Second Thoughts Game #2: Indians 3, Blue Jays 2
Reynolds' Big Homer, Jimenez's Strong Outing Spurs Victory
This was a highly anticipated game for one reason; it marked the first start of the year for Ubaldo Jimenez. Like many others, I was excited to see the ‘new’ Ubaldo. There’s a lot riding on his performance this year and after hearing encouraging reports all spring, it was finally time to see him in action.
The Whole Nine
1. For the most part Jimenez looked good. I don’t think any of us expected his control to be perfect, but it did seem improved. Jimenez went 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6 Blue Jay batters. He sat around 92-93 with his fastball, but he got it into the mid-90’s several times. This was an encouraging start. I don’t think we could have asked for better.
2. Don’t let the offense’s high strikeout totals discourage you. The story in this game was Brandon Morrow. When he’s on, he’s one of the top strikeout pitchers in the major leagues. He was on in this game. The Indians will have their fair share of strikeouts this season, but give Morrow credit. It was nice to see him leave after six innings.
3. How good is Michael Brantley going to be this year? It’s not as though all of his hits were pretty, but Brantley looks primed to improve upon his breakout year from 2012. I don’t think he’s had a bad at-bat yet. A .300+ average and more walks than strikeouts seem likely.
4. It's early, but it doesn’t appear the patience Lonnie Chisenhall displayed in spring training has translated. I think he’ll hit a bit eventually, but I’m more concerned with seeing improvement in his plate discipline. He struck out three times on pitches that appeared out of the zone. As discussed, facing Brandon Morrow doesn’t help, so we’ll have to see how this progresses.
5. Bryan Shaw was very impressive. This was my first time seeing him and I liked what I saw. He hit 96 on the radar gun and appears to have very good stuff. He’s going to be a welcome addition to the middle relief corps. One small warning; he throws a straight fastball and left it in the middle of the plate too often. It’s just one game, but you usually don’t get away with that.
6. Another thing that has been impressive is Nick Swisher’s defense. He hasn’t been a full-time first baseman in a long time, but he appears to have good range and hands. He attacked a ball in the eighth inning that appeared to be headed out of play and essentially stole an out for Vinnie Pestano, showing good instincts in the process. His defense at first versus Mark Reynolds’ is an under-the-radar benefit of the Michael Bourn signing.
7. I didn’t want to see Rich Hill come in to start the 10th inning. His control scares me. I would envision Hill as a specialist only, pitching a limited number of innings on a strictly situational basis. When he came in, he was slotted to face the left-handed Colby Rasmus and then two switch hitters. This outing tells me that Francona has a lot of confidence in Hill and won’t be using him as strictly a specialist. All in all, it was a decent outing for Hill in his Indians debut.
8. Sometimes Chris Perez can be really frustrating. Look, giving up a home run to Jose Bautista happens. It’s Perez’s control that has always bothered me. He didn’t look sharp at all tonight. He has games like this, but at the end of the day he only blew four saves last year. It’s hard to criticize the results, but what I can say is that he never makes me feel a lead in the ninth is entirely safe.
9. We saw the good and bad of Mark Reynolds in this game. His first two at-bats made you want to scream, but his power will win you games. The next time we cringe at one of his strikeouts, let’s try remember this game.
A road series win against a tough team like Toronto is a great way to start the season. This win is especially encouraging due to Jimenez’s performance. If we can get starts like this consistently from him the rotation will look a lot better. With the exception of Chris Perez, the bullpen looked good again. Joe Smith in particular looks as good as ever. These guys can take a lot of pressure off the starters in their own right. The pitching staff as a whole has been as good as we could have expected thus far. Next up is Brett Myers facing off against Mark Buehrle in the series finale.
Chiz does look a little raw but Kipnis is who is scaring me. I know silly right? Hes faced two very good pitchers so lets give him some time, but he does look a little tiny bit lost. I think he will snap back.
The bullpen looks awesome. I don't think Shaw will be here for much longer though. They gotta bring Hagadone back and add Giambi and Shaw is the odd man out. With that said hes got to be the first guy called up. He has the stuff to be in a MLB bullpen.
Brantley is exactly what I expected. An on base machine with good speed.
Drew Stubbs has looked solid so far.
The most important story of the game for me was Ubaldo. Thats a good power hitting team. If he can pitch like he did last night good things will happen this year.
Perez missed most of spring training so his location may not be as sharp as it will be. That being said, there's nothing to be ashamed about in giving up a HR to Bautista. He'll hit 40-50 more this year.
Brantley scored from first base on an infield throwing error. It's great to see speed on the basepaths. If he doesn't get around the bases we lose this game.
Watching the first two games I just can't get over how improved this year's team is. No Damon, Kotchman, Cunningham, or Hannahan. No Choo, either, but Stubbs ran down two fly balls that I don't think Choo catches up with and he also drove in a run.
Now we just need to get Kipnis and Chiz going.
Let's see if Myers and McAlister can keep the solid starts coming.
Now, his cutter is nasty...and his slider is really good as well. When/if it all clicks, he could easily be a back-end option.
I didn't see see Shaw pitch, but isn't his fastball actually classified as a cutter and supposed to have a ton of movement? Has that changed?
I do agree on Brantley. This will be his big breakout year and he will be entrenched as a fan favorite for his great worth ethic and personality.
The Tribe has opened on the road against two good pitchers (one of them a Cy Young winner) and an explosive offense. They've managed to score enough runs to win and hold down that offense. They just need to do better at moving runners. They got the guys on, we just need to bring them home.
Long way to go, but the first two games are encouraging. Winning a series on the road against a team that could end up winning the tough AL East is nothing to sneeze at. Let's go for the sweep today and then on to Tampa Bay. Can't wait to see the Tribe this weekend down here!