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Second Thoughts: Game #97: Tigers 2, Indians 3

Second Thoughts: Game #97: Tigers 2, Indians 3
July 25, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
DET 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 9 1
CLE 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 X 3 10 0
W: J. Smith (6-2) L: D. Fister (4-7) S: C. Perez (28)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6IP, 7H, 0/0 R/ER, 2BB, 4K. 1 GIDP, 1 WP

The Results: 103 pitches, 64% strikes, 9GB, 6FB, 1PO, 4LD

The Write-up: Not only did Ubaldo Jimenez pitch six scoreless innings and give the Indians a badly needed strong start to the series, he covered up for some spotty defense that, in the past, has led to big innings. Jimenez had the feel for his splitter and used it to generate both strikeouts and groundballs; a pitcher’s two best friends. He got strikeouts in big spots and gave up seven hits, all singles, to minimize any potential damage.

Jimenez had to overcome leadoff singles in five of six innings and did very well to escape every jam. He didn’t even get hit very hard most of the night, as two of those singles were soft fly balls that just dropped into right and another was a groundball that just found a hole. The real key was that following each single, Jimenez induced an out that didn’t allow the runner to move over another base. To show you how important it is to get that first out without letting a runner move past first base, here are the first three batters from each inning Ubaldo pitched:

Inning First Batter Second Batter Third Batter
1st 1B – Soft FB to RF FC out at 2B FB out to RF, runner stole 2nd
2nd 1B – Soft FB to RF FB out to LF K
3rd 1B – LD to RF K, runner stole 2nd GB out to SS, runner moves to 3rd
4th GB out to 3B FB out to RF BB
5th 1B – GB to RF K 1B – GB to RF
6th 1B – LD to CF K 1B – FB to LF

Tigers hitters were 5-for-6 when leading off, 0-for-6 when batting second and 2-for-5 with a walk when batting third. You would think that if seven hits and a walk were scattered among the 18 hitters that led off innings, a few runs would get across. However, if the leadoff hits were all singles and the second batter can’t advance the runner any of those five times, then singles and walks later on aren’t as likely to do much damage.

If the Indians can get back to back starts from Masterson and Ubaldo like the last two, they will be in the playoff hunt the rest of the way.

The Bullpen

The Line: 3IP, 2 H, 2/2 R/ER, 2BB, 0K

The Results: 45 pitches, 53% strikes, GB, FB, PO, LD

The Write-up: Joe Smith got touched up by Miguel Cabrera, but a hitter like him is expected to do damage eventually. After falling behind 2-0 Smith came back with a fastball hoping to get back in the count, Cabrera then deposited the ball to straight away center to tie the game.

Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez both had scoreless frames to seal the win. In games that both men pitch, the Indians are 29-3. Pestano leads MLB in Holds with 29 and Chris Perez is 3rd with 28 saves. Pestano only threw four strikes in his inning of work, but one of them was a twin-killing that wiped out a leadoff single (surprise, surprise) and the other was an inning-ending fly ball to left field. The Indians bullpen continues to be a strength.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 10/29, 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 1 BB, 0 SB, 1 CS

The Results: 3R, 15TB, 13LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 345/367/517

The Write-up:  The Indians hit the ball pretty well last night: 10 hits with 4 XBH is nothing to be upset about. Fister doesn’t issue many walks so that was the only way to get the damage done. The winning run was pushed across thanks to a suicide squeeze by Aaron Cunningham after Travis Hafner hit a one-out triple. Damon drove home Santana who led off the second inning with a double and Santana drove home Kipnis who led off the fourth inning with a double.

It was a good thing that Jimenez pitched so well, because the Indians shot themselves in the foot all night:

  • Kipnis got picked off first to short circuit a rally in the 1st
  • Kotchman grounded into a double play in the 2nd
  • Brantley got caught in a rundown  trying to go from first to third in the 4th
  • Hannahan grounded into a double play in the 5th
  • Kipnis grounded into a double play in the 6th

Suffice to say, the Tribe had their chances last night.

The Defense

Hannahan made a great play on a slow roller to nab Young at first and an extremely quick release and accurate throw are the only reasons he was able to get him. Kotchman did well to pull off the bag exactly as the ball arrived to ensure the runner was called out.

Cabrera and Kipnis turned two in the fifth inning where every member of the play did something well and something not so well. Cabrera ranged to his left and made a nifty toss to Kipnis. However, that toss was behind Kipnis which forced him to react quickly to catch and tag second. However, he then made a poor throw to Kotchman who elevated and saved an error by snagging the high toss. He then snapped a tag down on Cabrera as he ran by. Overall, it goes down as your routine 6-4-3, but it was so much more.

The Takeaways

This was a big win for the Indians. It generated momentum for the series, gave confidence to a struggling team and hopefully inched the Indians closer towards “go for it” and farther from “next year”. However, the win had its warts. The Indians sabotaged themselves all night at the plate and Jimenez flirted with danger by allowing lead-off hitters to reach base consistently. If the Indians want to keep the momentum going tonight, they will need to change things around. Derek Lowe will look to rebound from a rough outing and the Indians will try to knock Max Scherzer out of the game before he can get rolling.

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