Covring the Bases: Game 62
FIRST: Don Kelly headed into Sunday’s game with a .190 batting and he was sporting a .188 mark when he stepped into the batter’s box to face Justin Masterson in the sixth inning.
From what I hear, Kelly’s also been getting the Ryan Raburn treatment of late from Tigers fans, too. That is, being booed and the like. Raburn, who heard plenty from Detroit’s faithful during his rough final season with the Tigers a year ago, was booed again after hitting a home run for the Indians on Sunday.
“I’d rather them boo me for doing that than anything else,” Raburn said with a smirk.
Back to Kelly, though.
Kelly came to the plate after Masterson walks Miguel Cabrera and gave up a single to Prince Fielder. Masterson then worked ahead in the count, 1-2, on Kelly before throwing a pitch down and in — nearly bouncing it. Kelly swung and used his best off-day golf-outing swing to send the offering just over the right-field wall at Comerica Park for the game’s decisive blow.
“I know I barreled it up,” Kelly told reporters, “but it went up, so I wasn’t sure if it was going to carry out or not.”
Well, it did. Chalk up another one for one of Masterson’s foes. With that blast, Kelly improved his career average to .368 (7-for-19) against Masterson. That was, however, Kelly’s first long ball off Cleveland’s sinkerballer.
“Usually it’s not one of those. Usually he drops it in somewhere else,” Masterson said. “This time, he dropped it in over the fence. Some guys, you get that. He’s done a good job of sticking around. He’ll crush some balls and he’s good at being able to fist them off into good spots. That’s what he’s done mostly off of me.”
SECOND: Tigers lefty Jose Alvarez — summoned from Triple-A Toledo before the game — tamed Cleveland’s slumping lineup to the tune of one run allowed (Raburn’s home run) on three hits over six innings. In his Major League debut, Alvarez struck out seven, walked one and threw 56 of 93 pitches for strikes.
In the process, Alvarez became the first Tigers starting pitcher (since at least 1916) to have at least six innings and seven strikeouts with no more than three hits or one earned run in a Major League debut, while earning the win. The only other Detroit starter to have that line in his MLB debut was Justin Thompson in 1996, but he walked away with a no-decision.
“He did everything,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He had enough velocity. He had a very good changeup and a breaking ball that he threw in all counts. Against a guy like that, you have to stay in the middle of the field. We might’ve tried to do too much. We started getting those roll-over ground balls and things like that.”
I had a few people contact me complaining that this is always the case with the Indians. Some team brings up some pitcher from the Minors and he shuts them down in his big league debut. Well, I’m no fan of generalizations without trying to see if there’s some statistical substance behind it.
I looked at the past five years, because that is what would stick out most in the memory banks. There have been eight pitchers (Alvarez, Jake Odorizzi, Joe Kelly, Jose Quintana, Anthony Vasquez, Scott Diamond, Tyler Chatwood and Brett Cecil) who have logged at least four innings in their Major League debut against the Indians during that span. I split it at four-plus innings to eliminate the relief outings. There were no starts under five innings on the list for the time period in question.
Those eight starters combined to go 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA (18 earned runs in 44.2 innings) and 29 strikeouts against 13 walks. It’s a decent showing, but hardly spectacular.
THIRD: Since there was so much time spent in recent days detailing the woes of Nick Swisher, it needs to be pointed out that the Indians first baseman snapped out of his hitless drought in Sunday’s loss. With a single to left in the sixth inning, Swisher ended the slide at 26 at-bats — the second-longest hitless skid of his career. That said, he’s still in a 1-for-28 slump.
I talked to hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo and Francona about Swisher’s recent struggles and wrote about it in today’s notebook on Indians.com.
HOME: Tip of the cap to Pat McManamon of FOXSportsOhio.com for this final note. Of the Indians’ final 100 games, only 30 games are against teams that boast a record above .500. Cleveland is currently in a stretch of eight straight series against winning teams and has gone 4-15 so far in that span. So, it will get easier on the schedule for the Indians, whose 18-4 run through April and May came during a period of eight series featuring three winning teams.
That leads us to this classic clip from Dumb and Dumber…
Indians (30-32) at Rangers (37-25)
at 8:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Rangers Ballpark