Second Thoughts: Game #31 - Indians 8, Red Sox 3
|W: D. Lowe (5-1) L: Beckett (2-4)|
The Indians and Red Sox both came into the first game of their four-game, weekend set on a two-game losing streak. However, the once mighty Red Sox began the series in last place in the AL East with a record of 12-18, while the Indians came in with the best record in the AL Central at 17-13.
While the Red Sox are no pushover a quick glance at their injury report reveals 11 players currently on the disabled list (including six on the 60-day DL). The wounded for Boston include Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilus, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Ryan Kalish, Bobby Jenks, Andrew Bailey and others. The only Red Sox players that most casual fans would recognize were Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Everyone else is either a role player thrust into a starting job or a fill-in for one of their walking wounded. The lineup that used to be so deep now has Daniel Nava batting sixth.
The Indians meanwhile sported their all-lefty lineup against the right-hander Josh Beckett. Beckett found himself in his own bit of controversy after missing his last start due to a strained lat muscle and then going golfing two days later with fellow pitcher Clay Bucholz.
What Went Right
- Derek Lowe went six innings, giving up only two runs on 9 hits. He allowed only one walk against three strikeouts. Certainly a solid start for the veteran starter giving up 12 groundouts to just one flyout.
- He worked himself into and out of trouble two or three times but each time it was with two outs, making it easy to wiggle away from any serious damage.
- The all lefty lineup delivered against Beckett, knocking him out after seven runs in 2 1/3 innings. As Beckett left the boo-birds were out in full force at Fenway as the Red Sox faithful wondered how his golf game was coming along.
- One night after being stymied by Jake Peavy the Tribe delivered 12 hits, including four doubles and two home runs.
- Michael Brantley’s good at-bats finally developed into hits, four hits to be exact. Brantley looked great at the plate last night driving the ball the other way and hopefully starting to turn the corner offensively, a much needed boost with Damon continuing to struggle.
- Shin-Soo Choo is really starting to lock in as well. He’s not quite there yet but he had several really good at-bats. I saw him trying to go the other way a few times (a great idea for a lefty with the Green Monster looming) and then he kept his head down and drove the ball to right-center, a good sign for Choo.
- The Indians scored 8 runs without the contributions of Carlos Santana or Travis Hafner as the duo went 0-8 with two strikeouts last night.
- Casey Kotchman had a nice at-bat in the 2nd inning. It was nothing but a sac fly but if Kotchman is going to hang around he needs to the little things at the plate like hitting sac flys and helping to scratch runs across whenever he can.
- Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman were putting on a clinic last night. Picking balls out of the dirt, making accurate throws on the run, it was really something to see. When Lowe is pitching these two must be playing, regardless of who they will face in the batter’s box.
- At one point Hannahan had five consecutive assists, almost six. He makes it all look so easy, I hope he keeps hitting, because man can that guy play the hot corner.
- Seeing Johnny Damon play left field in front of the Green Monster makes me remember just how easy it was for him to fool people for so many years. We all know what Damon has looked like in left at Progressive Field, he actually looked decent in left at Fenway.
- Joe Smith made Will Middlebrooks look like the rookie that he is. He is the perfect complement to the other arms in the bullpen. That arm action and frisbee slider are just so hard to pick up. Especially around Pestano, Sipp and Hagadone.
- Nick Hagadone is really moving up the pecking order. Tony Sipp came in for just 2/3 of inning with a five-run lead in the seventh, while Hagadone was warming up in case Pestano couldn’t get himself out of trouble in the 8th.
What Went Wrong
- The offense scored 8 runs with Santana and Hafner going a combined 0-8 with two strikeouts. Yes I know this was on the positive side also. It’s nice to see the Tribe score without relying on these two, but a few hits would have been nice.
- Carlos Santana continues to struggle in his left-handed at-bats. Early in the game he was chasing, then he was trying to kill everything, then back to chasing. He is one of the few Indians’ hitters who would rather see a lefty on the mound. He looked much better in his two right-handed at-bats Thursday night.
- After Beckett was bounced from the game Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine tried every left-hander he had in his bullpen against the Indians all-lefty lineup and found quite a bit of success. Valentine’s three left-handers combined to give up only two hits over 2 2/3 innings.
- If the Indians are going to be a true contender then their lefty-killers like Santana and Shelley Duncan (and maybe even guys like Jason Donald and Lou Marson) need to be feasting on that left-handed pitching to make teams pay for leaving their left-handers in the game.
- Johnny Damon continues to struggle in his at-bats. His only hit of the night came on one of the weakest base hits I have seen in years, landing just out of reach of Red Sox pitcher Andrew Miller for a hit.
- Asdrubal Cabrera showed his lack of range in the 2nd inning, just after Kotchman and Hannahan showed off their own defensive abilities. It’s so hard to quantify defense but I seem to find myself more in awe of the plays Cabrera doesn’t make then the great ones that he does make.
- Tony Sipp came in and immediately gave up a solo shot to Dustin Pedroia. Right-handers are batting 10-22 off Sipp this season and he is falling in the pecking order.
- After several days off Vinnie Pestano looked a little rusty in the 8th. I would rather see Pestano rusty than worn out but he looked awfully wild, loading the bases and bringing the tying run to the plate in the 8th.
- Who Can Sleep Well Tonight – Jack Hannahan – A defensive machine at 3B, recording five straight assists at one point and a two-run home run as well.
- Who Wants to Pitch More Often – Vinnie Pestano – He needed more than fifty pitches to record three outs in the 8thinnings. Yikes.
- Who Needs an Icepack – Red Sox pitcher Andrew Miller - After his diving attempt to make a bare hand snag on a infield, pop-up single by Johnny Damon failed.
Hafner continues to struggle with runners in scoring position, going just 4-28 thus far on the season . . . The Indians continue to be road warriors this season posting a 10-3 record on the road so far . . . Friday night’s probable starter are Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.04 ERA) for Cleveland and Clay Bucholz (3-1, 9.09 ERA) for Boston.
I also think that they are going to have to find a way to balance this lineup out some. In a playoff series with good pitching, they will get wasted by left-handed pitching. They need one very good RH bat to play everyday. Maybe even a 2nd bat if possible, but one that is more of a super bench option that can hit. Right now the bench of Donald, Marson and Cunningham are just not cutting it.
However, the strategy of scoring a lot of runs against right-handed starters and then counting on a quality start and the bullpen to hold the lead is working, for the most part.
I don't know why Acta didn't call for a squeeze with runners on first and third, one out, and Damon hitting. He has no chance of getting a base hit and of course, he didn't.
With Raffie Perez out and Sipp pitching like crap, Hagadone's emergence has really helped. I love the way he took out Ortiz and Gonzalez in the 9th, then finished it off with a K.
Pestano was wild has hell. Three walks and he got a strikeout when a batter swung at ball four. He needs to pitch more often to stay sharp. He managed to make a great pitch on a 3-2 count and the bases loaded to get Pedroia, though.
Gotta love playing the Sox with Crawford, Youkalis, and Ellsbury out. We could be playing Baltimore right now. Sometimes you get lucky with the schedule.
With Brantley, Kotchman, and Choo finally starting to hit, the offense looks pretty decent right now. We still have two black holes in Damon and left-handed Santana, however.
Bucholz going tonight with his 9.09 ERA. Let's have a repeat of last night's game. This start will be criticial for Ubaldo as he has not pitched well on the road. Let's see if he can use his success in his last start to get it going away from Progressive.