July 9, 2013

The Indians lost a heartbreaker to the Detroit Tigers on Monday evening. The final score was 4-2, in ten innings, making it the Indians’ first extra-inning loss all season.

The Indians faced Max Scherzer, who entered the game with an eye-popping record of 13-0 and an impressive ERA of 3.09. Scherzer pitched well, giving up two runs, both earned, over seven innings, but got a no-decision, his first since May 31. Tribe starter Scott Kazmir allowed two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. Until the tenth inning, the Tribe bullpen pitched well. The oft-maligned Chris Perez retired the side in the ninth inning on only seven pitches.

With the game tied 2-2 after nine innings, a case could have been made for having Perez come back out to pitch the tenth inning, but Tribe manager Terry Francona instead opted to bring out Matt Albers. Albers made quick work of the first two Detroit batters, but walked the fearsome Miguel Cabrera on five pitches. That’s excusable, perhaps even prudent, because you don’t want to give Miggy a pitch he can drive. But if you’re going to walk him, you have to be careful how you face the next batter, the nearly-as-fearsome Prince Fielder. Albers walked Fielder, too, bringing ex-Indian Victor Martinez to the plate. Martinez smacked a 0-1 pitch to deep center. Indians fans had hoped that Michael Bourn would spear the ball at the wall, as he has done before, but this time the ball sailed over Bourn’s right shoulder on the fly, scoring Cabrera and Fielder, and giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead.

With two out in the tenth, consecutive singles by Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley put the tying runs on base, but Mike Aviles struck out swinging to end the game. After the game, my Twitter feed was full of tweets from people who argued that Francona should have sent up Carlos Santana or Jason Giambi to pinch-hit for Aviles. I agree that Santana in particular would have given the Indians a better chance to tie the game with a double or triple, or to win it outright with a home run.

Francona also opened himself up for second-guessing in the home half of the ninth inning. With the score tied 2-2, Mark Reynolds led off the inning with a single. Drew Stubbs, the fastest runner on the team, came in to pinch-run for him. With Lonnie Chisenhall at bat, Stubbs advanced to second on a passed ball. I’m no fan of giving away outs, but this is one time when the situation calls for a sacrifice bunt. With the speedy Stubbs on third with one out, the Indians win on a base hit, a more-than-shallow fly ball, or even a grounder hit to the right side of the infield. Or another passed ball, for that matter. But Francona let Chisenhall swing away, and he hit a shallow fly to center, failing to advance Stubbs. Yan Gomes then struck out, and Michael Bourn flied out, sending the game into extra innings.

After the game, Francona apparently said that he had faith that Chisenhall could have driven the ball, thus winning the game with a hit, or at least advancing Stubbs to third on a deep fly. Some people on Twitter defended that decision, saying that Chisenhall doesn’t know how to bunt. But as my colleague Chris Burnham pointed out, this is the big leagues. There’s no excuse for not knowing how to bunt. If you make it to The Show and you’re not capable of at least trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt when the situation calls for it, that’s an organizational failure.

And speaking of giving away outs, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out Nick Swisher’s boneheaded play in the eighth inning, when he was tagged out by Tigers catcher Brayan Pena, who alertly observed that Swisher walked away from the plate after hitting a little squibber along the third-base line that he, Swisher, had thought was foul. Well, it WAS foul when Swish walked away, but Pena waited to see if the ball would roll back into fair territory. It did, and when Pena realized that the umpire had seen it go fair, he picked up the ball, ran over to Swisher, and tagged him with it. I’m not saying that that play cost the Indians the game, but it did cost them an out in the late innings of a tie game. And when you’re playing a team as good as the Tigers, you can’t afford to do that. Not if you want to keep playing in October, anyway.

A win over the Tigers would have put the Indians back to 1.5 games out of first. Instead, they are now 3.5 games out. The Tigers won the four-game series, three games to one. The Indians have now lost five of their last six games. Perhaps they will have better luck with the Blue Jays, who come to Cleveland on Tuesday for a three-game series. After that, the Royals come to town for three games, followed by the All-Star break.


  • The Doctor says:

    not getting a man home from 2nd with no outs is beyond unacceptable.

    albers did a great job of pissing away what was otherwise, given recent events, a shockingly competent bullpen performance. as much as i don’t trust perez, i’m baffled francona didn’t send him out there for a second inning – he only threw 7 pitches!!! going into extra innings in a tie game, there is a single thing that you absolutely cannot do – walk anyone. congrats to albers for doing it twice – and with 2 outs. it’d almost be impressive if it wasn’t so pathetic. i missed the double and the third out of the inning, but i hope he got booed out of the stadium.

    on a side note, 9th inning passed ball aside, pena still put on a hell of a clinic behind the plate. if santana was catching for the tigers, there would have been 9 or 10 wild pitches/passed balls tonight.

    • Cale says:

      I’m with Vern, in that the walk to Cabrera was perfectly fine. You don’t pitch carefully to him and he puts one over the fence, instead today we’re arguing “That’s the 1 guy you can’t let beat you.”

      • Chris Burnham says:

        I was honestly fine with working around BOTH he and Fielder, even though Albers seemed to suggest that he wasn’t actually trying to. Be as it were, strategically, it was a good idea; provided you take care of the guy batting less than .250.

        I still believe that this situation never should’ve had to happen, though.

  • Vern Morrison says:

    Thanks for your comment, Doc, and for your loyal readership of IPL.

    I agree—when you have a runner on second base with no outs, that runner simply HAS to score. I don’t care if you’re the Indians, the Tigers, or even the Astros—you have to find a way to get that man across the plate. If you don’t do it, you don’t deserve to win.

  • Jami says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Bourn’s lack of attempt on that game winning double. In my opinion, it could have and probably should have been caught with more effort, but took his eyes off of it because he was scared of the wall. And I was yellin at the TV screen when Chisenhall did not lay down a sac bunt. This game exemplified every frustration that it is to be a Tribe fan.

  • DaveR says:

    Francona blew the call. The failure to move the runner is worse than the bullpen not getting it done.

    That said, it’s not the end of the world being 3.5 out right now. Toronto is practically handing Cleveland 2 wins with Josh Johnson and Esmil “Not-a-Starter” Rogers going. Buerle vs Bauer…eh hopefully they win the first 2.

  • shaun says:

    at least bone-headed plays are somewhat correctable relatively quickly…

  • seattlestu says:

    that whole series was depressing….am i bummed at being 3.5 out with a lot of season left? heck no. but i am concenred we cant seem to stop the tigers from taking our lunch money every time we get a little flush.

  • seattlestu says:

    that whole series was depressing….am i bummed at being 3.5 out with a lot of season left? heck no. but i am concerned we cant seem to stop the tigers from stealing our lunch money every time we get a little flush.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    If I think of the Indians as a scrappy .500-plus team who can be respectable and finish 2nd, I’m happy. If I think of them as a team that could/should compete with the Tigers for the division, I get very frustrated and disappointed watching them play and blow games. They are not in the same class with Detroit right now. I hear the front office is trying to swing a deal for Yovani Gallardo or Matt Garza and a reliever, which will cost multiple prospects including Danny Salazar. Gallardo makes a little sense because he’d be under team control for two more years and not just a rental, but I’m still very nervous about making another future-mortgaging trade for a “front of the rotation starter” on the heels of the Jimenez trade. I’m also not convinced that this team is only one or two players away. Too many guys are having off years.

    • The Doctor says:

      exactly. we are more than one starter away from the playoffs. as i see more buzz gather around our interest in garza, i am getting really concerned we’re going to do something stupid to acquire him. given the rest of the trade market for starting pitching, his value is vastly inflated.

      i honestly don’t understand all the hype that seems to consistently surround garza – he’s a quality pitcher but certainly isn’t a world-beater. his best season was a 3.5 WAR effort 4 years ago! that’s nothing to sneeze at, but it isn’t ace material by any definition of the term. for some reason the media seems really insistent on building this narrative that garza is an absolute stud, and i don’t get why.

      • Drew says:

        Completely with you on that. I am not sure one guy could make that significant of a difference! Collectively the 5 guys are all replacement level.

        While I would like to say that the rotation has been better of late, since June 1st here is the line for the combined 7 starters (Bauer, Carrasco, Jimenez, Kazmir, Kluber, Masterson, McAllister)

        36 Games Started
        198 IP and good for 5.5 IP/GS (maybe why the bullpen sucks, it is required to toss about 3.5 Innings/Game!)
        110 Earned runs or 5.00 ERA (yuck)
        223 hits and 82 BB for a 1.54 WHIP
        175 Ks (8.0/9IP, that’s pretty good, right?)

        Removing guys who are now in Columbus or on the DL and the stats look better, but clearly the team lacks a true #1 starter.
        29 Games started
        168 IP (still only 5.8 IP/GS)
        79 Earned runs or a 4.23 ERA
        170 hits and 66 BB for a 1.40 WHIP
        162 Ks (8.7/9IP)