Second Thoughts: Game #73 - Indians 4, Yankees 6
|W: Hughes (8-6) L: Masterson (4-7) S: Soriano (16)|
Until a four-run ninth inning for a defeated Tribe offense, the bulk of this game fit in with the recent misery that’s come along with the current four game skid. Watching the Indians flounder over the last four games is starting to make fans feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The repetitive lack of timely hits sounds a lot like waking up to “I Got You Babe” day after day. It was a strange game on a Tuesday night in the Bronx, full of tough bounces and missed opportunities that sunk the Indians, yet again.
Squandered offensive chances: The Indians leadoff hitter reached in five of their nine innings; unfortunately, only one of the five leadoff baserunners went on to score, and it wasn’t until the ninth inning when the deficit was six. In contrast, the three times that New York put a leadoff hitter on base, all three times it led to a run. This fundamental difference, in addition to an irrefutable gap in power, is part of what separates a successful offense from an unsuccessful one.
In addition to wasting leadoff runners, the Tribe compounded its offensive woes by, yet again, failing with runners in scoring position. In this game, Cleveland went 2-for-11 (.182) with RISP, with an 0-for-9 mark in the first eight innings of the game. This trend simply cannot continue if the Indians are going to make any kind of run at a division crown.
Even with the four-run ninth inning, over the last five games Tribe hitters have amassed nine runs, 30 hits, .192 batting average and a 5-for-34 clip with runners in scoring position. The offensive futility is particularly frustrating in a game like this when the opposing pitcher isn’t especially overpowering. Yankees starter Phil Hughes did the little things right: throwing first pitch strikes, changing hitters’ eye-levels, working all areas of the zone, and letting Tribe hitters chase on his out-pitch, a diving curveball that led to a lot of swing and misses.
Hughes shutout the lackluster Indians offense over eight innings, while only yielding six hits and one walk, but the eight scoreless innings are more aptly attributed to a Cleveland offense that couldn’t take advantage of plenty of opportunities while it was still early enough to come back.
Close plays prove costly: Three instances come to mind when talking about the tough breaks that went against the Indians on Tuesday. First, there was the 2nd inning diving stop by Jack Hannahan near the foul line. The ball squirted off Hannahan’s glove as he dove into foul ground to stop a Derek Jeter hit that came down the line. Third base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled that it was a fair ball, allowing Dewayne Wise to reach third and Jeter to safely make it to first base, all with two outs. The next hitter, Curtis Granderson plated a pair with a single to make it a total of three two-out runs that crossed the plate that inning. In fairness to the umpire the call was extremely close, regardless it was still what proved to be a crippling blow to the Tribe.
In the fifth inning, Masterson made a fantastic pitch to shatter the bat of Robinson Cano; yet, the ball found its way to centerfield, putting runners on the corners with one out. Again, the very next batter, Mark Teixeira took advantage of the fortuitous bounce that went against the Tribe, with a sac fly, which accounted for the Yankees fourth run.
Finally, and most controversial of all, is the Dewayne Wise phantom catch on a foul ball that landed in the seats. In the seventh inning, after a leadoff double by Michael Brantley and a pair of outs, Jack Hannahan lifted a fly ball near the left field seats. Wise, with a great effort just to reach the ball, toppled over the wall into the first row of fans. Without requesting that Wise present the ball, third base umpire Mike DiMuro called Hannahan out, in spite of the fact that a fan a few seats away proudly presented the foul ball in his hand.
This capped off another blown chance for the Tribe offense. Sure, it was a missed call, but it’s difficult to focus too much on this play when the Indians had wasted scoring opportunities time and time again. With a little more execution at the plate, bounces or calls going the other way will be easier to overcome.
Too little, too late: Glancing at the box score of this game might trick one into believing that this contest was a lot closer than it was. Believe me, it wasn’t that close. Don’t get me wrong, it was spectacular to see a four-run inning from the offense, no matter what the circumstances were, but even after Jose Lopez hit a mammoth three-run homer on a fastball down Broadway from New York reliever Cory Wade, there were still two outs. Plus, Tribe hitters had to contend with Rafael Soriano, who now has a miniscule ERA of 1.63.
The Indians could’ve made its ninth-inning rally more relevant if they had done little things to keep the score closer, but an 0-for-8 line with RISP through the first eight innings and two runs allowed by Tribe relievers were simply too much to overcome.
Bullpen can’t hang zeros: Troubled lefties Tony Sipp and Nick Hagadone could not keep the Yanks off the scoreboard. Sipp permitted a towering solo blast on a 2-1 fastball in the seventh inning. To the vast majority of other hitters, it would’ve been a well-executed pitch low and on the inside corner. Unfortunately, Alex Rodriguez, who has a penchant for hitting low pitches, golfed the ball deep into the left field stands. This is simply a matter of not knowing the personnel you’re facing, and it cost Sipp his sixth homerun allowed on the season.
Hagadone labored through the eighth inning, again not showing much of an ability to regularly throw his slider for a strike. He had to lean on his fastball, and despite putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with none out he was able to lock back in and punch out Wise. Alas, the next batter, Chris Stewart lifted a fly ball to left field, scoring Nick Swisher on a sac fly.
These seemingly irrelevant insurance runs ended up being the difference in the game, since the Tribe offense woke up in the ninth. Sipp and Hagadone, who both have an ERA north of six, are the twin glaring weak links in the bullpen right now, and it ended up costing the team last night.
Santana slams his bat: Carlos Santana’s at bat in the sixth inning was a microcosm of his struggles since returning from a concussion. The Cleveland catcher fouled off three fastballs in the at bat, ultimately striking out on a Hughes curveball. Immediately after Santana chucked his bat at the ground in an understandable outburst of frustration.
One of the fastballs he fouled off was a fat pitch middle-in, right where Santana usually likes it, but he came up with just a piece of the pitch instead of squaring it up. It really pains fans to watch a well-liked, key cog on the team struggle like he has. Hopefully taking out some anger on the batter’s box will help Carlos get right.
Masterson’s ability to gut it out: In spite of not having his best control, especially on sliders away, Masterson did as much as he could for his team in this game. New York hitters worked the count the entire game against the Tribe righty, leading to many full counts and some high-stress innings. After reaching the 100-pitch mark in the fifth with two outs, it was impressive to watch him mow down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the sixth inning. Kudos to him for gutting out another inning.
3 Most Wanted
More fire on the field: In the middle of the eighth inning, Hannahan was ejected from the game by the third base umpire for expressing dissatisfaction over two close calls he was involved in that went against the Tribe. At that point, with the Indians’ irritation reaching a fever pitch, it was refreshing to see some fiery behavior on the field from an Indians player. Since Manny Acta isn’t the type to kick dirt on an ump, it was invigorating to see a veteran speak up for his team. Although you can’t say a causal relationship exists, for what it’s worth, the Indians went on to score four runs their next time at the plate.
Building off the 9th inning: Although it came as not enough to affect the outcome of this game, maybe just maybe, the offensive awakening that took place in the last frame for the Indians can carry into Wednesday’s game. Piecing together the right pieces in the lineup to string together hits and execute in run-scoring opportunities is a must for an offense that has lacked confidence over most of the last five games. Let’s hope this flicker of hope carries over.
A gag order on Chris Perez: Speaking to a New York Times reporter, Chris Perez reiterated some strong feelings he has about Cleveland sports fans. He’s doing a fantastic job on the field, but these off-field rants about wildly irrelevant topics are getting old very quickly. The Indians organization has to do something to mitigate the public relations damage caused by these superfluous statements about the city’s fans, especially when it doesn’t pertain to the sport he’s playing. For the record, I agree with the crux of Perez’s points that Cleveland fans are some of the most bitter, hard to understand fans in all of sports, but the point isn’t whether he’s right or wrong. The issue is what purpose do these comments serve? What is he trying to accomplish by dogging his team’s fans to the New York media? Let’s keep the fire on the field, where Perez excels.
If the Tribe's middle relievers didn't give up two runs it would have been 4-1 going into the 9th and they probably would have brought Soriano in to start the inning, so the result would have been the same.
I'll put the over-and-under at 4 hits and 1 run today against Petitte.