Second Thoughts Game #18: Indians 3, White Sox 2
Cabrera's clutch two-run single lifts Tribe to victory
Justin Masterson, legitimate ace?
Despite not nearly having his best control, Justin Masterson generally found himself in low-leverage situations all night. He walked four, hit another and threw a wild pitch, along with allowing four hits, but still kept his composure, got key outs and gave the Indians a chance to win once again.
Masterson did have some troubles with left-handed hitters, as both run producers and six of the nine baserunners he allowed were of that variety. His ability to get lefties out will always be the biggest question, but an increase in effective slider usage and the simple notion of not falling behind in counts as frequently as he has at times in the past speak to the possibility that he can combat them well enough.
At the end of the day, this was another great start for number 63. I am even willing to include his last start in that category because of how disastrously it could have gone. I expected a return to 2011 form heading into the season, and he may even be on his way to topping that campaign.
Being attacked backwards
According to Brooks Baseball, Dylan Axelrod threw more offspeed pitchers to Indians hitters than fastballs (57 curveballs, changeups and sliders to 52 four and two-seam fastballs). He only struck out four and got six swings and misses over six innings, but this speaks to a more important point that I brought up in my Second Thoughts piece about the home opener.
Pitchers are going at this strikeout-heavy lineup with breaking balls galore, and not just on select occasions. Using Fangraphs, the Indians have seen the lowest percentage of fastballs in all of baseball (54.7%), while striking out 10th most (151). All things considered, they are 12th in runs scored, while dealing with injuries to and slow starts by key cogs of the offense. Not seeing a gang of fastballs won't be the death of them, but it is something that they are going to have to continue to deal with and adjust to.
The additions of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs meant that a new era of Indians baseball was coming - a fleet-footed and stealthy one. While the stolen bases haven't been racked up at a rapid pace so far, the element of this additional speed has still made itself known. In this particular game, it directly led to winning.
Down 2-1 in the eighth, Stubbs singled with one out. He promptly stole second base, and while there, got into the head of Matt Thornton so much that Michael Brantley drew an easy walk, and caused an errant pickoff attempt that advanced both of them 90 feet and into scoring position.
The mysteries of the Indians' pivot
Asdrubal Cabrera, who had been mostly a non-factor through 17 games, returned to the lineup after missing nearly two games with a wrist injury suffered in a dugout spill. He came through with his biggest hit of the season in the eighth inning, a two-run single, which ultimately ended up deciding the game.
Cabrera is just 10-for-64 on the season, but four for his last 13, and perhaps this clutch showing will continue to elevate his game back to levels we are used to. It is worth noting that his batting average on balls in play (.175) is over 100 points lower than the average benchmark (.300), so there is plenty of reason to believe that he hasn't magically turned into a poor hitter.
Coming into this game, Chicago native Jason Kipnis had performed incredibly well at U.S. Cellular Field, including hitting in all 11 career games. That streak came to an end last night, as Kipnis' early-season struggles continued. A small positive to look at is that he has walked five times in his last six games, while striking out six times. In his first six games, he had zero walks to nine strikeouts.
Word came down early Monday morning that Brett Myers was dealing with an elbow sprain and elbow tendonitis, resulting in him being shut down for at least two weeks. Assuming that he does miss that minimum, he would then need time to get back up to speed, and at least one rehab start.
It cannot be automatically assumed that Myers will be be a significantly better pitcher than the awful one we have seen so far, but either way, this becomes another rotation issue for at least the next month. Corey Kluber is by no means a solution, and I expect him to be marginally better than the injured version of Myers we have seen.
It was also announced that Lou Marson would be activated Wednesday. My initial thought was that a reliever would be sent down to make room for him (the bullpen is eight-deep, as opposed to the traditional seven) and not Yan Gomes, who has played well and does more than strictly catch. However, Lindsey Foltin of Fox Sports Ohio informed me that it will be Gomes, as the Indians want him to play every day.
Up next: Zach McAllister will take the ball in game two of this series. The Indians will be opposed by Jose Quintana, whom they have had next to no success against.