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Second Thoughts Game #108: Mariners 6, Indians 5

Zunino's late-inning blast sinks Shaw and Tribe as M's take series

Second Thoughts Game #108: Mariners 6, Indians 5
Mike Zunino powers Mariners to victory with late-inning blast off Bryan Shaw. (Photo: AP)
August 1, 2014
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The 2014 MLB trade deadline has come and gone and for the Indians, they are a shortstop and a starting pitcher lighter as former All-Stars and free-agents-to-be Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson have been shipped off to other clubs in exchange for upper level prospects.

With the fate of their season continuing to hang precariously in the balance, the Tribe entered the eighth inning of Thursday's rubber match against the Mariners with a 5-4 lead and setup man Bryan Shaw on the mound. After walking the first batter, Shaw faced off against rising star catcher Mike Zunino. Unfortunately, the battle was won by Zunino as he lined a 2-0 cutter from Shaw over the left field wall at Progressive Field for a two-run homer.

That would be all Brandon Maurer and Fernando Rodney would need as they dispensed of the Indians in the eighth and ninth allowing only a single to Carlos Santana as Seattle emerged victorious taking two out of three in the series.

Shaw Wearing Down?

When you have three relievers who lead the league in appearances with still two months left to go in the season, one has to wonder when the workload will start to have an adverse effect. I can't say for sure that this was the case for setup man Bryan Shaw on Thursday night, but it was his 51st appearance of the season and at the rate he's being used, he is due to have more than 75 appearances under his belt by season's end, which will be a new career high.

The right-hander came on in the eighth inning hoping to protect a one-run lead, but struggled with his command out of the gates. After walking the first batter he faced, Mike Zunino worked his way into a 2-0 count and made sure to put a good swing on the first strike he saw. Well, put it this way, the Mariners ended up winning 6-5.

Cody Allen experienced similar issues late last season as he racked up 77 appearances out of the bullpen. This pattern leads to one of two conclusions: Either one, Terry Francona only trusts Allen, Shaw and Marc Rzepczynski in the late innings, or two, the other Tribe relievers aren't capable of pitching in tight situations.

Still, it would be nice to see guys like Carlos Carrasco thrown into the mix a bit more. It was nice to see Kyle Crockett come in after Shaw and pitch shutout ball.

The only reason I speculate about this is Francona has carried extra relievers pretty much all season and yet he continues to gravitate toward the same three or four pitchers. Not that they can't handle it, but even the best can run into a wall at some point.

Now or Never for McAllister

The Indians were reportedly in discussions regarding potential trades for a starting pitcher right up until the 4:00 deadline on Thursday afternoon. Obviously nothing came to fruition, which leaves the Tribe to rely on their internal options now without the services of Justin Masterson, who was dealt to the Cardinals on Wednesday.

As of right now, three of the five spots in the starting rotation are spoken for between Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and, for the time being, Danny Salazar. That leaves Josh Tomlin, T.J. House and Thursday night's starter Zach McAllister vying for the final two spots.

Well, McAllister didn't make a great case for himself against the Mariners as he only lasted three and a third innings, but not before he was saddled with four earned runs on eight hits, including a home run. He also failed to strike out a batter. Since his return to the rotation after time on the DL and down in AAA, the right-hander has gone 0-2 with a 6.09 ERA in four starts.

It's an established fact at this point that McAllister relies much too heavily on his fastball during starts. Of his 64 pitches on Thursday, 48 were fastballs of the four-seam and two-seam variety. Experimentation continues with his secondary pitches this season as he has abandoned the splitter from last year and increased the use of his slider and changeup. Still, his fastball accounts for nearly 73% of his pitch arsenal, according to PitchF/X.

This could very well be the McAllister's last chance to prove he can still pitch as effectively as he has in the past. However, to be at this point in his career and still be developing his secondary pitches is not an ideal scenario for any major league pitcher, let alone one on a team trying to contend.

Showcasing Jose Ramirez

Now that Asdrubal Cabrera has been traded, it gives young infielder Jose Ramirez a chance to prove he's worthy of a big league roster spot as he and veteran infielder Mike Aviles will be sharing the shortstop duties for the remainder of the season. The Indians made it clear following the trade that they would not call up top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor, or at least not yet.

While his overall season numbers may not look all that great, he has played much better since his latest call-up going 7-for-23 (.304) with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. On Thursday, Ramirez went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored. In AAA this season, the 21-year-old posted a .302 average with five homers, 29 RBI, 15 doubles, two triples and 19 stolen bases.

Unless the team changes their mind on Lindor or they decide to call up newly-acquired infield prospect Zach Walters, this will be the best opportunity for Ramirez to showcase his talent at the major league level. And speaking as someone who had the pleasure of watching him all last season at AA Akron, sit back and enjoy the show.

Up next: Rangers (43-65) vs. Indians (53-55) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.

The Indians continue the home stand as they turn to young and resurgent right-hander Danny Salazar for the series opener. Since returning to the rotation from AAA Columbus, Salazar has started twice and allowed only four earned runs in 12 innings of work as he has only walked three and struck out 13 in that span. He has not yet faced the Rangers in his young career.

Salazar will be matched up against veteran right-hander Jerome Williams, who will be making just his second start for Texas after spending the majority of the season with Lone Star rival Houston. After posting a 1-4 record and 6.04 ERA with the Astros as a reliever, he was picked up by Texas and inserted into their rotation. He pitched well in his first start with his new club allowing a run over six innings against Oakland. In only 2 career starts against the Indians, Williams is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA.

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
August 2, 2014 - 9:04 AM EDT
Here's a more radical idea on what to do next year: Move both Chisenhall and Kipnis to the OF- the only issue is, though, that I'm not sure Kipnis can handle RF, even though he did play CF at Arizona State. One of them should be able to handle LF, though. Right now, the only sure thing out there is Brantley- there are questions over the long-term futures of Raburn and Murphy. You could bring Morgan back, and I think the Indians will work to move Bourn this offseason.

Thus, you could upgrade the OF (at least offensively, though the defense out there right now is not great by any means, so I don't think you'd lose much defensively out there), while also allowing Urshela and Ramirez to improve the infield defense and get regular ABs.

While the number of appearances overall has been high for Shaw, he hasn't been used THAT much lately. Either way you slice it, though, he should not be pitching the eighth inning- I would have taken him out of that role at least a month ago- he's personally cost us two games directly in that time period, plus may have cost him indirectly by extending games by losing leads and/or ties. I'd also prefer seeing Carrasco back in the rotation, but if you're not going to do that, or not until next year, put him in that role- with his arm, you'd rather see him in the rotation or at the backend of that bullpen. Of course, he's not going to displace Allen (right now, at least, if not ever if Allen keeps up this level of performance), but certainly you'd want Carrasco as close to the ninth inning as possible if he's not in the rotation, similar to how Julian Tavarez was used in '95- thus, give Carrasco the 8th inning for now, and move Shaw back to the 7th inning where he was quite effective last year. You could have him split time with Crockett, Hagadone, Atchison, Adams and Lee to help ease the amount of IP and appearances he's throwing as well.

One final thought: If moving Chisenhall to the OF is too radical, have him serve time at DH along at 3B to help Urshela break into the Big Leagues. I would think that the Indians will also try to move Swisher's contract in the offseason as well- if they can't do it, his ABs should certainly be reduced next year, as his bat speed has really slowed. He could fill the "Giambi" role as the 25th guy next season, provided of course that you can't trade him. But, I'd certainly look to have Chisenhall have the majority of the DH ABs next year if Urshela is the regular 3B, with Swisher only playing 1-2 times a week if he's still here in 2015.
August 1, 2014 - 7:12 PM EDT
I'll give you my 3rd, 4th and 5th thoughts-- Thursday's game SUCKED
August 1, 2014 - 4:47 PM EDT
Depending on the player or the combination of players Walt
I am of the opinion that unless we have players that are in the same level as a Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera that no everyday player is untouchable Both of those players you just mentioned are probably playing at their peak potential and not at the level of Mike Trout who is young and still has his better years ahead of him or Miguel Cabrera If a trade makes us better I think we have to make it.
Berdj J. Rassam
August 1, 2014 - 4:46 PM EDT
The Indians are just an average team - some good and some bad. Some good pitching and hitting, and some bad. Likelihood of the playoffs? ESPN has it at 17% as of today.
August 1, 2014 - 2:33 PM EDT
Hawk, since you are thinking outside the box to improve this team. Would you put Kipnis and Santana in the same boat? I think these type of deals could happen during the off season.

August 1, 2014 - 2:20 PM EDT
Walter I am not fickle Recent slump doesnt mean a thing We need pitching and right now Chisenhall has some value and we may have a player who can take his spot At some point players will have to be moved in order for us to get better We have some depth at some of our positions in our system
August 1, 2014 - 2:10 PM EDT
I like how a batting slump has soured Lonnie baseball so fast. Never knew how fickle and frontrunners are Cleveland fans. If Chisenhall does not have an injury, this would technically be his first full season in majors from start to end.
August 1, 2014 - 1:46 PM EDT
ZMac should stay in Columbus till that season ends Hopefully he can work through some issues and see if he is a viable option for nest season I would give Tyler Cloyd the next time thru the rotation
Seeing that starting pitching was not addressed leaves us next year to sign a free agent or trade away a piece. Right now Chisenhal may be able to bring us back a nice pitcher Urshela is putting up some solid numbers in Columbus and may be ready. I am thinking we will see him in September Not sure how that will play out starting the left side of the infield with 2 very young players and trying to play for the division but it has not hindered the Tigers much this season
August 1, 2014 - 11:41 AM EDT
Zach is in a really bad place right now. He's obviously got mechanical issues, and from the outside looking at him, he's got mental issues as well. And while I don't agree that it's his last chance to prove himself, I do think that the next couple of months are critically important to his development as a MLB starter...that is, either he works through something important and foundational and builds himself back up, or doesn't ...just my sense of the situation...

Shaw is, and has been all year, miscast as an 8th inning setup guy. He's just not that good, and I'll say it again, the bullpen is simply not very good overall. But I guess it's better than our defense, which is terrible...

Even though I've always liked Asdrubal and am sad to see him go, I like the tribe's deadline deals, and now what can be done with a broken down player who can't stay on the field and makes $14m a year and looks to be essentially untradeable? Ugghh...

It will be real nice to see more of J-Ram, and I'd love to see Carrasco get another shot at starting, heck, what's there to lose? Basically, we're out of it at this point...

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