The Oakland Athletics always seem to have great pitching.  When I saw that the Indians would face Tommy Milone during this four game series, I was a bit concerned.  Prior to tonight, he was 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched against the Indians.  While he’s definitely not untouchable, I guess my mind is still programmed to 2012, when pretty much every left-handed pitcher looked like the long lost twin of Sandy Koufax.  The Indians certainly did not really have an offensive outburst against Milone, but thanks to the stellar performance of Zach McAllister, their one unearned run was enough to get them the W.

For as much as the Indians’ pitching staff has made me nervous so far this season (and still does make me nervous, to a certain extent) you have to give them props for their performances recently.  The starting staff has really stepped it up as the Indians have won 8 of their last 9; even their one loss in that span (credited to Corey Kluber) wasn’t necessarily the fault of the starter.  Kluber kept it close enough to win, but it was just an off day by the offense.  (Also, excuse me while I go knock on every piece of wood in my house).  What this shows though, is what we all were saying before the season – if this team gets good performances from their starters, they can do great things.

There are times so far in this young season that the starters have been downright dominant.  Tonight was already the fifth time this season that the Indians have shut out their opponent, and the second time that they won a game 1-0 (they did this previously on Friday, April 12 against the White Sox).  Do you know when the Indians earned their first shutout last season?  On April 29 against the Angels.  Their fifth shutout came on June 22, and they got their first (and only) 1-0 victory on July 13.  The Indians only had six total shutouts in all of 2012 and they’re just one away from tying that figure in the first week of May.  We all, unfortunately, remember the epic collapse last summer.  However, early in the 2012 season it seemed like the Tribe was firing on all cylinders when it came to both pitching an offense.  Far from perfect, but enough to keep them in contention into the summer.  They’ve been better than that in many ways so far in 2013; you have to hope that it’s a sign of things to come and not just a fluke.

While I really like Zach McAllister, I’ve always been a bit skeptic of his abilities.  I thought that he’d obviously work fine as a fourth or fifth starter, but I never expected him to completely dazzle me.  Tonight, he dazzled me.  In 7.2 innings pitched, he allowed 0 ER on just 5 hits, walking one and striking out four.  After he handed the ball over to the bullpen, Rich Hill and Chris Perez maintained the shutout and helped the Indians get the win.  Perez earned his fourth save and lowered his ERA to 0.82.  With Vinny Pestano’s cranky elbow, it’s good to see that the bullpen can still maintain the score in close games without the 7-8-9 trio of Joe Smith, Pestano and Perez.

Even though Milone effectively shut down the offense, the Indians still managed to make the most of their minimal opportunities.  When Carlos Santana made it to second after errors by Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss and second baseman Eric Sogard in the bottom of the fifth, it set the stage for a Mike Aviles single and a long sacrifice fly by Yan Gomes.  They only got five hits, and struck out five times, but it was all they needed with McAllister on the mound.  An amazing side note about Milone – he didn’t walk anyone tonight.  While pitchers often have nights with great control, Milone has only walked six people all year, in 39 innings pitched (over seven games).

And speaking of Yan Gomes, he made a spectacular throw to nail a running Yoenis Cespedes (who himself is a fun player to watch) as he tried to steal second in the ninth inning.  The A’s only hits all night were singles; however, you still don’t want to let the tying run get to second with fewer than two outs.  When Gomes nailed Cespedes, he really minimized the damage from his one-out single.  I have nothing against Lou Marson, but I’m really loving Yan Gomes.  I hate the idea of him spending much of his time on the bench; it’s probably ultimately better for him to get regular playing time in Columbus.  I still love to watch him play with the Indians though.

For the last two games of the series, the Indians will face two solid pitchers in A.J. Griffin and familiar face Bartolo Colon.   Colon is 3-1 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.04 WHIP so far this year, despite the fact that one day soon he’ll be large enough to have his own gravitational pull.  I guess if you’re still pitching well at Colon’s age (39) your physique doesn’t really matter – whatever works, works.  Griffin will match up against Justin Masterson, while Colon will face Scott Kazmir.  If we get a pitcher’s duel from Colon and Kazmir, we can party like it’s 2005.


  • Steve Alex says:

    Winning teams with chemistry find ways to win games like this. A few like tonight can be the difference between .500 and 90 wins.

  • DP Roberts says:

    And after Griffin and Colon, the Indians will pit Corey Kluber vs. Max Scherzer and Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Justin Verlander. Having already secured at least a split against the A’s, hopefully they’ll have some momentum against the Tigers.

  • Matt Travis says:

    What would you think of a move for Gomes to be the catcher full time with Santana focusing on DH? It would be a bold move but the everyday lineup would look like this:

    Catcher: Gomes
    First: Swisher
    Second: Kipnis
    Third: Reynolds
    SS: Cabrera
    LF: Stubbs
    CF: Bourn
    RF: Brantley
    DH: Santana
    Then using Chisenhall, Aviles and Raburn as pinch hitters and rotation men.
    Overall this lineup is stacked already but I think a move from Santana out of his catcher role full time and letting Gomes get the time would help this team. By doing this you let Santana be the pure hitter he can be without having to focus on catching and it allows Gomes more time behind the plate to get more experience with the pitchers.

    • The Doctor says:

      I’m not quite read to annoint a guy with a .255 OBP across a mere 146 major league PAs our full time catcher, but hopefully long term Gomes will pan out and we’ll have two hard hitting catchers. I think we all know what Sweet Lou is (and isn’t) by this point.

      The problem with moving Santana away from C full time is that his value is significantly depleted simply by changing positions – his present stats (which obviously will come back to earth) are a heck of a lot more impressive from a C than from a 1B or DH.

      • Matt Travis says:

        What’s the harm in giving him a chance at being the full time catcher? In order to get better he needs more at bats and time behind the plate and this seems like the best way to do that without taking at bats away from the hot batters on this team. While that is true that Santana’s numbers are more impressive coming from a catcher, another thing to consider is the fact that he really is not that impressive of a defensive catcher, with a career caught stealing percentage of .265 compared to .330 for Mauer and .338 Wieters. If this move doesn’t work out and Gomes keeps his OBP at .255, which I don’t think will be the case, then you can move Santana right back into the starting catcher role and we haven’t lost anything from trying this.

        • The Doctor says:

          Fair enough. I mean, I’m certainly with you in wanting to see more of Gomes (again, especially in comparison to Sweet Lou). I just don’t have a good idea of how we get from A to B…

          I’m too hot on the proposed lineup with Chisenhall riding the pine – that essentially translates into favoring Gomes’ development over Chisenhall’s, and I don’t think too highly of Reynolds’ career work as as full time 3B. Is there a reason you have Stubbs in LF and Brantley in RF, the reverse of how they’ve played when Bourn is healthy? If we’re going with something approaching your plan, I’d prefer to see Stubbs as the 4th OF and Swisher in RF full time, then you’ve got Gomes/Santana/Reynolds/Chisenhall rotating amongst DH/1B/3B.

          • The Doctor says:

            *not too hot

          • Matt says:

            The outfielder positions was just a typo on my part. They are fine in the positions they are in. The only big issue with your plan is that I feel that Indians firmly believe that Swisher is going to be 1B for the future moving forward and want to keep him out of the outfield as much as possible. This somewhat locks the outfield in with Stubbs Brantley and Bourn starting with Raburn being the forth. When addressing the infield, while I can understand your unwillingness to believe that Reynolds is a good 3B, both him and Chisenhall have similar defensive stats .929 compared to .938 fielding percentage, with the huge difference being Reynolds bat. I guess the biggest difference in our plans is that I have more faith in Stubbs and you have more faith in Chisenhall. We both want to see Gomes play more and I want to see him not just getting more at bats but more practice behind that plate catching with these pitchers. But hey it could be worse, having too many players and trying to balance them all together is a nice problem to have.

  • Jeremy says:

    Agree with Matt Travis, I would love to see Gomes catching full-time. I love Santana…but his bat is his strength. Yan Gomes is a sniper behind the plate. I mean it isn’t like Cespedes is slow!!

  • The Doctor says:

    Everytime McAllister pitches like this, I’m reminded of how sweet it is that we acquired him in return for Austin “Wingnut” Kearns.

  • medfest says:

    Whoa everyone needs to breathe here.Remember small sample sizes can be deceiving.

    Gomes is a nice player to have, but he needs to play everyday to become even better with the glove and the bat.
    Santana is no slouch defensively either and also is getting better the more he plays,remember he’s a converted third basemen and the whole reason the Dodger’s traded him was they felt he would take too long to adapt defensively to catching.Oh and he’s third in the league in hitting.

    McAllister has consistently pitched well all season,if he can throw that nickel curve for strikes along with his 4 and 2 seamers and an improving change up, this could get interesting fast.

    Boy ,Milone reminds me of a young Mark Buehrle……………boy, just typing that makes me feel old.