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Second Thoughts Game #114: Tigers 6, Indians 5

Second Thoughts Game #114: Tigers 6, Indians 5
August 8, 2013
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Pre-Game Commentary

After dropping two straight deflating games to the Tigers, the Indians turned to Danny Salazar to try to get some of their mojo back. It can’t be totally on his shoulders though. The Indians offense has managed just nine hits and three runs in the series. Having faced Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez already, and with Max Scherzer looming on Thursday, this is the game where the Indians offense needs to break out of its Detroit funk and take the pressure off of Salazar.

The Whole Nine

1. This is yet another crushing loss for the Tribe. They’ve lost all three games against Detroit so far in the series and they’ve lost them in spectacular fashion; blown saves, big home-runs, and extra innings. The team fought hard in this one, but the offense just couldn’t get anything going against the Detroit bullpen. Eventually Detroit broke through against Bryan Shaw and Marc Rzepczynski on a Prince Fielderdouble and the Indians find themselves six games out of the division lead.

2. Danny Salazar put together another impressive performance. The final line might say four runs given up, but he pitched much better than that. He gave the team a chance to win this game and that’s exactly what he was brought up to do. He made a few mistakes, but for the most part was overpowering against a very good lineup. If you didn’t see it live, try to grab hold of a rebroadcast of this game and take a look at his third inning. Regardless of the result of this game and what happens the rest of the way, the emergence of Salazar and Kluber give the Indians two young, top of the rotation arms to mix with Masterson, McAllister, and possibly Kazmir in what has the makings of a very strong rotation. Go back in time one calendar year and the rotation looked rather hopeless moving forward. That’s something to keep in perspective.

3.  I don’t second guess Terry Francona’s decision to allow Salazar to pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning. Salazar had struck out Cabrera three times in the game (the first pitcher to do so this year) and deserved a chance to finish out the inning. There have been some times where I’ve questioned how early or late Francona has gone to his bullpen, but this isn’t one of those times. After watching Salazar carve up the Tigers (and especially Cabrera) all night I figured he was a better option for that one out than one of the Indians relievers. Sometimes you just get beat.

4. Speaking of second guessing, I will ask why Rich Hill was left in to face a right-hander in the ninth. Sure, it was only Bryan Pena, but it’s also Rich Hill with a .775 OPS against when he faces right-handers. He had already walked the left-hander he was in the game to get out and Francona still decided to keep him in against Pena, only to watch him give up a single. He turned the ball over to Cody Allen with two on and zero outs, a tough situation to ask another reliever to get out of but Allen was able to get it done. I don’t understand that move one bit, and it could have ended this game a lot sooner.

5. Despite its futility late in the game, the offense was better than in the previous two games of the series. We can look back and put the loss in the series opener on Chris Perez, sure, but the team needs to score more than three runs in two games to expect to beat a team as good as Detroit. Mired in slumps, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher had big hits in this one that will hopefully get them going. Swisher broke out of his 0-16 slump by going 3-4 with two RBI’s. Michael Brantley added a 3-5 night and Yan Gomes had a home run and huge RBI groundout in the bottom of the eight to tie the game at four and send it to extras.

6. One guy who didn’t show up (again) was Asdrubal Cabrera. Francona has been almost stubborn to this point in not switching up his lineup. He swapped Cabrera and Swisher in the order a few weeks back but both continue to struggle. So far, Francona has declined to move them down in the lineup. Swisher’s ability to get on base is useful at the top of the lineup, but Cabrera doesn’t get on base, his plate discipline has eroded, and his power numbers are at a three year low. There’s a fine line between stubbornness and conviction. I love Francona, and he’s as much of a reason as any for the Indians being in the thick of the playoff race in the American League, but watching Cabrera consistently leave runners in scoring position is becoming disheartening. There has to be a better option.

7. Both teams had a couple of missed opportunities in this game that they’d like to have back. First off, the Tigers trying to score Brayan Pena from second in the second inning off a single did the Indians a favor and got them out of an inning in which Salazar scuffled a bit. However, in the fourth the Indians got a leadoff double from Michael Brantley only to watch Carlos Santana pop out and Jason Giambi follow with a strikeout. Both teams did their fair share of stranding runners in this game.

8. Bryan Shaw might have given up the two runs that gave Detroit the win (with an assist from Scrabble), but I thought overall the bullpen did a good job in this game. Chris Perez bounced back well from his blown save on MondayJoe Smith had another good inning, and Cody Allen bailed out Rich Hill in the ninth inning. Those are the Indians three main cogs in the bullpen and they’ve each had their troubles of late, so it was nice to see them have good outings in this game to keep the team alive.

9. One note on the Ryan Raburn signing: I think this is a really solid and smart move. He’s been one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball this year and having him back for 2.25 million is a good value. We know how important the bench has been this season and having Raburn, Aviles, and Gomes in the fold next year gives the lineup good depth. More importantly, I hope this also signals that the team is getting a jump on discussions with another soon-to-be free agent,Scott Kazmir.

Post-Game Commentary

The result hurts, but as a fan this was a really fun game to watch. Even after what happened on Monday and Tuesday the Indians fought back three different times in this game to try to get the win, and came up just short of a fourteenth inning comeback. The division might be out of reach at this point, but there are still playoff spots to fight for, and that’s one thing this team does really well, they fight. They’ll fight to salvage the last game of this series on Thursday with Zach McAllister squaring off against Max Scherzer at 7:05.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
August 9, 2013 - 8:19 AM EDT
Two other similarities between the Cardinals and Indians: Cardinals had a poor series against the Dodgers at home (lost 3 of 4) and are now 4 games out of first (largest deficit in a while, if not the season for them).
Joe Chengery
August 9, 2013 - 4:38 AM EDT
The Dodgers-Cardinals Thurs game and series seem very similar.

RHP Carlos Martinez gave up a long 3-run HR to A.J. Ellis on a 93-MPH fastball, below the 98-100 MPH fastballs he was throwing earlier, possibly due to a cramping right hand. He was inefficient (didn't make it through five), but didn't miss by much, getting squeezed a bit it sounds like. He's supposed to head back to AAA, and Wacha supposed to be called up.

A Cabrera-Marinez swap in the offseason would be nice. Either that, or targeting some cleanup power hitter if one is blocked or expendable (Trumbo?). In either case, though, Cabrera must raise his value up some by being consistent these final two months, a consistency we haven't seen all season. Let's hope he does, both for the Tribe's fortunes in 2013 AND 2014.
Joe Chengery
August 8, 2013 - 10:15 PM EDT
Watching the last inning of Thursday's game, did anyone see Coke regularly hitting 96-97 MPH? Since when did he start throwing 96-97; he barely reaches 93-94. I'm thinking the radar gun is off, and if so, was it off the whole series?

If so, and taking 3-4 MPH off of some notable pitches:

Verlander hit 96-97, not 100.
Rondon hit 99-100, not 103.
Salazar hit 96-97, not 100.
Cabrera hit a 92-93 MPH fastball for the 2-run HR, not 96.

Don't know for sure, but I'm very sure that Coke does not throw 96-97 regularly, and probably has never hit that velocity before. Something's up. Any word on this?
Joe Chengery
August 8, 2013 - 8:22 PM EDT
I hope and think Salazar will be fine- Cabrera only hit that pitch because Salazar missed with location and Cabrera was gearing up for the pitch. Hunter mentioned about Cabrera making an adjustment; I'm certain Salazar will make an adjustment too. It won't surprise me if he strikes out Cabrera 3 times in a game again before Cabrera's career is over (and I mean in Cabrera's prime, not at the end of his career, where striking him out three times in a game becomes more likely), presuming Salazar stays healthy, of course.

As for some of Francona's decisions, they are a bit baffling. I wish Cabrera was dropped to 7th or 8th in the order- I'd put him behind Giambi/Rayburn and Gomes. Heck, I trust Stubbs' ability more than Cabrera's, but still want Stubbs' speed at the bottom of the order. I really wish the Indians had made a move for one of the Cardinals' pitching prospects- who knows if Cabrera will be worth even that when this season is done. Aviles can, and has, produced more.

Someone needs to get through to Cabrera that:

1. He is NOT a power hitter- his 25 HRs were a fluke in my opinion.

2. Stop swinging at everything.

3. Cut down on that stroke and utilize the whole field, especially with two strikes.

In some ways, he's been the most disappointing member of the Indians, yes, even more than Reynolds. You expected Reynolds to be streaky with strikeouts (though not fall off the face of the Earth as he did), but you expected Cabrera to be a consistent .280-.310 hitter with 10-15 HRs, 60-80 RBIs, and play solid defense at SS, no matter where he hit in the lineup. This seemed to be more likely because he even got some extra game action with the World Baseball Classic. We have gotten very little of that production in 2013. I think it's likely he'll be traded this offseason IF he can provide a decent to solid return, but that's debatable; otherwise, we may have to hold onto him and get the draft pick (though, isn't affected too if his production keeps falling off?).
August 8, 2013 - 7:41 PM EDT
This team is just frustrating to watch

I mean, the offense is the inconsistent offense from hell

baffled for 3 innings by Jeremy Bonderman?

The Inability to advance runners (Cabrera and Santana especially)

Francona makes another crucial mistake....leaving a pitcher who at most has thrown 89 pitches this year in for over 100 to face the best hitter in baseball?
August 8, 2013 - 2:38 PM EDT
Surprised Salazar was sent out for the 8th. Believe all starts this yr have been max 50 - 70 pitches.

Tribe clean up hitter came up 3 times with a man on 3rd. Believe he stuck out twice and GIDP. All 3 times it ended the inning. The next batter, the following inning, twice doubled. .. How much longer does the manager keep a player at the top of the order, let alone 4th that hasn't produced much in about a yr.

Francona may be a big reason the Tribe is in contention but his game decisions are sometimes baffling.
August 8, 2013 - 1:35 PM EDT
What a game. What a series. I was too stunned by the 8th to otherwise pose a real threat to the flat screen. While it hurts that the Tigers have destroyed us this season, and especially this series at home, after a nights sleep and some calm thinking it all has settled down.

I just can't question Francona and Callaway after what has happened this season. The gang over at MLB channel was frothing at the mouth over Salazar's outing - noting that only two pitchers have ever K'd Miggy three times in a single outing - both Cy Young #1 studs.

What is more is how I almost caught a smile from Salazar when in disbelief he watched Cabrara toast him with that 2 run dinger - not only is his stuff stud - this guys mound presense is fantastic - even in the face of such a devastating fail - in real time.

You look at what is happening - Kazmir, Kluber, Rayburn, Gomes, and now that is getting topped with this kid emerging out of practically nowhere with such dynamic stuff that he's already getting mentioned nationally in the same breath as Fernandez in Miami.

Yes the Tigers have owned us. It's turned out awful but it's been - besides game 2 with Verlander dominating - totally competitive.

Salazar made one mistake to Jackson - after pitching himself out of that jam in the 3rd. Look again at the pitch Miggy smoked - it wasn't as bad as the mistake Jackson launched. Outer half - too much of the plate yes - but the kind of 50/50 pitch only the best hitter in baseball makes launching it look easy. NOT EVEN A REAL MISTAKE!

Irregardless of if the tribe does make the wild-card - I count this as one of the best years since the golden age. Can't wait to order every Salazar start on Pay Per.

What a wow factor every time he takes the mound. Great stuff.
August 8, 2013 - 1:30 PM EDT
With regards to Salazar...I was at two games in Carolina last year in which he threw 70 pitches. Ironically enough, it was his first start, and his last start. His first, he struggled with control. His last, he absolutely dominated. Other than those two starts, I don't think he ever got into the 60's with regards to the pitch count...


...they sent him to Akron in early August, and if I remember correctly from Edwin Rodriguez, the plan was to take the cork off the bottle completely.

I don't have the pitch counts for those games in Akron, but I guarantee you there were two or three that were up close to 100 pitches, if not 100. I can't remember who I talked to back then, but they knew he would stay under his pitch threshold that year, so they were unconcerned about count, and he handled it fine.

I want to say I remember a game in which he either threw 100, or 99 or 98 pitches...with a couple more in that realm.

My point here is...I don't think it's too much a stretch to keep him above 100, as long as they are closer to 100 than not.

I agree that it was a gamble for sure, but I don't think I'd even hesitate to throw Salazar at Cabrera even though he was tiring, over ANY other member of the bullpen. Of course, that said, when he came up to the plate, I was thinking, "oh-oh..."

But c'mon...

As for Francona, can jump on him for a number of moves that he made this year...the same way you can jump on any manager. The thing here is...this team isn't perfect, and the pitchers are far from it. The starters need kids' gloves...because as good as they have been...there are still questions about all these guys. He's been masterful handling them...especially taking into account how this freakin' pen has been.

But did he make a mistake last night? I suppose, but facing Miggy can make any manager look like an idiot.

Had Smith come out, while that wouldn't have upset would have ticked me off...maybe not for the move...but for the fact that Smith has struggled in similar situations this year.

My point is...there wasn't a perfect situation there.... least in my opinion. That's what Miggy Cabrera does to does a suspect pen...

Now...Asdrubal Cabrera batting leadoff? I got nothing there...
August 8, 2013 - 11:28 AM EDT
Agreed Tony. I haven't done much second guessing of Francona until the last week, his overuse of Perez and inability to see he lacked it the other night or with Salazar tiring last night, his faith seems to be wavering and it's effecting the team.
August 8, 2013 - 11:28 AM EDT
Tony right on. I gasped when Salazar came out to pitch the 8th. For 2 years all we've been hearing is 85 pitches or 5 inning limit, have to protect his arm. His last start he was yanked after 52 w a no hitter going. The decision didn't make sense on any level. One the kid is the future, he's a thoroughbred that has NEVER run this distance, let alone throwing 100MPH against the Tigers, you protect him physically and mentally. Two he had struck out Cabrera 3 consecutive times, you walk away from the table quietly with your chips in your pocket, especially knowing you're tired, you're losing your edge, and the best hitter in the game is overdue. Cabrera's eyes were as big as saucers when he saw the 96 cheese floating right down Broadway after facing 99 and darting all night. I am very disappointed in Francona. While we're on the subject, he pulled Cody Allen for Chris Perez in the 9th w the score tied? Allen could probably pitch 3 innings like Bonderman or Veras. To put Perez in there is a slap in the face to the team and the fans IMO. Cabrera ofer 6. That's on Antonetti. He WAS a tradable commodity and Antonetti let it evaporate--- obvious and inexcusable. The Indians are done this year. I believe Kansas City overtakes them and they finish third and way out of it.
August 8, 2013 - 9:57 AM EDT
I'm one of those that questioned Francona's decision to keep Salazar in the game against Cabrera. And it was second guessing or armchair QBing as I said as such on Twitter before he launched the homer. It was amazing faith by Francona there, but also shows a complete lack of trust in his backend pen arms to come in and pitch in a crucial situation. Joe Smith should have been called upon there to get Cabrera. I agree with the sentiment that Salazar was brilliant all night and deserved to pitch, and if it were Masterson or Kluber or McAllister, I probably agree with Tito leaving them in there.

But the bottom line is Salazar was already at 102 pitches and was tiring. When you are tired you begin to locate poorly, as he did on that fastball right down the pipe against Cabrera. Plus regardless of whether or not he struckout Cabrera the three previous at bats, he is getting a chance to face him a fourth time in one game. He is a smart hitter and will make the adjustment. But the most important point is Salazar has not thrown more than 89 pitches all season. He's mostly been at 75-80 pitches. He's never come close to throwing over 100 pitches in his career, yet they were going to let him potentially get up to 107-109 pitches to finish off Cabrera there? Considering how they have really been cautious with his pitch count, I think Francona got caught up in the moment. The main reason I wanted to take him out there was for pitch count reasons.....and also so you didn't have what happened happen to a good young pitcher. Had Smith came in and given up the home run you would not have gotten an argument out of me.
Bob Collins
August 8, 2013 - 9:48 AM EDT
I have a hard time with all the second guessing of Francona. Even out of gas, Salazar was better than the crap we've been trotting out of the bullpen all year.

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