Covering the Bases: Game 39

Final:

Marlins 3, Indians 2

FIRST: Every loss is tough for a team, but there are definitely ways of losing that are harder to swallow than others. Take Friday night for example. The decisive turn came in the eighth inning and the go-ahead run scored courtesy of a leadoff walk, a throwing error and a sacrifice fly. Ouch.

The throwing error came from sidearmer Joe Smith, who is typically one of the Tribe’s better fielding pitchers. The situation was this: Bryan Petersen on second base, one out and Omar Infante at the plate. Infante chopped a 90-mph sinker back to Smith, who had two choices.

Smith could’ve checked the runner and taken the sure out at first base, or he could’ve tried to catch Petersen off guard at second base. When Smith spun to take a glance at Petersen, he felt the runner was a little too far off the bag. Instead of throwing the ball immediately, Smith headed off the hill anticipating a rundown.

Petersen bolted back to second, though, and Smith hesitated to make the throw. That led to a throwing error and allowed Petersen to run to third base. The next hitter, Hanley Ramirez, used a sac fly to put the Indians in a 3-2 hole.

Asked if, in hindsight, he should’ve taken the sure out, here’s what Smith said: “In hindsight, if anything, I’m catching it and getting rid of it. But I thought it was the right play. Even going back and looking at video, he was easily far enough [off second]. If I just plant and make a throw, we’ve got him. No doubt.”

SECOND: When a game comes down to a play like that, there are typically other factors involved. As in, had the Indians mounted much in the way of offense, maybe Smith never faces that situation, or maybe his error doesn’t prove so costly. As it happened, Cleveland scored twice in the second inning and did nada the rest of the way. The Tribe had one hit in its final 26 plate appearances. The middle of the lineup (Nos. 3-6) went a combined 0-for-16. That doesn’t make things easy for the pitching staff. The need to be nearly flawless to make up for that. Flawless, they weren’t.

THIRD: Sinkerballer Justin Masterson gave the Indians a solid effort: two runs allowed on six hits in seven innings of work. Big Masty struck out five and walked three, throwing 111 pitches (65 strikes). It was a solid bounceback effort after he allowed six runs in six innings last time out against Boston. Alas, Masterson walked away with a no-decision. It definitely looked like a step in the right direction for the big right-hander, though.

HOME: Masterson kept the Indians within striking distance, but Carlos Santana certainly did his part as well. Santana threw out Infante, Emilio Bonifacio and Petersen at second on would-be stolen bases in the ballgame. Bonifacio was a perfect 20-for-20 on stolen bases on the year coming into the game. The Marlins hadn’t been caught stealing three times in one game since Aug. 25, 2006. On the year, Santana has thrown out 8-of-25 (32%) of would-be base stealers.

On deck:

Marlins (21-18) at Indians (22-17)
at 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field

–JB

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