It’s September, and it’s crunch time in the Major Leagues. What I should say is, it’s crunch time in the AL Wild Card race. Coming into tonight’s games, six teams were in contention for the two wild card spots. The Indians, just a half game back from one of those spots, entered tonight with a chance to jump ahead of the Rangers or Rays. The reason for that is because Texas and Tampa Bay start a crucial four game series in the Sunshine State. The schedule and that series has become a huge benefit to the Indians. With the top two teams duking it out for four games, the Tribe has an opportunity to jump ahead, and stay ahead due to the mediocrity of the remaining teams they face.
With all that being said, the Tribe first has to get through three tough games against the Royals. To make matters worse, Big Game James Shields was on the mound. Even though Wil Myers was a very steep price to pay, Shields has been the top-end starter Kansas City needed. For how poorly his run support has been this year, he has still gone 11-9 with a 3.33 ERA. Taking the hill for the Tribe was Scott Kazmir, a pitcher who has came to Cleveland and revived his career. He’s certainly not the All-Star that he used to be, but he is a serviceable back-of-the-rotation pitcher who the Tribe should consider re-signing.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Kazmir couldn’t out-duel Shields. The lefty went 5 innings while giving up 4 runs. The Royals tagged Kazmir in the first inning off of a Billy Butler single, and then on a Salvador Perez single in the third. His night came to and end in the fifth after giving up back-to-back triples. The bullpen would go on to give up 2 more earned runs. With the pitching stats out of the way, it should be noted that what killed the Indians tonight was not just their pitching, but also their numerous mental mistakes. In the first, Jason Kipnis misplayed an easy grounder from Emilio Bonifacio who would get on base and eventually score. In the third, Yan Gomes dropped a strikeout from Kazmir that allowed Alex Gordon to get on base and eventually score. In the sixth, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana would team up to create an error when Asdrubal threw wide of Santana, who would take his foot off of the bag and allow Alcides Escobar to get on base. Also in the sixth, Lonnie Chisenhall would misplay a grounder that would allow Bonifacio to score. Not to mention a blown call from the umpire on the Salvador Perez triple in the sixth would eventually lead to a run.
It just wasn’t the Tribe’s night, and while it hurts, it is definitely not the end of the world. Cleveland still has one of the easiest, if not the easiest, remaining schedules in all of baseball. On top of that, the Rangers and Rays will continue to battle it out for the next three days. Tampa Bay took tonight’s game, winning 6-2. It would be best if the two teams split the series, as the top wildcard spot would be most accessible for the Tribe with those results.
Offensively, there wasn’t much to talk about in this game. Lonnie Chisenhall got the Tribe on the board in the fifth inning with a solo shot to right field. In his previous 11 games, Chiz was hitting .333 with 6 RBI, so it was nice to see him add to his recent success tonight. Looking ahead, the Tribe will continue their three-game series against the Royals. Corey Kluber will take the mound tomorrow, while Yordano Ventura will make his Major League debut for Kansas City