Second Thoughts Game #102: Rangers 8, Indians 11
Raburn’s three-run walk-off blast erases bullpen meltdown
A Bench of Riches
Since day one of the season, the Indians have been blessed with a luxury they have not enjoyed for quite some time. The bench assembled in the offseason by the Tribe front office is arguably the most improved element of the team and one of the top groups of utility players in the league, if not all of baseball. Players possessing the ability to play multiple positions, hit for average and power and even come through in the clutch at times.
Such was the case on Friday night as Ryan Raburn, the team’s DH for the night, belted a walk-off, three-run homer in the 11th inning to give Cleveland an 11-8 win over the Rangers. After hitting only a mere .171 with one homer and 12 RBI’s in 66 games with Detroit last season, Raburn is up to .273 with 11 homers and 31 RBI’s in just 58 games for the Tribe in 2013.
With the trade deadline looming on the horizon, Indians fans have been clamoring for, among other things, another bat to help stabilize this notoriously streaky offense. While that may still be a possibility, a viable solution to the aforementioned issue could be sitting on the bench in Raburn, Mike Aviles, Yan Gomes and even Jason Giambi. None of them should be playing every day to risk spoiling the good thing the Indians have with their utility corps, but they should start getting more playing time from this point on.
Gomes will get more regular playing time regardless with him and left-hander Scott Kazmir forming an inseparable pitcher/catcher team. Meanwhile with Mark Reynolds still battling through his slump, the door will be more open for Ryan Raburn at DH as well as giving Drew Stubbs a break in right field now and then while Aviles will continue to back up Lonnie Chisenhall and Asdrubal Cabrera and will platoon with the former against tough left-handed pitchers.
All About Location
While a walk-off win is always great, the Indians did have this game well in hand at one point leading 7-1 at one point. Starter Corey Kluber turned in another quality start pitching six innings and allowing four runs (three earned). He left with a 7-4 lead, which later became 8-4 in the bottom of the inning. The bullpen then came in and, what has become a disturbing trend this season, proceeded to give up four runs in the next two innings capped off with submarine-style right-hander Joe Smith surrendering the tying runs in the top of the eighth.
For the past month now, Smith has become very unreliable in the late innings for the Tribe. His ERA since late June is 7.59 while his strikeouts per nine innings dropped from 9.2 to 1.7 in that span. With former setup man Vinnie Pestano already being temporarily removed from his late-inning role due to struggles, Smith’s issues as of late have not been a welcomed development for the Tribe.
One of the things that have led to Smith’s struggles this season has been inability to properly locate his pitches. Friday night was no different as the right-hander served up a two-run single to Ian Kinsler in the eighth on an 0-2 pitch. Catcher Carlos Santana set up for a pitch down low, but Smith threw a slider outside that tailed back over the plate at the last second and allowed Kinsler to make contact. Such has become a common occurrence for Smith over the last several weeks.
Quote of the Game:
“The way I've been feeling at the plate, honestly, I felt like I had better chances of swinging the bat, and it paid off for us,” – Ryan Raburn on choosing to swing instead of bunting.
Up Next: Rangers vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05.
One of the more exciting pitching matchups of the season is upon us in a showdown of All-Star aces in Yu Darvishvs. Justin Masterson. Both pitchers have yet to face the opposing teams this season, let alone each other. Darvish currently leads all MLB pitchers in strikeouts with Masterson not too far behind. Masterson flirted with a no-hitter in his last start against Minnesota while Darvish pitched six and a third innings of two-hit ball against the Yankees.
The Indians are looking to win their first post-All-Star break series and continue their dominance of Texas and the AL West while the Rangers aim to even the score.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.