Second Thoughts: Game #18 - Angels 2, Indians 3
|W: Pestano (1-0) L: Carpenter (0-1)|
Player of the Game: Justin Masterson (8 1/3 innings, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 5 BB, 5 SO)
The magic is back at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario! Down two runs after a seven inning pitcher’s duel between aces Justin Masterson and Jered Weaver, the Tribe would create late inning magic courtesy of Asdrubal Cabrera. The shortstop would drive in the game winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the Indians and fans home with a win in dramatic fashion. Almost a year to the day of Carlos Santana’s walk-off grand slam last season, Tribe fans have to wonder if this year will hold even more walk-off wins like the team had in 2011.
The biggest thing to take away from Friday night’s game besides Cabrera’s clutch base hit was the performance by Masterson. After going just 13 2/3 innings in his previous three starts, Masterson returned to ace form and the pitcher he was back on Opening Day, going 8 1/3 innings and holding the Angels to just two runs on four hits. It was noted that the Indians worked with Masterson between his last start to work more on the first base side of the rubber, as the right hander was getting into a habit of falling toward third base when pitching. While he didn’t pick up his first win on the young season, the transition worked and the Indians and Masterson alike have to be happy with the outcome of the performance.
The Top 10
- Making Jered Weaver work. While the Angels ace would end up going six strong scoreless innings, Indians hitters made Weaver rack up pitches early by throwing 80 pitches through the first 3 1/3 innings. The Tribe also had four walks against Weaver and seven full counts as well, which is always something you want to do when facing a Cy Young caliber pitcher like Weaver.
- Vinnie Pestano and his nasty slider. Besides Cabrera’s walk-off hit, I can’t think of a better feeling throughout the entire game than when Pestano struck out both Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar with two men in scoring position in the ninth inning. Yes, Masterson was lights out, but Pestano earned that win.
- Contributions throughout the entire lineup. The Indians not only banged out 15 hits against the Angels on Friday night, but every hitter in the lineup contributed with at least one hit in the game. Talk about a total team effort win.
- Getting runs home at the right time. Even after a slow start to the ballgame, the Tribe finished the game going 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Could this be a turn in the right direction for the Indians roller coaster offense? We will have to wait and see.
- Holding Albert Pujols in check. It’s hard to believe, but the 3-time NL MVP has now gone a career worse 109 at-bats without a home run. Does he really miss playing in Busch Stadium this much? It’s only a matter of time before Pujols gets back to his old self, but let’s hope by then he’s already left Cleveland.
- Ground ball outs all around. Masterson induced 14 ground ball outs through his 8 1/3 innings of work against the Angels, showing fans just how dominant he and his sinker was last night. Definitely a good sign as the season turns to May.
- Top of the lineup. The Indians first three hitters in the lineup (Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Cabrera) went a combined 8-for-15 (.533) at the top of the order. With Tribe manager Manny Acta always switching the lineup, maybe he’s finally found a top of the order that clicks. I’ve always been a supporter of Kipnis hitting in the No. 2 hole in the lineup ever since last season. He hit .284 with all seven of his home runs batting second in 2011 and is currently hitting .292 in the two-hole this season. Keep him there!
- Hafner and Santana keep rolling. Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana keep getting on base and more importantly, they keep racking up walks (Both currently lead the AL in walks). Not only can either of them easily hit in front of the other, but both Pronk and Santana could easily hit over 25 HRs and walk over 100 times as well. And who said Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder was the best three and four hitters in the league?
- Getting the leadoff man on. The Tribe got the leadoff man on in five of the nine innings last night. If they have any chance of breaking out and not continuing to regress and struggle on offense, the Indians need to continue to lead off innings by getting on base early anyway they can.
- Aaron Cunningham fills in nicely for Shin-Soo Choo. In his last 10 games, Cunningham is hitting .318 and is now currently riding a nice 4-game hitting streak. Maybe this is the player the front office saw after all when trading for him during the offseason.
And of course, one more extra highlight…
- Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat flip after his walk-off single. It doesn’t get any better than that. There’s nothing like a walk-of win at Progressive Field no matter what month of the season it is.
The Bottom 10
- Running ourselves out of innings. I am all for the Tribe being aggressive on the bases, especially when a guy like Weaver is on the mound. With an offense already struggling to put up runs though, why risk it? Twice the Indians ran themselves out of potential rallies with strike ‘em out throw ‘em out double plays early in the ballgame, both resulting with Kipnis striking out.
- Leaving 11 men on base. I don’t know what it is, but this stat always seems like it has been in double digits for the past week now. The Indians have now left at least nine men on base for the third time in the last four games. Something that has to change if the Indians want to stay atop the Central Division all year long.
- No long ball...again. With no home runs again Friday night, the Tribe has now not hit a home run in the last nine games. The team’s longest drought since 1991.
- Masterson coming back to pitch the ninth. Yes, I know there are still some fans out there who believe Manny Acta should have let Masterson pitch the ninth inning on Opening Day, but last night was different. Unlike the first game of the year, we now know what to expect from our bullpen as we’re almost a month into the season. Above all, the Tribe bullpen has been surging of late as well, recently having a stretch where the ‘pen has given up just two runs over the past 19 2/3 innings.
- Attendance, Attendance, Attendance. Listen, I know it was a cold night, I know the NFL Draft was going on, but come on…12,597 fans? For a Friday night, that’s it? The Tribe is the only professional sports team playing in Cleveland right now, and with a matchup like Masterson vs. Weaver how could you not come to the ballpark? Not to mention with the win the Indians are still currently in first place. Come on Tribe fans, come out and show support for your team! I don’t know about you, but there’s no better feeling than seeing a packed house at Progressive Field.
- No Jose Lopez in the lineup. In my opinion, I felt Lopez should have played last night as he had the best career numbers against Weaver coming into the game (.289, 2 HR, 5 RBI in 45 AB). Yes, he had already filled in for the struggling Casey Kotchman on Thursday, but with the Tribe still missing a big part of their lineup in Choo and Kotchman still struggling, I think Acta should have found a way to somehow get Lopez in the game.
- Not stopping Torii Hunter. You could make an argument that it wasn’t the Angels who had a two-run lead against the Tribe early in the game, but Torii Hunter instead. It was not surprising to me to see Hunter have a good game against Masterson as the veteran outfielder came into the game hitting .273 with 2 Hs and 3 RBI in 11 AB in his career against the Indians ace.
- The Dunc-Tank draining. While he did have one of the Indians 15 hits on the night, Shelley Duncan struck out two more times again on Friday. In his last 32 at bats, Duncan has now struck out 15 times over the last 10 games. There’s no doubt I am one of the biggest Duncan fans out there, but his continued struggles could spell Johnny Damon sooner rather than later.
- Walk this way. While he did pitch great and gave the Indians a chance to win, Masterson again struggled with command at times, walking five hitters on the night. The right hander has now walked 15 hitters over his last three starts, striking out just eight.
- Casey Kotchman still looks lost. I know he broke his 0-for-24 slump with a base hit Friday, but Kotchman still looks lost at the plate. He’s just trying to do too much in front on his hometown fans as he is now hitting a dismal .097 at Progressive Field this year. May I add that Matt LaPorta is currently hitting .407 in front of his home crowd at Huntington Park, where all six of his home runs have come in the Columbus ballpark as well.
With the win against Los Angeles and losses by both the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox, the Indians have first place all to themselves for the first time this year. With a record of 10-8, the Tribe also stays undefeated on Friday nights (3-0) and is now 9-4 after going just 1-4 through their first five games of the season.
Up next for the Indians: Saturday afternoon baseball, as it will be Jeanmar Gomez (1-0, 1.93 ERA) against Dan Haren (0-1, 4.07 ERA) at 1:05 pm in the second game of the three-game series against the Angels.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
and I thought Acta was a numbers guy. Seriously...Acta is confusing sometimes...
I'm actually sorry that I was predicting a drop-off from ACab. Seriously, when he walks up to the plate, there's definitively a confident approach. This guy is as much a given as anyone in the majors. Seriously...after he hit that ball...the way he dropped that bat...that's a guy that knows a little more than everyone else.