Second Thoughts: Game #118 - Indians 4, Angels 8
|W: E. Santana (6-10) L: R. Hernandez (0-1)|
The main storyline heading into Wednesday’s rubber match against the Angels was the season debut of Roberto Hernandez. After a smooth 1-2-3 1st inning where he got three groundball outs, it was all downhill for the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona and the Tribe, largely due to a 2nd inning defensive fiasco that would make little league coaches shudder. The Indians fell to 7-8 in rubber matches this season, as Ervin Santana and the Halos cruised past Hernandez and company.
Defensive debacle: After Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo started the 2nd inning with consecutive singles, the stage was set for a three error inning that netted the Angels a five-zip lead. Against the next batter, Alberto Callaspo, Hernandez threw a wild pitch that advanced the twin base runners to 2nd and 3rd. On the very next pitch, a low changeup over the plate, Callaspo smacked an RBI single to kick off the scoring.
Then the wheels really started to come off; Vernon Wells followed with a grounder that had tailor-made double play written all over it, except shortstop Brent Lillibridge bobbled the ball for the first error, which allowed another run to cross the plate, while not yielding an out. Next, a savvy bunt from Maicer Izturis put the pressure on an unfocused Tribe defense; this time it was Carlos Santana that couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly, as the bases were now loaded on the Izturis infield single (which could’ve easily been an error on Santana), still with no one out. A Chris Iannetta sac fly pushed the third run across, followed by a fielder’s choice force at second base off the bat of Mike Trout, putting runners on the corners with two outs.
Then came one of the ugliest, most ill-advised plays you’ll see a major league defense make. With Erick Aybar at the plate, Trout, the American League leader in steals, took off for second. Santana launched an ill-fated throw that Lillibridge was ever-so-barely able to knock down a few feet to his side. Seeing the opportunity to break for home, Wells made a break for the plate, as Lillibridge uncorked a downright hideous throw that was nowhere close to Santana as it skipped to the backstop, allowing Wells to safely score and Trout to take third. That’s right, two errors on one play to make three for the inning.
But wait, there’s more! On the second strike to Aybar, both Hernandez and Santana started walking to the dugout, thinking that the inning was over. So, not only were there three errors, but the pitcher and catcher didn’t even know what the count was. Seemingly offended by their lack of attentiveness, Aybar turned on an inside sinker for an RBI triple to teach them that focus is prerequisite for playing Major League Baseball. Inexcusable isn’t even strong enough to characterize how poor the Indians performance was in the bottom of the 2nd inning.
Ervin Santana stymies Tribe: Indians hitters shouldn’t have had the slightest fear in squaring up Santana, who came into the game with a 5.82 ERA and a major league-leading home runs allowed total of 28. Furthermore, he had already lost twice this season to Cleveland, as well as having a career ERA north of five against the Wahoos. Yet, Santana defied all of the underwhelming season stats and more accurately resembled the pitcher who no-hit the Tribe last July. Admittedly, it definitely helped that his offense spotted him an early five-spot, but the way he mowed down Cleveland hitters over seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball was hard to watch as an Indians fan.
Early on it looked like Tribe hitters were pressing a bit against a pitcher they knew they could knock around, as it only took Santana 34 pitches to get through the first three frames. He continued to confidently rely almost exclusively on his low-90s fastball and slider, while working both sides of the plate to get over-aggressive Indians bats out. In four of his seven innings pitched, Santana set down Tribe hitters in order. All Cleveland could muster against the L.A. starter was a Zeke Carrera single and Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double in the 6th inning. Through five innings Cleveland had more errors (3) than hits (2).
Carmandez—split performance: The process of sifting through Roberto Hernandez’s start to dictate its success or failure is muddied by the defensive woes in the 2nd inning. Defense aside, he had some positive and negative things to take from his 2012 debut. The good news: no walks, 12 groundball outs, six innings pitched, 56 of his 91 pitches went for strikes. The bad news: he contributed to the five-run 2nd frame by allowing the first two hitters to reach, as well as throwing a wild pitch. He also allowed ten hits, two homers, and had trouble missing Angels bats (no strikeouts).
It was encouraging to see Hernandez start strong with a 1-2-3 1st inning and not succumb to the adrenaline by overthrowing. In spite of coming in mid-August, this very much looked like the first start of the season for the 31 year old Hernandez— some rust to knock off and some positive points to build on. For the most part, his sinker was sinking and the slider had flashes of good movement. He still has the same holes in his game, particularly with respect to making hitters miss, but that is to be expected, as it corroborates the recent arc in his career. This was evidenced by the homers he conceded to Trout and Iannetta, both of whom tattooed mistake pitches.
Unlucky ump gets cleated: On one of the more bizarre plays you’ll see in this game, in the bottom of the 5th inning home plate umpire Greg Gibson caught a Torii Hunter cleat to the side of his face. With Hunter on first base, Morales hit a double to right field, which Shin-Soo Choo picked up and threw to an uncovered 2nd base. The ball skipped to Jack Hannahan, who rifled a relay throw home to try and get Hunter at the plate. Sensing the tag, Hunter attempted to slide head first at an angle, which caused him to roll over, and in the process of doing so cleated Gibson on the left side of his face, narrowly missing his left eye. Gibson went down in a heap, but thankfully seemed to shake it off as well as one could in that situation. It was a highly unusual play, not just because of the freak contact, but because the hit rendered the home plate ump unable to call Hunter safe or out at the plate. He was later ruled out and luckily it seemed that Gibson was alright, aside from a few stitches.
Allen escapes to preserve streak: Cody Allen has officially reached double-digit scoreless appearances to start his major league career, with a scoreless 8th inning on Wednesday. Appearance number ten was in serious peril, as a Trumbo leadoff single, followed by walks to Callaspo and Wells jeopardized the streak. With the bases loaded and none out, Allen battled not having his best control and escaped unscathed. He got Izturis to pop out before Iannetta hit a sharp grounder to Hannahan to start the inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Luckily, when Allen was missing it was out of the zone, so call it luck or being clutch, but the point is the rookie reliever still has yet to be scored on.
Choo goes deep: In the 8th inning with Hannahan on second and Kipnis on first due to a single and walk, respectively, Choo got full extension on a Jason Isringhausen mistake fastball up and over the plate for a three-run big fly. This was easily the highpoint of the game for the Tribe offense, which only produced one other extra-base hit in the game. In a sense, this homer hypothetically could’ve been a catalyst for a monster comeback, as it halved the lead, but the Indians only notched six hits in the game, preventing any sustained offensive momentum.
3 Most Wanted
Focus: The embarrassment that took place in the 2nd inning was painful to watch for a variety of reasons. Of course, it contained three errors, a passed ball, wild throw from the outfield to second base, and a generous ruling of an infield single, but the thing I find most criminal is Hernandez and Santana both not knowing the count against Aybar, as they started to walk off on the second strike of the at-bat. Errors, even egregious ones, will happen and sometimes you’ll see an outfielder catch a fly ball, thinking it’s the third out when it’s not, but for the pitcher and catcher not to know the count is simply intolerable. If this team has any interest in winning at all over the final quarter of the season, then it absolutely must do the little things right, like keeping track of how many strikes and outs there are.
Reaction out of Acta: With one out and runners on the corners in the 3rd inning, Vernon Wells hit a grounder to Hannahan, who flipped to Kipnis for the force. On the relay to first for the attempted double play, Wells was ruled safe on a bang-bang play, allowing the runner on third to score the sixth Halos run. Manny Acta came out to “argue”, but he always looks more like an indignant victim, than an inspiring shot-caller when disputing a call with an ump. I’ve said it before: the guy doesn’t stick up for his players enough. I get it, the Lou Pinella act isn’t for him— and that’s fine— but do more than half-heartedly trot out for a few seconds of whining. Personally speaking, I am sick of watching Acta fold his arms and calmly watch this team plod along toward the cellar in the division standings. If nothing else, he should be irate that his team looked like a tee-ball squad on defense the inning before, and take out some of that aggression to motivate his team to care about focusing on the game.
Less 1-2-3’s: Tribe hitters were sat down in order a whopping five times in this game. With the current starting pitching on this roster, the offense simply cannot go ice cold in that many innings if the Indians have any shot to win.
How do a MLB pitcher and catcher not know what the count is? Even little leaguers are fully aware of the ball/strike situation.
Maybe the Indians need to watch those Tom Emanski instructional videos (endorsed by Fred McGriff!, you know the ones that produced back to back to back to back AAU national champions) then they might be on par with the local little league squad when it comes to basic baseball fundementals.