Brantley collects 200th hit; Indians fall to Rays, 2-0
Carrasco tosses a gem, but falls on the losing end with lack of offense
CLEVELAND—Once upon a time, Tribe fans only knew Michael Brantley as a player to be named later.
Six years later, they called him their most valuable player.
Amidst loud chants of “MVP” around the ballpark Saturday night at Progressive Field, Brantley entered baseball record books by collecting his 200th hit of the season.
“It’s going to mean a lot on Monday when I kind of sit back and reflect on what went on,” he said. “I can take more time to think about it and digest it all.”
Brantley becomes the first Indian since Kenny Lofton in 1996 to accomplish the feat. He also is now the only player in club history to total 40 doubles, 20 homers, 20 stolen bases and 200 hits in a single season.
The milestone came on base-hit up the middle off Rays starter Alex Colome (2-0, 2.66 ERA) in the fourth inning.
“It took forever I think to get up the middle,” Brantley said. “Off the bat it looked like it was going in slow motion. I didn’t know if it was going to make it or not. It was fun to do it in front of these great fans tonight and it was fun to do it in front of this team.”
As the ball rolled into center field, the 27 year-old All-Star pointed to the sky.
“That was a little gesture to my grandmother, I know she’s up there watching me,” Brantley said. “I lost her about a year and a half back to cancer and I just wanted to let her to know she’s a part of me. She’s a big reason why I am the man that I am today.”
That man acquired from Milwaukee in the infamous CC Sabathia trade in 2008 is quietly becoming one of the game’s greats.
“I think you can see the way our dugout reacted how pleased everybody was,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a pretty big milestone and it’s very nice he’s able to get the recognition. What’s probably the topper is, as good of a player he is, I don’t think it touches the kid he is and that makes it more special.”
The hit became the lone highlight for Cleveland in a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, in what was the final night game of the regular season on Saturday.
Tribe starter Carlos Carrasco (8-7, 2.55 ERA) gave his club another strong outing, allowing two runs (one earned) on just four hits over 7 2/3 innings striking out 10. He would however be handed a tough luck loss, as Colome limited the Indians offense to just four hits through 6 1/3 innings on the night.
“I would say it flew past encouraging,” Francona said. “His ability to continue to pound the strike zone with all his pitches and not back down, that’s exciting. He’s got so much to be excited about going into the offseason and into next year.”
Scoreless through the first three frames, a throwing error by Lonnie Chisenhall in the fourth inning led to Tampa’s first run on the contest. The third baseman charged a slow hit grounder off the bat of Evan Longoria, but threw the ball into center field trying to get a force out at second base.
Two batters later, 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers lined an RBI single off Carrasco into right field to put the Rays up by one.
“We get a double play ball, but throw it away,” Francona said. “It’s first and third and nobody out and they haven’t hit the ball out of the infield, and he limits them to one run. He throws 19 pitches and then continues on. That speaks volumes within itself.”
“Those two guys trust me and now I trust myself too,” Carrasco said. “I just put something in my mind and believe in my stuff. I hope I can continue that next year.”
He finishes the 2014 campaign with a 1.30 ERA in his last 10 starts, walking 11 and striking out 78 in 69 innings since being reinserted into the starting staff.
Tampa Bay tacked on their second run after Carrasco exited in the eighth. Rays first baseman James Loney legged out an RBI single off reliever Marc Rzepczynski, before another Tribe player entered club history again in the ninth.
Just like in 2005 however, what still stings for the team is ultimately falling short of a playoff berth down the stretch.
“When you put on that uniform the first day of spring training, your goal is to make the postseason and go further,” Brantley said. “It does sting a little bit that we’re not going to do it again this year. Through the good through the bad, through the ups through the downs, I believe this team matured. We’re going to learn from it. I think it’s very important that we do learn from it and grow together.”
Cleveland (84-77) looks to end the season on a high note, in the final game of the season Sunday afternoon.
“We were playing meaningful games the last week of September, what more can you ask?” Brantley said. “The best key and the best teacher is experience.”
Up next for Indians: The Tribe looks to end 2014 strong, as they face Tampa Bay in the final regular season game of the year on Sunday. Rookie southpaw T.J. House (4-3, 3.43 ERA) takes the hill opposite of Rays right-hander Alex Cobb (10-8, 2.75 ERA) at 1:05 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like Chisenhall, Kipnis can also use a strongly-dedicated offseason to prove that he is the player the Indians thought they were getting when they signed him (even though looking back at his career month by month, he actually has shown more of what he did in 2014 than the alternative- thus, he needs to really prove he is the hitter they thought he would be). Improving his conditioning could also help his range a bit, whether that's at 2B and/or LF.
Kipnis needs to get into better shape if he is going to play OF. I dont want to see some fat ass shagging down fly balls in the outfield.
I remember many years ago (2008) on another Indians' fan site, there was an intense discussion between myself and another gentleman on who should be the PTBNL in the Sabathia trade. As you mentioned, there were some on that site that wanted Green (I had considered him, but he probably was second or third; I think I had considered a pitching prospect of Milwaukee second or right along with Brantley if I remember correctly), the aforementioned gentleman and a few others who wanted Lucroy, and myself and some others who wanted Brantley. He brought up the same arguments against Brantley you just mentioned based on the scouting reports. I still thought he was the best option for the Indians.
If I'm correct from what I read and heard, we are fortunate that we have Brantley because, reportedly, if Milwaukee had not made the postseason, Brantley would not have been a PTBNL option. Only because Milwaukee made the postseason was Brantley added to the list of PTBNL options, and which the Indians took. Lucroy has turned into a fine player (a cross between Santana and Gomes, though I don't think he has the pure power of Santana or the pure defense of Gomes - sort of a hybrid of the two, if you will), but I'm very happy with Brantley and turned out even better than I thought. I thought he would hit for a high average and be a force at the top of the lineup, much like Lofton was. Well, he matched Lofton in terms of hits, but instead of being a force at the top of the order, he's more a force in the middle of the order, developing more power than expected (one of the arguments that the aforementioned used to favor Lucroy and go against Brantley).
I do think he could handle RF because I see his defensive problems coming from consistency, not lack of range. Thus, I think he can cover the ground that is needed out there- I think the consistency in route-running and reading the ball off the bat will take time and repetition, but again, this would hold true for any converted infielder.
I think the opposite holds true with Kipnis- he struggles some from consistency, but more so from lack of range. Consistency can be improved over time and repetition (doesn't always happen, but it's possible). However, range doesn't improve with age- it gets worse. This is why I think Kipnis has to move off 2B at some point, and I think, the sooner, the better, especially since you have a better defender on the roster right now and who more than held his own offensively in his first go-around in the Majors, not to mention he just turned 22 in August. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a poor up-the-middle infield defense and/or be running Lindor ragged because he'll be attempting to cover a wider area because his partner can't cover it. That will likely affect him both offensively and defensively, especially over the long term.
Personally, I would consider trading Kipnis now if you could do it. Presuming the Indians won't do that though, I would have him begin taking flyballs again in the OF, even if you don't make the switch at the start of next year (though I would). This way, if a change has to be made at 2B, and I feel it will happen at some point, and probably sooner rather than later, Kipnis could immediately jump to the OF instead of having to probably go down to the Minors to get in some OF reps. That's presuming of course that Kipnis can hit better next year; if he isn't, his being away from the team learning the OF likely wouldn't affect them much anyway. Still, I'd prep Kipnis for the OF and have him ready to make the change if, and probably when, it is needed.
I do think he will hit higher next year though. Keep in mind he got off to a slow start this year because of focusing on his defense at 3B. While he and the Indians won't admit, it's virtually a guarantee it did take a toll on his offense. Look at how his numbers broke down playing 3B and playing 1B- essentially night and day, especially when it came to his BA and power.
Thus, I would say .250-.280 is a realistic possibility next year, with the possibility of hitting 30 HRs, 100 RBIs. Would I have him hit cleanup? Not ideally, though I think with more consistency and a better start next year, I think he would do well enough. Ideally, I'd like to shift him down to 5th and put someone like Victor Martinez in the cleanup spot. This would also shift Gomes down to 6th and Chisenhall down to 7th (Kipnis should be batting no higher than 8th in that lineup, possibly hitting 9th or 1st to take advantage of his base running, provided he can get on base. Keep him out of the 5th and 6th spots- he has no business there until he can at least do what Chisenhall did in the first half of this year - then I'll reconsider, but I probably wouldn't bat him higher than 7th, still behind Gomes, at least, anyway).
Some guys need to mature physically and some guys need to mature mentally. For Carrasco, it was mostly mental.
It seems to me that Chisenhall still needs to mature physically AND mentally. I think it's too early to give up on a guy like him, as he made huge strides this year, but he really needs to get stronger, more confident and more serious about his approach in the box and he needs to make a big improvement in the field. Both of which can easily happen with an off-season of hard work. He's still young and has all of the tools.
At the end of the season I am struck by one other thing...Santana is not a #4 hitter on a playoff team. He is a major reason the offense stunk this year. I don't care how many walks he has, the number four hitter needs to hit more than .230. His high OBP masks the fact that his low BA has killed way too many potential rallies.
To me, he's a trade candidate with value, esp if you have any hope that Swisher comes back ready to hit and field at or near historical levels. The DH spot could be manned by a committee of folks...that is, once we add the much-needed power-hitting RHer. I think this also gives a path at 1B for Aguilar, who I think will show up big next year. I don't think we can determine much of anything from his terrible numbers in limited ML time this year.
Agreed, I think Carrasco and Kluber would match up well against anybody. It would be interesting who they'd slot as three. Id go with TJ House, as much as I like Bauer and Salazar, I think with House you know what you are going to get.
Id like to see the Tribe add a 3b and RF this offseason and move Chisenhall to a corner UTL role or trade him as part of the pkg to bring in those pieces. Although I am intrigued by the idea of Chisenhall playing RF. He seems to have the arm for it, idk about his range.
What more can you say about Carlos Carrasco? His numbers look alot like Klubers projected over a full season.I know the guy has been a head case in the past but this looks like an example of the proverbial light finally turning on. In a short playoff series Kluber and Carrasco could match up with anyone in baseball right now.
Hope the Lonnie Chisenhall ERA has ended in Cleveland. Him , Kipnis, and Cabrera in the same infield is the worst I have seen in my 40 yrs as a Tribe fan. Those three literally cost this team a playoff berth.A healthy Kipnis is still Tony Bernazzard defensively (A butcher), in case u younger fans never saw Bernazzard play.