This past January I went to TribeFest and saw that they already had Mike Napoli shirseys on sale, despite the fact he was “officially” signed just a few weeks prior. For some reason, I ended up buying one. Chalk it up to one too many drinks (Ellis Burks was bartending!) and a bizarre sense of excitement over our shared Italian heritage. When I got home I thought “this could really end up being a purchase I regret” but I started to wear it anyway. Clothes are clothes, and if I bought it, I might as well wear it. (Plus I still wear my Ronnie Belliard shirsey with pride…probably way too much pride). I wore the Napoli shirt to last Saturday’s game against the Mets, and as I was leaving a man stopped me. He said “wow, they’re already selling Napoli shirts?” and I had to confess to the fact that I owned this piece of clothing since January. The man goes, “I didn’t care much for the signing at the time, but he’s fast becoming one of my favorite players.” While I’m not sure that I can say that he’s one of my favorite players, I can say that today made my impulse shirt purchase look like a half-decent decision. His two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth tied the game at 7 and at least gave the Indians a chance to win…amazing considering they were down 5-0 by the end of the fourth inning. There are a number of players that performed somewhat shamefully today, but Mike Napoli wasn’t one of them.
Let’s start with the players and moves that earned my ire. First up is Cody Anderson – I said I was worried about him in my preview/open thread and he proved that my fears were not unfounded. I know, I know…small sample size, it’s only April, give him another chance, etc. But I’m kind of tired of continuing to say “it’s only April” year after year as the Indians stumble out of the gate. The past few seasons they’ve kept themselves in the mix for the second wild card up until the last week of the season, but you have to wonder where they’d be with a few extra wins in April. Last season they went just 7-14 in April, and in 2014 just 10-17. In 2015 they ended up 13.5 games out in the division, but just 4.5 games out of the second wild card; in 2014 they finished the season 5 games out in the division, and 3 games back of the second wild card. So if they don’t finish the month of April 7 games under .500 both of those seasons, we’re possibly looking at a very different September. The Indians have at least flirted with .500 this April, but with today’s loss they fall to 6-7 with 8 games left to play this month. You’re not always going to be able to rattle off 10 straight wins at the end of the season like they did in 2013, so you need to find a way to win in April.
But back to Anderson – I didn’t understand how he made the rotation over Trevor Bauer coming out of spring training in the first place. I know Bauer wasn’t perfect today (and has his own issues) but with Bauer’s talent, I’d much rather gamble on him. Anderson has already surrendered 5 home runs in his 14.1 IP so far this season; he only gave up 9 home runs in 91.1 IP all last season. (That’s a home run/9 rate that went from 0.89 last year, to 3.38 so far this year). This is the second straight game where he didn’t even make it out of the fifth inning and it didn’t seem like the Mets or Mariners had much trouble hitting off of him. He has options left…I’d rather see him go to Columbus and let Bauer have his spot in the rotation. I don’t want to see Bauer bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation continuously, but I’m also not anxious to watch Anderson pitch batting practice to a team again next week.
The offense was pretty miserable until Rajai Davis’s three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Prior to that, the Indians had just two hits all day off of Nathan Karns. Between their miserable plate appearances, and Anderson’s mess of a start, I was kind of glad that I missed watching the first few innings and had to listen on the radio instead. Because let me tell you, (and apologies for the TMI) I missed that part of the game because I had to take my dog to the vet to have her anal glands expelled. That was almost more of an enjoyable experience than watching the first few innings of this game (although my dog may feel differently about this). What’s sad is that it’s not like the Indians didn’t have any opportunities before the Davis home run – Davis led off the game with a double, but was stranded there as Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Santana went 1-2-3. I mean, it’s kind of a rare feat for Davis to get on base to start the game so far in 2016, but then you go and waste it. The Indians had at least one base runner during every inning but the 2nd and 10th, and still managed to lose this game 10-7.
Which brings me to my final point of ire – Cody Allen outstaying his welcome in this game by one or two batters. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of Allen going a second inning, but I did understand the move. You’d already used Bauer, Zach McAllister, Ross Detwiler, and Joba Chamberlain (the final three combined for 0 ER and just 1 hit) which meant that you only had Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, and Jeff Manship left in an extra-inning game. Allen finished the ninth throwing minimal pitches, and you wanted to prepare for the fact that you could end up playing for a while if the Indians failed to score. But with two walks, and two fairly deep fly ball outs in the bottom of the 10th, it looked like Allen was starting to tire. With a dangerous hitter like Robinson Cano on deck, I think you have to go to Shaw, Otero, or Manship. And trust me, Shaw isn’t my favorite pitcher right now after Saturday’s performance against the Mets, but I still would’ve rather seen him enter the game than see Allen face Cano. Sure enough, Cano goes deep and he and the two walks come home to score. While the Indians did manage to continue to come back in this one, coming back from a 10-7 deficit in the bottom of the 10th on a rainy, miserable day against a good pitcher like Steve Cishek is just a bit too much to ask.
If this game would’ve ended up 5-0, I would’ve been frustrated…but not dejected and frustrated like I am now. You overcame a sizable deficit and had this one within your grasp; it still just wasn’t enough.