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Second Thoughts Game #69: Royals 2, Indians 1

Second Thoughts Game #69: Royals 2, Indians 1
June 18, 2013
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After a well-documented brutal 20-game stretch, the Indians had seemingly gotten themselves back on the right track, winning four out of their last five (and it could have just as easily been all five). They began a set against a surging Royals team Monday night, backed by a recently-freed Carlos Carrasco. He turned in one of the best starts of his young career, but the team was lacking in all other facets and another brutal loss was suffered.

The Carrasco Show

 Besides a stretch in which Carrasco allowed just four earned runs over 36.2 innings in the middle of 2011, the Indians haven't gotten what they expected out of him when making he and now defunct Jason Knapp the two centerpieces of the Cliff Lee deal. On this night, he again flashed that front-of-the-rotation arsenal, continuing his enigmatic existence as a Major League pitcher.

After throwing an insanely low amount of pitches on the inner half of the plate in his last start, Carrasco knew he had to change that to be successful. Although it wasn't deep inside, he broke the bat of the first hitter he faced in this one. Aside from moving his pitches around very well, he also had all of them working and mixed them masterfully. His fastball got up to 98, and both of his secondary offerings were even sharper than number one.

He rolled through four innings in the blink of an eye, allowing zero baserunners and needing just 37(!) pitches to do so. In his last start, it took him 83 pitches to get as far. The perfect game pipe dream was broken up with one out in the fifth, but it did nothing to deter him. He finally had traffic in the sixth, but pitched around that and a Mark Reynoldsfielding blunder that should have ended the inning even easier.

Terry Francona opted to remove Carrasco in the eighth inning with a runner on second and one out. He was at 90 pitches, and it wasn't a matchup matter. I personally didn't like the decision at all, but Francona later stated that his pitcher still wasn't quite stretched out after his long recovery from Tommy John surgery. I would point to the fact that it was a wholly stress-free 90 pitches, but those aren't my decisions to make. Said decision would go on to be an unfortunate one, and the single run charged to Carrasco scored while he was unfairly sitting in the dugout.

Santana giveth, Santana taketh away

 This game featured Carlos Santana in just about every way imaginable - good and bad.

The good: He accounted for exactly 100% of the Indians' runs. In a scoreless sixth inning, he led off the inning and put the first pitch he saw out of the field of play in right field. It was his 10th home run of the season, and he has now hit in nine straight (albeit collecting just 10 hits in the span).

Also, he caught the marvelous start from Carrasco. It's always tough to say exactly how much credit a catcher deserves for such things, but there is praise for him to be had. As I said earlier, Carrasco varied his pitch types and locations excellently, and Santana calls for most of them.

The bad: He was also directly responsible for the winning run scoring. The play was officially scored a wild pitch, but a Matt Albers breaking ball got through the legs of Santana and went to the backstop. We have seen these kinds of plays from Santana plenty. It's not a particularly difficult one, and one that a Major League catcher should be able to handle. Here, it cost him and the team in a major way.

It is pretty well understood by now. His bat (and choosing when or when not to swing it) is invaluable. His glove, whether catcher or first baseman, leaves so much to be desired.

Lineup futility

 Including this game, the Indians are a salvageable 4-4 over their last eight games. In those games, though, they have scored just 25 total runs.

If you have read this far, you already know that they only managed one in this game. Despite putting a ton of runners on base by way of both hit and walk, they were unable to take advantage of James Shields in the same that they couldn't with Stephen Strasburg the day before. Both pitchers wanted to give up crooked numbers and walk themselves out of the game, but the Indians wouldn't let them.

One play really stood to me, and again, it was a sacrifice bunt. It was the third inning with runners on first and second and no outs. Jason Giambi was in the lead and John McDonald was the hitter. I called it on Twitter before it happened. Not only is bunting in this situation silly, but doing it with Giambi as the lead runner is a disaster waiting to happen. Sure enough, McDonald bunted, and Giambi is forced out at third. Brutal.

In all, they left 11 on base. Jason Kipnis was the main culprit, as he left five in scoring position by himself. This is a great offense, but a combination of tough opposition and struggles with runners on is holding them down a little bit right now. Nick Swisher has had issues of his own, but losing him for any considerable amount of time shortens the lineup and takes away versatility.

The reoccuring nightmare

It has become something of a season-long narrative now, but once again, a somewhat surprisingly great start was wiped away by a surprisingly toiling bullpen.

When Carrasco was pulled in that eighth inning, Bryan Shaw relieved him. The hit that he gave up was a blooped one on a decent pitch, but it allowed the Royals to tie the game, all the same.

The ninth looked to be a full-blown mess that would completely take the Indians out of the game, but to their credit, they kept it winnable. And even then, it was Santana's misplay that directly cost them. But Shaw, Rich Hill and Albers combined to allow four baserunners in the inning, and in the end, it was all enough for them to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Joe Smith was unavailable, according to Francona, and seemingly Cody Allen and Vinnie Pestano, too. It is tougher to win a close game when you don't use any of your three best relievers, so I guess that is the silver lining here. Or perhaps we should be questioning Francona about why none of them were availabale.

Roster business

Nothing will be made official until later today, but it seems as though Matt Langwell is on his way back to Columbus. Who will take his roster spot is probably a toss-up.

Depending on Nick Swisher's recovery from his shoulder injury and the need for an additional bat, Lonnie Chisenhall could be the one. At the same time, Chris Perez is due to be activated soon. There could be an additional move to get both of them back with the Indians, especially with the team carrying eight relievers.

If that is ultimately the case, the casualty will almost certainly be left-handed. Does Francona go away from one of his guys and finally cut ties with Rich Hill (long overdue), or do the Indians continue to yo-yo Nick Hagadone?

Up next: The second of three games against the Royals. Ubaldo Jimenez, who was pushed back in the rotation, will take the mound after five days down instead of the traditional four. The visitors will call on Ervin Santana.

User Comments

June 18, 2013 - 11:27 AM EDT
I have never been a Santana proponent. He is below average as a starting defensive catcher. You can't mask it for 9 innings everyday, and for a team that is involved in as many close games as the Indians, poor d behind the plate is unacceptable. As a hitter he has limitations as well. He has one approach- take a lot of pitches, wait for one you want and swing hard. In batting practice this approach works well. In game situations not so much. Every starter that plays at this level on a contending team understands and is capable of situational hitting. I don't think Santana gets it, he never has, and at this point one must assume he never will. And Discollama, post up the offensive numbers for the Royals in June this year- since George Brett took over as hitting coach. They are a good team- better offensively 1-9 IMO than the Tigers except for Miguel Cabrera. They are also have way more speed and range than the Tigers and way better relief pitching. The Tigers have the advantage in starting pitching. I don't the Indians as presently constituted can gain ground on either one of these teams in the second half, but we'll see what happens.
June 18, 2013 - 10:51 AM EDT
While its good to see that Carrasco had a good outing and went deep into the game, I'm not about to hold my breath for his next start. The Royals offense has been less than stellar this year, in fact it ranks 25th in the majors by wRC+, wOBA and OPS, they rank 29th by ISO, and 27th by BB%.

If Carrasco didn't dominate this lineup then there would have been a problem.
June 18, 2013 - 10:36 AM EDT
"A Little better than Rich-O!" Also, I would be very happy to see Lonnie back at the hot corner ASAP, especially with Swish and Cabrera out of the lineup. Great outing by Carlos last night, the starting rotation has been a nice surprise this year.
June 18, 2013 - 10:30 AM EDT
Good bye Rich Hill, I am sure there are any number of minor league free agent pitchers who could perform a better than Rich-O!

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