Second Thoughts Game #57: Indians 4, Yankees 7
Masterson struggles, Cabrera leaves injured in loss
The Indians' tough nearly month-long stretch of games continued on Monday as they traveled to New York behind their ace. Said ace turned in a rare poor start, an All-Star likely hobbled his way onto the disabled list (or was carried), and the team's struggles against the Yankees and the American League East, in general, continued.
One of those nights
Indians fans have been spoiled by Justin Masterson this season. His progression has been an absolute treat to watch, and our community expects much out of him now.
This outing was a tough one. Once you saw how the traffic began, you just knew that this was going to be one of those few "not his game" games.
After rolling through the first two innings, he gave up back-to-back hits to the eight and nine hitters, both while ahead in the count. Brett Gardnerhappily tried to give him a free out by bunting, but Masterson walked him. You just knew.
What followed was an eventual Mark Teixeira grand slam, two more runs in the sixth (one of which he could have directly prevented had he not, well, prevented a throw from getting to Yan Gomes at the plate) and a home run by old friend, Travis Hafner, that put him away.
So, on the surface, it looked like something of a disaster. But he wasn't hopeless out there. He overthrew his slider in a few key spots, they spun on him and got hit. It happens. He threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Teixeira's home run was a line drive, but the product of Yankee Stadium's high school right field dimensions, and wouldn't have been out in any other park (seriously - confirmed by Hit Tracker Online).
He had excellent numbers against the Yankees coming in, and their offense had been sputtering for over a week. Think of this as an evening out game. No real cause for concern about the Jamaican native.
Cabrera's quad quits
Asdrubal Cabrera had been battling a right quad injury since late April. He missed two games initially, but mostly played through it, save for a pair of days off since then. After hitting a roller to second base in the fifth inning of this one, it seemed to give way for good.
The extent of the injury will be known at some point today, but Terry Francona speculated that it would be a disabled list situation. The conventional replacement would probably be Juan Diaz because he is a shortstop, but I would like to see Lonnie Chisenhall make his return. He deserves every chance at the Major League level, and Diaz offers nothing in the way of offense. Assuming Cabrera only misses a few weeks, Mike Aviles should be able to handle everyday duty with three consecutive Thursday off days approaching. This also affects Jason Kipnis, butRyan Raburn can take Aviles' spot as his backup when needed.
Two outs, no doubt
Whether as a response to watching their All-Star get carried off the field or not, the Indians put together a two-out rally immediately following his exit in that fifth inning. Surprise, surprise.
After a pair of walks drawn by Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana hit a chopper down the left field line that went for a double and drove in two to tie the game. Their two-out run total now stands at 126 (of 278 total), still first in all of baseball. Either you worry that depending on two-out success so much is unsustainable, or you think it is the sign of a strong offense, but it has been the team's calling card so far in 2013.
Speed to burn
I am now carrying that fifth inning into a third separate section, but it was just that compelling.
Before the injury and the bit of two-out magic, the Indians' new duo of wind-generating outfielders (because of their speed, not their swings and misses...) got the frame started in a way that Terry Francona imagined when he decided to bat Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn next to one another.
After Stubbs doubled to lead off the inning, Bourn reached base via infield hit for the 14th time (in 34 games!) this season. Aviles followed with a harmless skying out to Robinson Cano maybe 20 feet behind second base. Oh yeah, and Stubbs tagged and scored. Surely one of the shortest sacrifice flies you will ever see, and Aviles owes him a nice dinner for the cheap run batted in. Add that play to the list of probably hundreds that we can look back to at the end of the season as difference-makers because of this team's newfound speed.
Handing over valuable outs
The Indians' half of the third inning started out in a fairly similar fashion as that fifth. Bourn reaches. Aviles reaches.
Cabrera... bunts... (and my head subsequently barrels its way towards my desk). If you follow me on Twitter (well, I have to plug it now: @KevinIBI), you know how I feel about sacrifice bunts. If you don't, well... we're not friends. Almost never. But in the third inning, courtesy of your three-hole hitter? Oh brother.
So, they give away the first out of the inning there. Next, Swisher grounds to third. Bourn scored on the play, but Aviles, with it directly in front of him, breaks towards third when he didn't have to, gets tagged out and lets some steam out of the developing inning. That's two of their 27 outs (~7.5%) essentially wasted.
I know the bunt advanced the runners to second and third and one of them ultimately scored, but there are a number of possible alternative outcomes for that Cabrera at-bat that could have also accomplished what it did or more without blatantly surrendering an out.
Per Baseball Prospectus, for the full 2012 season:
Run expectancy value with runners on first and second, no outs: 1.4423
With runners on second and third, one out: 1.2898
I'm sure Cabrera was lauded for the play when he got back to the dugout. But why?
Apparently, word that the Indians are getting nothing from their left-handed relievers traveled. The current state of their bullpen prompted J.C. Romero to opt out of his contract with the Nationals and pursue a deal here. Assuming that gets finalized, it would be the second time in as many years that he has joined the organization, and he would again report to Columbus. Safe to say he would get a Major League look this time around.
Up next: The middle game of three in the Bronx. Scott Kazmir will take the ball for the Indians, while the Yankees are slated to send out David Phelps.