Given Josh Tomlin‘s recent run of bad starting pitching, Indians manager Terry Francona decided to skip Tomlin’s turn in the rotation for Monday’s game, and decreed that Monday would instead be a bullpen game. In a bullpen game, you hand the ball to one of the non-prestige relief pitchers in the pen, slap him on the back, and wish him well. Ideally you get three decent innings from the guy, whereupon you remove him and give another reliever a shot for an inning or two, and so on. If someone screws up, you yank him fairly early before he gets the chance to put the game out of reach.
You don’t expect to win a bullpen game, not really. You HOPE you can win it, of course, but it’s more or less a tacit admission that you don’t have a halfway decent starter to use that day. If you did, he’d be out there instead, and there wouldn’t be a bullpen game. And indeed the Indians did not win on Monday, as they were beat by the Houston Astros, 6-2, at Progressive Field.
Mike Clevinger was the guy who got the nod on Monday evening, and he lasted 1 2/3 innings before getting pulled. Because he gave up a first-inning run which gave the Astros a lead they never relinquished, Clevinger was tagged with the loss, although he wasn’t the worst pitcher for the Tribe for the evening. That distinction would probably go to his successor Jeff Manship, who gave up a two-run third-inning homer to Alex Bregman.
Thanks largely to the relief work of Perci Garner, who went 2 2/3 innings without giving up a run, the Indians were actually making a game of it as late as the seventh inning. They put up single runs of their own in the third and fifth innings, one of which came when Mike Napoli finally hit his 30th homer of the season (he’d been stalled at 29 since August 11). With the score 3-2, it seemed as though the Tribe might be able to come back and win.
But a disastrous seventh inning put that notion to rest, as Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw, aided, if that’s the right word, by some shoddy infield defense, gave up three runs and put the Indians behind, 6-2. Shaw did not look good out there, but no matter what Indians Twitter has to say, he’s been a very effective pitcher for the Tribe this season. As our Ryan McCrystal noted, going into Monday’s game, Shaw had the fourth-best mark for relievers in the American League when it comes to opposing hitters’ batting average. Shaw had been limiting the opposition to a .179 BA, which is pretty darn good.
So yeah, not a great game for the hometown heroes. Their six-game winning streak was snapped. What’s more, the Tigers beat the White Sox, reducing the Indians’ lead in the AL Central to 4.5 games. But Corey Kluber is going for the Indians on Tuesday, and reigning AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will miss another start, so there is reason to be optimistic about our chances.