Sometimes—over the grind of the 162-game MLB season—your team loses really, really good baseball games. Such was the case Thursday night, when the New York Yankees kicked off a 4-game series with a nail-biting 5-4 victory over the Tribe at Progressive Field.
Over the past two months of playing stellar baseball, the Cleveland Indians have become incredibly familiar with their starting pitchers throwing 7, 8, and 9-inning gems and allowing 3 runs or less. This level of superb pitching is such a rarity in this era of baseball to the point where Tribe fans have nearly become spoiled with these stellar types of pitching performances.
Thursday night however, Trevor Bauer had a rare “off night” and the Yankees took full advantage of some uncharacteristic inconsistencies from the tough right hander. Though Bauer showed great stuff and a very sharp breaking ball, he struggled with his fastball command and hung several breaking balls and the Yankee lineup took full advantage.
While New York took a 5-2 lead against Bauer with a 3-run the sixth inning, the Tribe showed great perseverance in quickly battling back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Unfortunately, the end of Ivan Nova’s night corresponded with the entry of the Yankees vaunted bullpen, as Delin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman would combine for 3.2 innings of stellar relief work.
Let’s take a look at some key game notes and stats from Thursday night’s tough 5-4 loss in a game which featured a ton of little things in ‘the game inside the game’.
Flamethrower: The Tribe had some excellent at bats in the 9th inning against Aroldis Chapman, despite the southpaw consistently hitting 100, 101, 102, and 103 on the radar gun at Progressive Field. Even though he earned the tough save, Chapman labored, throwing 28 pitches as the Cleveland hitters worked him in each and every at bat.
Key Run Lost: After Tyler Naquin stole second with two outs in the seventh inning, pinch hitter Abraham Almonte would strike out. However, the third strike being a wild pitch, Almonte stood visibly at home plate for too long, failing to hustle to first and was thrown out by a step. To add insult to injury, Naquin rounded third on the wild pitch and continuously ran home; instead of scoring easily, Almonte’s unawareness on the wild pitch third strike would cost the Indians a key run.
Instant Replay: The game featured two large overturned instant replay calls, both playing imperative roles in the Yankees’ victory. Starlin Castro was originally called out at home plate on a close play in the sixth inning after a strong throw from Naquin; the call would be replayed and overturned, extending the Yankees’ key 3-run inning. Then, with two runners on base in the ninth inning against Chapman, Naquin was originally called safe on an infield single, only to see the call overturned by replay to end the game. In fairness, both calls looked to be correctly overturned…nonetheless, they were two bad breaks for the Tribe.
The Secret is Out: With two more hits Thursday night–including his eighth home run–Tyler Naquin raised his batting average to .325. In the large absence of Michael Brantley, Almonte, and Marlon Byrd throughout much of the season thus far, the gritty rookie has filled a huge void in the Tribe outfield and quietly propelled himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation in the American League.
Stars Aplenty: The American League All-Star Team gained another Indians player Thursday, as Corey Kluber was selected to the team to replace Toronto’s Marco Estrada. Despite Kluber’s Cy Young Award and many accomplishments on the mound, this will be his much deserved first All-Star game.
Roster Moves Forthcoming: With Roberto Perez returning to the Indians roster this weekend, it will be very interesting to see who the Tribe moves to make room. Despite Chris Gimenez becoming Trevor Bauer’s ‘personal catcher’ in recent weeks, it would be hard to imagine the Tribe keeping three catchers on the roster. With Gomes an assured lock to stay–despite his 2016 struggles at the plate–Gimenez would appear to be the odd man out.
On Deck: After winning 13 consecutive games at Progressive Field, the Tribe has lost two in a row. They will look to get back on track Friday night when Corey Kluber takes the mound in front of an expected sellout crowd at Progressive Field.