Second Thoughts: Game #65 - Pirates 9, Indians 5
A holiday edition of Indians baseball was a chance for them to win another series. It started promisingly and they outhit the visiting Pirates, but more fringe pitching and a collection of fatal errors did them in.
Jason Kipnis continues to do what Jason Kipnis does. In the first inning, he sent a wind-assisted fly ball into the seats with two outs to give the team a 1-0 lead. He followed that up with a pair of singles and an uncontested stolen base to boot. In 65 games, he is up to six doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 41 runs batted in, 21 walks and 17 stolen bases. Special numbers. The Ian Kinsler offensive comparisons made in years past may have seemed lofty at the time, but here we are. And he may even be better than that right now.
Johnny Damon turned in what was arguably his best game as an Indian, collecting two hits and showing various displays of his still-present speed. After a single in the first, he stole second base, and scored from there on a slightly bobbled groundball into the teeth of a shift. One productive game out of every 10 or so probably only delays the inevitable, however, because this was an outlier and he has still been mostly counterproductive.
Lou Marson was essentially a non-factor in April and May, but being afforded more playing time this month has benefited him greatly. He added a hit and two walks in this one, and is now 10-for-25 with a double, a triple, three runs batted in and four walks over eight June games. He will never be a run producer, but he does put the ball in play and is more than willing to give in and hit the ball to right field. A lot. Too much, in fact.
Michael Brantley lost his 22-game hit streak on Saturday, but looked just as steady on Sunday as he had during the run. Besides doubling home a run in the seventh, he also put together a great first at-bat. After fouling off seven straight pitches, the 11th was a ball away that the umpire rung him up on. What was most impressive about his streak was that it never got unsustainable. He hit in the .320s, not the .400s, and he could realistically have plenty of stretches like that going forward.
Jeanmar Gomez was pushed to the limit by his defense, but he didn't do himself any favors against a light-hitting Pirates team, either. An error extended the fourth inning and a botched double play knocked him out of the game (and two of the runs charged to him were given up by his replacement after that), but he still gave up two home runs and was unable to keep a lead when his offense provided him with one. He struck out just one batter, and created only three swings and misses out of 85 pitches. Regardless of how it played out, he still failed to get through the middle innings once again, and like the rest of the rotation, has been largely inconsistent. Was this another poor enough start for him to get replaced by Zach McAllister? Probably not, but that call may be coming in the very near future.
With Carlos Santana getting a day off, Jose Lopez batted cleanup once again. He saw 11 pitches in four at-bats, to the tune of 0-for-4. He doesn't produce enough or have the kind of power to get away with being such a free-swinger. The fact that he has hit fourth in nine games speaks to how desperate the Indians are for run production.
Emsil Rogers was only charged with one run, but he was scored on for the first time as an Indian by way of a three-run blast that capped off a decisive six-run sixth inning. Still, he gave the team the length it needed (2.2 innings), and his upper 90s fastball and hard-biting slider made him worth taking a $150,000 flier on.
The story of this game was extra outs. A trio of Asdrubal Cabrera errors gave the Pirates three extra outs on two plays that would have ended innings, and they turned the bonus chances into seven runs. It goes without saying, but no team is winning a game like that, especially one that is struggling to limit and score runs.
The handling of Lonnie Chisenhall has gone from bad to ugly. Once again, he could only be found in the dugout with a right-hander on the mound. He has started just 12 of 18 games since being called up, and the six benchings have been split evenly based on the handedness of the opposing pitcher. Now that Jack Hannahan is back in the mix, at-bats will be even harder for him to come by. He has struggled at the plate, but no one improves by watching.
Next up: It will be an immediate opportunity for revenge, as the sweeping Reds will trek north to start another three-game, all-Ohio set tonight. The series will feature two repeat pitching matchups.
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