Trevor Bauer departs Saturday’s start after it spun out of control in the sixth inning
The Indians have played 5 games so far in this young season; in 4 of those 5 games they allowed 5+ runs. The reason that it doesn’t seem as bad as it could, is because the Indians managed to out-slug the Rangers in 2 of those 4 games. They were not able to accomplish this feat against the Diamondbacks. On Saturday night the D-Backs managed to put 4 runs on the board in the sixth inning, and then another 6 in the eighth inning to really break the game open. It got to the point that I started to welcome more hits from Arizona in the hope that they tired themselves out for Sunday’s series finale. It was that kind of night.
While the inability to avoid the big inning, and allowing a ton of runs in general, is not a great thing, I still don’t think this necessarily means gloom and doom for the rest of the season. Bryan Shaw always seems to struggle in April and even Corey Kluber tends to be a bit closer to human most Aprils. The Rangers and Diamondbacks have solid lineups in parks that tend to allow for high-scoring games. At the same time, you can’t help but be frustrated by what you’ve seen, particularly for the first two games in Arizona.
Let’s start with where it all went wrong. For the first 5 innings of this game, it was a great pitcher’s duel between Trevor Bauer and Zack Greinke with the score tied 1-1 heading into the sixth. Bauer gave up a home run to David Peralta with one out in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 2-1. What was interesting about the home run – Peralta took what appeared to be ball 4 the pitch before the homer. However, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called it a strike, which meant that Peralta got a second chance with a 3-2 count. The next pitch Peralta lined off the foul pole. Then Paul Goldschmidt doubled and managed to steal third with Jake Lamb at the plate. However, Lamb struck out for the second out of the inning, which meant that Bauer was just one out away from getting out of trouble and maintaining a 2-1 score. But Yasmany Tomas ended up tripling to center field on a ball off the wall. I did not expect him to make it all the way to third, but Tyler Naquin looked almost like a little league player in his attempt to field the ball off the wall. Bryan Shaw replaced Bauer and gave up a double and a single before getting the third out; he pitched a perfect seventh to make up for the rough sixth.
And speaking of the umpiring, there were a number of questionable calls during tonight’s game. They ultimately didn’t have an impact on the eventual outcome in a 11-2 game, but they could’ve created some havoc if it remained close. The strike zone was just insanity, and actually seemed to benefit the Indians for the most part. Edwin Encarnacion was called out on strikes on a check-swing, but a replay showed that he likely managed to hold up. Then the final, baffling call was in the eighth inning when the game was already out of hand. With a 10-1 D-Backs lead, first base umpire Lance Barksdale called Lamb safe at first. The replay showed that he was likely out; so Francona challenged the call. Baseball is continuously whining about the length of games, but then the umpire prolongs the inning on an extremely close play when that team already has a 9-run lead in the eighth inning. When the umpires came together to put the headsets on, Barksdale watched the play on the scoreboard at Chase Field and mouthed “he was out,” seemingly acknowledging his mistake. But after a very long delay waiting for New York to make a decision, they came back with a safe call. Another 5-10 minutes was wasted there in a game that was clearly already over.
Bauer was eventually charged with 4 ER on 7 hits in 5.2 IP. I thought he looked pretty sharp until that sixth inning; he needs to find a way to stop the bleeding once things start to go off the rails. But it’s not like anyone else could really slow the D-Backs down either…they got a couple of hits off of Shaw and then hit Shawn Armstrong for 5 runs. It essentially just became mop-up duty for Armstrong to preserve the rest of the bullpen arms for tomorrow’s game.
The Indians were never really able to get anything going against Greinke, but I’m hesitant to be too critical towards them. He’s their ace, he’s a great pitcher, and he’s been baffling hitters for years. I would’ve liked to see them get something going against the bullpen, but at that point the game was already out of hand anyway. There was a really great moment in the 4th inning, when the Indians scored their first run. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a double and then moved over to third on a fly-out from Francisco Lindor. Michael Brantley came to the plate, and the D-Backs instituted a very interesting shift – they moved 3 infielders onto the right side. It seemed like an odd decision, since Brantley does have the ability to hit the ball to the other side (where there was now a gigantic hole). Instead, Brantley still managed to single between the crowded right side, scoring Santana. The Indians scored their lone second run in the top of the ninth, and to be honest I’d already started writing this by that point and I missed what happened. In case you also gave up early on this one, Lindor singled and scored on a Jose Ramirez double.
Fortunately this game only counts as one loss, even though it feels like it was more than one. If the Indians can salvage the series and win on Sunday, they return to Cleveland for the home opener with a 4-2 record. If you would’ve told me that two weeks ago, I would’ve eagerly accepted that outcome. Even a loss still sends them home with a .500 record, which I’d usually be fine with on a west coast road trip. To be fair, the Indians were 3-3 after 6 games last year, so it’s not like it will necessarily ruin them. At the same time, you don’t want April to spin out of control to the point where you have to dig yourself out of a large hole by summer. If they can right the ship over the next week, particularly against division foes like the White Sox and Tigers, I’ll feel much better about this dismal Diamondbacks series.