Nothing says critical September game like starting Chris Gimenez at first base. While I hate to nitpick over someone filling in for a player getting a day off, I can’t help but wonder if that play in the first goes down differently with Carlos Santana at first. Although, even if they did have a tighter defensive performance, you’re not going to win any games with zero runs.
Let’s start with the remainder of their game from August 31 – the Indians even had to make the bottom of the tenth a bit interesting – they let the Royals climb back to 4-3 before shutting them down to end the game. Once tonight’s actual game started, Carlos Carrasco then allowed a run in the top of the first (the RBI hit that got past Gimenez down the line) but the Indians bounced back quickly and looked like they had Danny Duffy on the ropes in the bottom of the first. With the bases loaded and nobody out, it looked like that run allowed in the top of the first would seem almost insignificant! But Carlos Santana swung at the very first pitch and popped it straight up. Duffy was having some control issues (he’d walked Michael Bourn on five pitches) and you let him off easy by popping the first pitch straight into the air. That’s something you used to see from Asdrubal Cabrera, but I thought that Santana may be patient enough to avoid such an obnoxious faux pas (he does lead the majors in walks with 108 and has an OBP of .365). Yan Gomes struck out, and Mike Aviles flew out to end the inning. Bases loaded and nobody out, and you can’t even plate a token run on a sacrifice fly or something along those lines.
The Indians had at least one hit in every inning except for the fifth and the ninth innings. The problem was that the hit was often a single, and that was pretty much the entirety of their activity that inning. Although they did well offensively the past couple of games in Minnesota, this was right back to the problems that plagued them during their series with Houston, and even Detroit. You can’t expect your pitcher to go out there every day and pitch a shut out…it’s just not going to happen. You have to at least make the most of your opportunities (like you had in the first inning). The top of the order was getting on and getting hits; unfortunately Yan Gomes had a rough night (0 for 4) while Chris Gimenez and Lonnie Chisenhall had 0-fers as well.
I have to at least give credit where credit was due – Carrasco pitched a good game despite allowing the two runs. There were some nice defensive plays in the outfield from Michael Bourn and Tyler Holt, even if the infield defense was a bit shaky.
What frustrated me the most about tonight was that the Mariners were pounded by the Blue Jays 14-3, and Detroit lost to the White Sox 2-0. While the division is pretty much out of your reach at this point, this is your last head-to-head opportunity with a team directly in front of you. The Indians (at least) finished off the August 31 game and could still come back and win the next two against the Royals. But they (once again) have put themselves behind the eight ball. They’re not completely out of it, but yet again, they’ve made any potential path to a playoff spot more difficult. They could have ended tonight 2.5 games behind the the Royals for the Wild Card, and just 0.5 behind the Mariners. They would have been just 3.5 behind the Tigers for the division…a tough road with KC in front of them, and with no games against Detroit, but still…by some miracle still within striking distance. While they’re still just 3.5 behind the Royals, they need to win the next two just to stay alive…and that would still leave them at least 1.5 out (and crossing their fingers that the Blue Jays can continue to beat up on the Mariners). They’d then have to win at least 2 of 3 against Tampa Bay, and hope that the Royals lose at least 3 of 4 to the White Sox this weekend. While it’s not impossible, the fat lady is starting to warm up back stage.