If you thought that such a situation would faze or rankle Terry Francona, you don’t know Terry Francona very well. He had a backup plan in case Bauer had to leave the game early, and that was to finish the game with the “bullpen by committee” maneuver. Enter Dan Otero, who retired Russell Martin to end the inning and the scoring threat.
By game’s end, Francona employed six different relievers, none of whom went more than 1 2/3 innings. And it worked, as the Indians beat the Blue Jays, 4-2, giving them a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. One more win gives the Indians the American League pennant and sends them to the World Series for the first time since 1997. They have not won the World Series since 1948. To put things into perspective, that was a heck of a long time ago.
Not all of the relievers were lights out. Otero gave up a game-tying home run in the second inning, and Zach McAllister gave up a run in the fifth, that time tying the score at 2-2. But the Indians took a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth on a solo home run by Jason Kipnis and an RBI single from Jose Ramirez. That run was put together when Mike Napoli walked and took second on a wild pitch. When Ramirez stroked the single to right field, Napoli, no one’s idea of a fast runner, knew that he could score easily, and never hesitated, crossing the plate standing up. And oh yeah, Napoli accounted for the Indians’ first two runs as well, doubling in Carlos Santana in the first and knocking a dinger to lead off the fourth. Napoli was due to have a big game in the ALCS, and he picked a darn good day to have one.
But the whole point of the bullpen by committee move is for the Indians to take the lead in the game and for the rest of the pen to hold the lead long enough for the big guns—Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen, almost always in that order—to enter the game and get the final outs. And that’s what happened, all right. Francona mixed things up a little on Monday, though, bringing in Shaw to work in the fifth inning, followed by Allen and Miller. Francona’s use of the bullpen was masterful during the regular season, but it’s been brilliant so far in the postseason.
Indians ace Corey Kluber, who had been slated to start Game 5 if there was a Game 5, will instead start Tuesday’s Game 4 on only three days of rest. Should some very bad things happen and it become necessary to play a Game 7, Kluber would be able to start that game as well. But the way the Indians have been able to parlay a set of circumstances into three consecutive wins over the Blue Jays, I feel confident that the Indians can wrap things up on Tuesday afternoon. First pitch is at 4:08 PM.
The TBS broadcasting crew continues to unimpress. But things could be worse, especially for those of us, like me, who find themselves on the road during this series. For all its faults, TBS is at least carried by probably every basic cable provider in the United States, and nearly all major hotels and motels make it available in their rooms. The National League games are carried by Fox Sports One, which doesn’t have nearly the market penetration that TBS has. At least one Cleveland-based sportswriter complained about finding himself unable to watch an NLCS game from the comfort of his out-of-town hotel room.
Was it irresponsible for Bauer to have been fiddling around with drones on the off-days before pitching a big game? At least two contributors and/or writers to this very blog have said, via Twitter, that it was not, that Bauer should be free to do as he pleases on his day off, and that no one could have foreseen that such an accident could take place. I respect both of my IPL colleagues, each of whom knows a great deal about baseball, certainly more than I do. I hate to find myself in agreement with Curt Schilling, and it may never happen again, but I’m actually with Schilling on this one.
More than 350 years ago, philosopher Blaise Pascal observed that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Now I’m not suggesting that Bauer should literally have had to sit alone in a room, waiting for his chance to pitch, but I do think it was irresponsible of him to be playing with his “fleet” of drones the way he did, when he did. You don’t have to be a mechanical engineering major, which Bauer in fact was, to know that something with a propeller which turns at God-knows-how-many RPM can and will, if it comes into contact with a finger, cause a deep cut. A cut deep enough to require stitches. And of course that’s exactly what did happen.
Was it inevitable that Bauer would be injured that way? Of course not. But couldn’t he have left the planes alone for a few more weeks, until the postseason was over, so as to eliminate the chance of being injured by his hobby? Of course he could have. And he should have. Bauer will likely require more stitches. If the Indians make it to the World Series, perhaps he will be healed well enough to be used then. I hope so.
Speaking of fingers, apparently one of Francona’s was caught on camera on game night. I think ol’ Tito was just saying the Indians are Number One!