You have got to be me kidding me. The first eight innings of the game were exactly what we had hoped for. Great pitching, a couple timely hits, and great defense usually equal a recipe for success for any team. The Tribe followed this recipe to a tee up until the 9th inning, and it looked like this was going to be a perfect start to the biggest series of the year thus far for the Tribe…then the 9th inning happened.
Chris Perez absolutely imploded tonight after delivering a string of superb outings after coming off of the disabled list. However, I must say that part of the blame must be placed on Terry Francona, Mickey Callaway, and/or whoever else was involved in determining whether or not Chris Perez needed a day off today, because he clearly did. After pitching in each of the last two days, Perez looked off tonight. His body language alone reminded me of his implosion against Boston on May 26th, when he was placed on the DL soon after the game. Don’t get me wrong, Perez undoubtedly shoulders a chunk of the blame tonight. Four earned runs without retiring a batter from your closer simply cannot happen in crucial games/series such as this one. However, all of this was somewhat avoidable in my eyes.
I’m not one that usually places much blame on the manager/coaches and I really don’t like criticizing Terry Francona based on the incredible job that he’s done with the team this season. However, tonight I’m forced to question his judgment a little bit. The manager/coaching staff should know when a pitcher is fatigued or not feeling 100% (especially a reliever that has pitched in back to back games and has additionally had injury problems this season). Maybe Perez talked Francona and company into letting him pitch tonight, but Francona should have at least pulled him before things started to get out of hand. It was clear from the first 3 batters that Perez was off and didn’t have it tonight based both on his stuff/command and body language. If I can recognize that from sitting on my couch at home, at least someone on the coaching staff should have recognized it as well.
It’s unfortunate, because this was otherwise a spectacularly played game for the Tribe. In my opinion, Corey Kluber turned in his best performance of the season given the offense he was facing. You can’t ask much more than 7.1 shutout innings against a potent Tigers lineup in the most critical series of the season thus far. The defense behind Kluber was stellar as well. There were at least four or five balls that could have gone for hits off of Kluber that the defense turned into outs. The offense didn’t go much against the electric arm of Anibal Sanchez, but timely RBI hits by Jason Giambi and Carlos Santana gave the Tribe a 2-0 advantage that seemed like it was going to hold up until the 9th inning disaster. Like I said before, it’s disappointing simply because it was such a well-played game all-around by the Tribe up until the 9th.
Tonight’s loss hurts. No, it doesn’t mean we’re out of contention and it doesn’t mean we have to completely turn our attention to the wild card just yet. However, a win tonight would have put us 2 games in back of Detroit with 3 games left to go in the series. That sounds a heck of a lot better than 4 games behind, as it stands right now. Now we have to take two out of the next three from Detroit to simply earn a split in the series. Is it possible? Sure. However, that doesn’t make tonight’s loss hurt any less.