If you had told me that the Indians would get to Red Sox starter (and probable AL 2017 Cy Young winner) Chris Sale for five runs in the first two innings, thus giving Carlos Carrasco a five-run margin to work with, I would have said great, that’s a game the Tribe will probably win. What’s that? The Indians would also hit four home runs? We’ve got this.
But the five-run lead went away just as quickly as it was created. The Red Sox got to Carrasco and they got to him good and hard, scoring five runs in their half of the second inning and knocking him out of the game. The Indians came back to take the lead in the fifth inning, going ahead 7-5. After Austin Jackson made what may be the best catch of the century, leaping over the bullpen wall to rob Hanley Ramirez of a home run, the Indians managed to get out of the fifth unscathed.
They loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning. Another big hit or two would have done the Tribe a world of good. But Francisco Lindor flied out, and Brandon Guyer hit into an inning-ending double play. It’s my belief that if your team at any point manages to load the bases with no outs and you do not score even so much as a single run in that inning, your team does not deserve to win that game. And sure enough, in the bottom of the sixth inning, the usually reliable duo of Bryan Shaw and Andrew Miller combined to give up two doubles, two singles, a hit batter, and a base on balls. When the dust cleared, the Red Sox scored four times to take a 9-7 lead.
Carlos Santana homered in the eighth to make it 9-8, and lo, Lindor tied the game at 9-9 when HE homered in the ninth. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel retired the next two Indians, then loaded the bases on back-to-back hits and a walk. A wild pitch allowed Jose Ramirez to score from third, and the Indians went ahead, 10-9.
Enter Tribe closer Cody Allen to pitch the ninth. Money in the bank, right? Not in 2017. With two outs and Rafael Devers on first, Allen got Mitch Moreland to swing at a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Ballgame! But no. Tribe catcher Yan Gomes couldn’t catch the wild pitch, so the ball was still in play. Devers took off for second, and eventually Moreland ran to first base, arriving well before Gomes could throw to Carlos Santana.
Another wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. With the count at 3-1, Christian Vazquez slugged the next pitch over the center field wall for a home run, and the Red Sox won the game, 12-10. At least the Royals also lost, so the Indians maintain a two-game lead in the AL Central.
- When you get the bases loaded with no outs, you should expect to score at least two runs in that inning. This isn’t just me picking a number out of the air. Based on thousands of previous game situations, the probability that you will score at least twice is greater than 50%. This is true of good teams and bad teams alike. If you can’t find a way to plate even one run via a sacrifice fly or by whatever other means, you are not playing the game correctly, and you do not deserve to win.
- You can’t give a good team four outs in an inning, especially in the bottom of the ninth when you’re trying to protect a one-run lead. Allen’s ninth-inning strike three pitch was a wild pitch, not a passed ball, but Gomes has to find a way to keep that pitch from getting past him, or failing that, has to get to the ball in time to make the throw to first to put the batter out there.
- Jackson’s catch really was one of the best in recent memory. Tribe broadcaster Rick Manning, who has played in hundreds of games and watched thousands of others, says it was the best catch he’s ever seen. It did recall Kenny Lofton at his prime. Watch it if you haven’t already.
- I’m not one to put Bryan Shaw down. He has been an elite reliever during his tenure with the Indians. But it’s time to admit that Shaw, Miller, and Allen simply aren’t having as good a season as they each had last year. What they did in 2016 was nothing short of spectacular, and it’s unrealistic to think that they could pitch at that level again. Up until a week or two ago, I was telling friends that they were each about 95% as effective as they were in 2016. But since then, each of them has continued to falter to some degree. Each of them has caused the team to blow a lead or to lose a game. Right now I’d say they’re about 88 to 90% as effective as they were last year. That’s still pretty darn good. But is it good enough to take the team to the World Series this fall? It might not be, especially if the starting pitching is going to be erratic, and when anybody but Kluber is starting, erratic is the word.
- If by some chance the Indians fail to win the AL Central by one game, or miss a wild card berth by one game, I know that I will immediately flash back to this game and start cursing up a storm.
The two clubs go at it again on Wednesday. After that, the Indians return home to host the New York Yankees in a four-game series.