Second Thoughts: Game #134 - Rangers 8, Indians 3
After the most futile month in team history, the calendar finally read "September." The Indians opened it with a solid victory on Saturday, but Sunday looked more like August again. Seven extra-base hits paced the Rangers, and the Tribe was again unable to keep up.
Carlos Santana notched a pair of extra-base hits, one a home run that accounted for two of the Indians' three runs. It was his third straight game driving in a run, and the continuation of a very good second half. He has eclipsed his first-half ribbie total in 20 less games (31 to 30), and is carrying an OPS that is almost 250 points higher (.919).
Thomas Neal, promoted from Akron when rosters expanded, made his Major League debut. It began with a pair of strikeouts and a run-in with the right field wall, but he made sure to get a few firsts out of the way before game number one was over. In the eighth, he notched his first hit and run batted in with a double down the left field line. Neal has worked through injuries, a trade and a tough demotion to reach this level, and it was a day he will not soon forget.
Brent Lillibridge reached base twice and stole another, but his most important contribution was an incredible diving stop made in the fourth inning. The play didn't result in an out anywhere, but it did keep a run from scoring and the Rangers' lead at just two. The play mattered not in the end, but it was the kind of play that can absolutely determine a game.
In his first appearance since returning to the Indians for a third time this season, Scott Barnes tossed two scoreless innings in relief of McAllister. It was a welcomed sight, as he had failed to keep the opposition from scoring in each of his last four appearances.
Zach McAllister needed just eight pitches to get out of the first inning. He also outsmarted the hottest hitter in baseball twice. Knowing those two pieces of information, it might seem as though he turned in a fine start. The reality, though, is that it could have been even worse than it was. Two great defensive plays bailed him out of two troublesome innings, and all of the damage was done in two others. He mixed pitches early in counts, but the Rangers jumped on everything, anyway. It was a display that the Rangers' potent offense has put on against many pitchers before McAllister. In the end, he allowed 11 hits (six for extra bases) and seven runs.
After Lillibridge kept the score 4-2 in the top of the fourth, he led off the bottom half with a walk... only to be picked off. The rest of the inning featured Matt LaPorta being robbed of an extra-base hit and a single from Lou Marson. Such is baseball, but it was a prime example of how volatile the game can be. An inch here, an inch there, and maybe this game plays out differently. No matter what, though, the Indians have to play mistake-free to compete right now.
Dating back to one game before the All-Star break, the Indians have won 12 of their last 50 games. Over a full season, that projects out to approximately 39 wins, or the fourth worst winning percentage in baseball history. Putting this stretch in perspective is frightening.
Shin-Soo Choo was given a day off against a left-handed starter, and the move was long overdue. He owns a .187/.304/.271 line this season, with six runs batted in and 50 strikeouts in 166 at-bats.
Jurickson Profar, baseball's current top prospect, also played in the first game of his Major League career. He only played because Ian Kinsler was a late scratch, and went on to homer and double in his first two at-bats.
Next up: A 10-game road trip that begins with three in Detroit. Corey Kluber, Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are scheduled to go.
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