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Second Thoughts: Game #135 Indians 3, Tigers 2

Second Thoughts: Game #135 Indians 3, Tigers 2
September 4, 2012
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Rookie starter Corey Kluber notched his first big league win, thanks to his ability to evade the big inning en route to a quality start, while the offense provided just enough punch to sink the letdown-prone Tigers. The Indians bullpen kept the potent opposing lineup scoreless over three innings to preserve a one-run lead. In spite of Detroit’s 25-6 record at home since Independence Day heading into the game, the Tribe is now 8-5 against the Tigers this season, which represents Cleveland’s best head-to-head winning percentage (.615) against any American League opponent.

Major 3

Kluber collects win #1: In his 7th start of the season, 26 year old Tribe righty, Corey Kluber recorded his first major league win on Monday, as he tossed six solid innings of two-run ball. A lot of Kluber’s success in this game was predicated on his ability to circumvent allowing a multi-run inning. After being given a one-run advantage, Kluber found trouble in the 1st inning, yet again, allowing a Delmon Young RBI single. However, he played escape artist by getting the aggressive Brennan Boesch to roll over on a first pitch fastball for a ground ball double play to end the threat. He settled down for a couple quiet frames, before finding issues again in the 4th inning. Following a Young double and Boesch single to start the frame, Jhonny Peralta belted the third straight hit with an RBI single off the left field wall. Again, the pitcher’s best friend emerged, with an Alex Avila 4-6-3 double play to quell the momentum. Omar Infante then lined out to strand Boesch at third base.

Kluber then found his groove by cruising through back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the 5th and 6th to end his sound outing. His ability to settle down and calmly retire the final eight batters in order shows that he has the ability to consistently get big league hitters out. Kluber’s major issue to shore up is his 1st inning woes. Early on, he was overthrowing and trying to be a little too perfect with his location. As the game progressed, he began trusting his slider more to get Tigers hitters out, and it worked brilliantly. When he mixes his pitches and trusts his stuff, Kluber is quite an effective innings eater.

Tribe bats execute just enough: Although it wasn’t an offensive onslaught, the Tribe pushed across an adequate number of runs to come out on top in this contest. With a passed ball in the 1st frame and a throwing error in the 3rd, Detroit backstop, Alex Avila can be thanked for facilitating the first two runs the Indians scored. In the 1st inning, after a well-executed hit-and-run put Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis on the corners, the latter found his way home on the aforementioned passed ball. In the 3rd, Cleveland’s aggressiveness paid off once more, when Choo singled and stole second, forcing a throwing error from Avila, which put Choo on third. Then came the best at-bat of the day for a Tribe hitter, as Asdrubal Cabrera forced starter Anibal Sanchez to throw 12 pitches. Cabrera went out of the zone to foul off some tough offerings, but on the final pitch, which was high and outside, he stayed on it and smacked an RBI single up the middle to make the Tigers pay for the error.

Cabrera was also responsible for the other Indians RBI, which came on a bases loaded sac fly in the 7th inning to plate the go-ahead run. The Indians couldn’t muster an extra-base hit in the game, but used eleven singles, three walks, and four stolen bases to drive their efficient offense. Sanchez was victimized by some unhelpful defense, but pitched solidly, going six innings, while allowing eight hits and two unearned runs. He didn’t do anything fancy, throwing 68 of his 104 pitches for strikes, but Tribe hitters did well running up his pitch count, led by Cabrera’s 12-pitch encounter in the 3rd.

Bullpen B-squad delivers: The usual back-end team of Smith-Pestano-Perez was tweaked a bit in this game, as Chris Perez was unavailable due to the birth of his child. Instead, Monday’s game featured the trio of Allen-Rogers-Pestano to close out the final three innings of the game. It might have been a different group, but the result was just as impressive. The three Indians relievers combined to pitch three innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, while recording one walk and two strikeouts. Cody Allen commanded the 7th, as his fastball showed some nice life. He made Avila look downright silly on consecutive tailing fastballs that Avila completely gave up on. Esmil Rogers cruised through a 1-2-3 8th frame. Makeshift closer, Vinnie Pestano picked up his 2nd save of the season, while navigating through a Prince Fielder leadoff double and a one-out hit batsman. The bullpen has been and will continue to be the strength of this club. With several young, trustworthy arms in the ‘pen, it’s encouraging to have one reliable strength.

Minor 3

Cabrera rebounds from light-hitting homestand: Coming off a 2-for-23 stretch, Asdrubal Cabrera shook off a mini-slump by going 2-for-3 with two RBI in this game. In the 3rd inning, his long at-bat pushed Sanchez over 50 pitches with just one out in the inning. The most impressive thing about the plate appearance was that Cabrera had to fight back from being down 0-2 in the count to see ten-straight, two-strike pitches. Sure, Choo’s aggressiveness paved the way for the run, but Cabrera did well to stay on a pitch up in the zone after fouling several low pitches. Again, he came through in the 7th inning with the bases loaded, by shortening up on a 1-2 count to lift a fastball to deep center for the go-ahead sac fly. In the midst of Awful August, it seemed like the Tribe continually failed to execute in these critical run-scoring opportunities, so it’s refreshing to see fundamentally-sound execution.

No sap in the sticks: Although the Indians racked up eleven hits in the game, they did not collect an extra-base hit. On one hand, it’s hard to not appreciate the work that went into accruing eleven hits, but on the other it’s concerning that the lineup is devoid of a single hitter capable of hitting 25 homers. Cleveland failed to record consecutive hits in this game, so if you can’t clear the bases and can’t string together hits it’s going to be tough to sustain crooked number innings.

Tribe snags early lead: After watching Indians pitching allow 99 1st inning runs through 135 games, it was revitalizing to watch the Tribe plate a 1st frame run, just the team’s 68th of the year (11th in the American League). Even sweeter: the run came with two outs and it didn’t even require a swing of the bat. An early advantage for Kluber was helpful, as it could be argued that it helped give him the confidence to settle down and make his pitches, rather than trying to be too perfect against a Tigers team fresh off a sweep. Regardless, it’s always good to get an early lead when you have a rookie starting on the road.

3 Most Wanted

Continued aggressiveness: Four steals and a 1st inning hit-and-run undoubtedly helped the Indians put the pressure on the Tigers, which forced some mistakes that led to runs. This type of aggressive play can help camouflage some of the team’s slugging deficiencies, as well as help the Tribe play loose. Two of the three runs scored by the Indians were aided by stolen bases. Ratcheting up the stress on the opposition is exactly what Cleveland should be doing down the stretch.

Keep trapping the Tigers: For some reason, the Indians have played Detroit very well, better than they’ve played any other American League team (.615 winning percentage against). In this game, certainly some letdown from an emotionally charged sweep of the White Sox on Sunday Night Baseball the night before had something to do with the Tigers’ performance, in spite of Jim Leyland’s postgame comments to the contrary. Regardless, with not having to face Justin Verlander in this three-game series, the Indians now have a chance at their first winning series in a while. The Indians could start the final month with a diminutive breath of momentum, if they were to take a series on the road against one of the top teams in the division.

1st inning improvement from Kluber: Corey Kluber has the ability to succeed at this level, but the key to his progression in taking the next step toward polished starter is refining some of his 1st frame woes. With another opening inning run allowed in this game, Kluber has now allowed an unpalatable 12 earned runs through seven starts. Trusting his slider and avoiding the temptation to nibble early will help Kluber shore up this issue. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, so mixing his pitches and avoiding living up in the zone are imperative to his success.

User Comments

September 4, 2012 - 9:53 AM EDT
You look at Klubers minor league numbers he averages a K per inning. Hard to believe with a low 90's fastball but him and Mcallister, a Healthy Carassco give us some hope especially if Masterson returns to his 2011 form.

I would deal Perez and give Pestano the closers job with Allen in Vinny's old role. I dont trust Rogers enough with his inconsistent career.
September 4, 2012 - 9:19 AM EDT
Kluber has always been regarded as the guy in the upper levels "with the best stuff" since the Indians acquired him two years ago. Nice to see him showcasing it a little bit. Right now, if you ask me, LaPorta and Canzler are auditioning for a spot on the 40-man roster next season and a spot as one of the bench bats on the 25-man. Canzler brings MUCH more flexibility since he has options remaining (something LaPorta does not have after this year), so I really think we are seeing the end of the LaPorta Era.
September 4, 2012 - 9:12 AM EDT
After getting bombed for 13 earned runs in his first three starts, Kluber has settled down nicely and has given up only 6 ER's in his last four starts covering 22 innings for an ERA of 2.45. And those four starts have come against the Yankees, Tigers, and red-hot Oakland A's.

He also showed the ability to stay cool and get out of a couple of nasty jams by inducing double plays. Zach McAlister could take a lesson on this.

Lets see if he can keep it going over his last four starts. So far he's carving out a spot in next year's rotation, unlike Hernandez and Ubaldo.

Yes, the lack of extra base power is a huge problem. The Indians took advantage of the inability of Detroit's catcher to throw anything near the bag at second to steal four bases, and they also scored a run on a passed ball. Detroit's defense cost them this game, along with their inability to put Kluber away when they had the opportunity.

Canzler is off to a nice start, but since he hit .265 at Columbus this year (and .232 on the road) with an OPS slightly lower than Matt LaPorta, I'm guessing he's a younger Shelley Duncan.

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