Second Thoughts: Game #78 - Indians 6, Orioles 2
No matter what the outcome of this game, the Indians were guaranteed at least a split of the long series in Baltimore. Paced by another strong outing from their ace and more early offense, they were able to win the series outright and salvage a once-disastrous road trip.
Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians number one starter ace. After a frustrating first two months of the season, he found himself in June and made a great first impression on July, once again changing that designation from number one starter to ace. Through four innings, he flirted with history, but an error and a couple of hits in the fifth erased perfect game, no-hit and scoreless bids. Still, it was a strong seven-inning showing, as he found himself in low-leverage situations most of the day, and struck out seven (to zero walks). He finished with just 97 pitches (65 strikes, 14 swinging), but the temperature in Baltimore was a similar number, so he was not pushed. When he can command his ridiculous movement, coupled with the expected velocity that has returned after the first month and a half, he is a near-elite pitcher. With the exception of a few more walks than you would like to see, all of that has been present lately.
With an impending roster move to activate Travis Hafner coming, it is likely that either Aaron Cunningham or Jason Donald will be the casualty. Both of them had a hand in this win. Cunningham hit his first home run of the season, while Donald reached base three times in his first game since being recalled.
Vinnie Pestano was back to his dominant ways after giving up a key run in his last appearance. He threw 11 pitches (seven strikes) in the eighth, striking out two and inducing a weak dribbler that he handled himself.
Everyone had heard the number. 5-16 in games against left-handed starters so far this season. The Indians faced three in this series, and beat every one of them. Convincingly. They scored 17 runs in 14.2 innings thrown by Orioles' southpaws.
This series was a complete offensive outburst for the Indians. Besides those 17 runs against left-handed pitching, they scored 15 more against right, and outscored the Orioles, 32-18. Prior to this series, they scored 34 runs over their last nine games, and just 16 runs in seven of them.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez were named to the American League All-Star team, both as selections made by manager Ron Washington and his coaching staff. Cabrera proceeded to add two more hits in this one, while Perez pitched a scoreless ninth (non-save situation).
Cabrera: 314 plate appearances, .300/.379/.495, 19 doubles, 11 home runs, 40 runs batted in and 32 walks (to just 39 strikeouts)
Perez: 32 appearances, 30.1 innings, 2.67/1.02, 23 saves, 24 hits, nine earned runs, seven walks and 32 strikeouts
The decision between Cunningham and Donald will not be based off one game. With that in mind, both of them still showed weakness in the series finale. Donald committed an error that interrupted Masterson's bid for perfection in the fifth, while Cunningham allowed the first Orioles hit of the day to drop right in front of him without a dive immediately after. Cunningham also struck out three times. Donald is a more valuable player overall, but Manny Acta clearly believes in Cunningham's one asset, his defense. However, Donald has begun playing the outfield himself this season. It is worth noting that Cunningham would have to be placed on waivers because he has no options left, but he could very well go unclaimed and head to Columbus, anyway.
Unless as an injury replacement, Jason Kipnis will not join Cabrera and Perez in Kansas City. Washington chose not to add him to the roster, and he is also not one of the final five candidates subjected to a fan vote.
Lonnie Chisenhall had surgery to stabilize his fractured right ulna bone, and his return time is expected to be longer than originally thought. The now 10-12 week recovery period would make mid-September a best-case scenario.
Next up: After finishing strong on the trying 10-game road trip, the Indians finally return home for seven before the All-Star break. It begins Monday night with the Angels.
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"Flirting with history?"