righties. McDonald’s only two hits this season (yes, he only has two but was also on the DL) came against right-handed pitching. His career numbers against righties is still slightly better than Stubbs has been this season – .227/.263/.315. The only other candidate was Nick Swisher, who just had a cortisone shot in his shoulder and is trying to avoid the DL. When you start Jason Giambi, and you have a guy on the bench that you basically can’t use, the unfortunate result is that McDonald ends up batting in the ninth inning when you’re down by just a run.
Jason Kipnis, who has been on fire over the past week, had a pretty rough night. He struck out with the bases loaded to end the third and fifth innings, and grounded out to second with the tying run on third in the ninth. Over the past seven days, Kipnis hit .529/.609/.824 and was also named AL player of the week (along with Corey Kluber). Unfortunately, tonight was a bad time to cool down a bit.
Last, but certainly not least, Carrasco. I actually saw people saying that perhaps the Indians should give up on him after his last start (which is kind of baffling in and of itself, because he’s only 26-years-old). Like I am with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir when they have good performances, I’m not willing to roll out the “He’s turned a corner!” banner quite yet. There may still be setbacks and some rough starts; although we’ve now seen what he can do. He’s had performances like tonight’s with Columbus this year, and prior to his Tommy John surgery in 2011. It’s good to see him put together such a good start at the major league level.
The Indians have had a lot of ups and downs lately, but I’m definitely not ready to throw in the towel on them. They’re a very streaky team; they will give you the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. With Jimenez pitching more good starts than bad, with Kluber emerging as a solid starter, and with more games like tonight’s from Carrasco, I think this is solid starting pitching staff if everyone remains healthy. The rest of the AL Central has their own share of flaws, and the Royals have been about as streaky as the Indians (terrible at first, on fire lately). The Indians need to find a way to be more consistent and exploit their opponents’ weak spots.
– I typically take my dog to Puppypalooza, but she seems to hate it. I felt bad dragging her there to get stressed out, just so I can say I BROUGHT MY DOG TO THE BALLPARK. (I was even going to attach “Bark Reynolds” to her little Indians jersey). As frustrating as this game was, I’m kind of glad I opted to watch this one on my couch. I even watched the dog shred a stuffed toy, basically demonstrating my rage and frustration toward this game.