At the beginning of the year, there was nothing more frustrating to me than the Indians’ pitching. Prior to the season I had high expectations, and I knew that they were better than what we saw in April and early May. Tonight’s game against the Royals is a good example of the Indians pitching staff I thought we would see this year. Carlos Carrasco was brilliant; he gave up just 1 ER on 5 hits in 7 IP, walking two and striking out eight. There were times where he flirted with trouble, but he always managed to escape unscathed (outside of the third inning, where two singles and a wild pitch led to a run scored for Kansas City). After Carrasco left the game, Nick Hagadone, Bryan Shaw, and Marc Rzepczynski combined for a perfect eighth inning, with Cody Allen locking down a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his twelfth save of the season. This is the dominant Allen I expected to see at the beginning of the season – not the one with the ERA north of 10.
The Indians answered the Royals’ run with one of their own in the top of the fourth – a solo home run by Brandon Moss knotted the score at 1. I was concerned that they weren’t able to score more runs off of Jeremy Guthrie; he obviously recovered from his disastrous outing against the Yankees. The only achilles heel in the Royals pitching staff are their starters; once you break into that bullpen, the game is usually over. Coming into tonight’s game, two members of that bullpen, Wade Davis and Jason Frasor, had ERAs under 1.00. Davis had an ERA of 0.00. That’s not a typo – entering the month of June, after 22 IP, Davis had yet to allow an earned run. So when Guthrie left after 5.2 IP, I was not optimistic about the Indians chances to score again in this game.
The top of the eighth started with Wade Davis walking Michael Bourn. Here’s where a bit of luck goes the Indians’ way – Jose Ramirez promptly grounded into what should have been a double play. In fact, on the replay (the play was challenged) it definitely looked like the ball beat Ramirez to first base. I fully expected the play to be overturned, but the review in New York took a loooong time. Was this a good thing? Was this a bad thing? The longer it progressed, I started to wonder if they’d uphold the call on the field. Because let’s face it, when it’s that close they typically stick with the call on the field. They did uphold the safe call, so now the Indians had Ramriez at first with one out.
Then Jason Kipnis grounded into what should be an inning-ending double play…but it was bobbled. They got Ramirez at second, but Kipnis was safe at first. So now there are two outs with a runner on first, and I’m still not too optimistic of their chances against Davis. Kipnis stole second, and Davis walked Santana…leaving it up to Michael Brantley. Brantley ripped a single up the middle, and Kipnis scored the go-ahead run. So a bit of luck helped the Indians earn that second run – the call that was upheld on review (that probably should’ve been overturned) and the botched double play. The Royals typically play sparkling defense too; Alex Gordon led off the game with an amazing, diving catch that took a potential double, or even triple, away from Kipnis. When you’re locked in a pitchers’ duel, you really have to exploit those small plays to give you the advantage.
A few additional thoughts:
– It has become physically painful to watch Jose Ramirez hit. Every time I watch him bat, it’s comparable to listening to 20 straight minutes of fingernails on a chalk board. I honestly do understand the Indians’ reasoning for leaving Francisco Lindor in Columbus (even if I don’t necessarily agree). A small market team needs to exploit service time as much as possible, plus he has struggled at times this year. However, isn’t there anyone else that could play shortstop? Like, even the Jerry Sands of shortstops? Maybe even the bat boy? Ramirez looks completely lost, and while I feel a bit sorry for him (I’m sure it can’t be easy to know Lindor is nipping at your heels) I can’t stand to watch him get any more at-bats right now. It hurts. It hurts so much.
– Weird fact – the Indians were the only AL Central team to win tonight; everyone else lost.
– Tonight’s win means that the Indians are 25-26, just one game below .500. Kind of impressive when they were nine games below .500 as recent as May 18. The last time they were at .500 was when they were 2-2, right after the home opener on April 10.
– Tonight marked the Indians’ 51st game of the season – they are 5.5 games out of first. After 51 games in 2014 they were 24-27, 6.5 games out of first. After 51 games in 2013 they were 27-24, 2.5 games out of first. Basically anything could happen the rest of the year, but it’s kind of comforting to know that after that horrible, dreadful start, they’re not far off of their pace in 2013, and are actually better than they were last year at this point.
EDIT: – Moss’s home run was the 100th of his career. Since it landed in the Indians bullpen, they decided to draw up a ransom note in offering it back to Moss. It basically consists of Apple products, money, and lube.