Covering the Bases: Game 132
FIRST: There was no excuse for the baserunning blunder Asdrubal Cabrera made on Wednesday night, and the Indians shortstop did not make one.
“That was really bad for the team,” Cabrera said. “I’ve got nothing else to say about that. It was my fault. That’s it.”
The situation was as follows…
With two outs and runners on the corners, Michael Brantley was in the batter’s box for the Indians with the game caught in a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. Cabrera, on first base, sprinted for second base to attempt a steal.
Brantley swung. Cabrera stopped.
Thinking the ball was fouled off, and chopped behind the catcher, Cabrera halted dead in his tracks and took his time walking back to first base. One problem, Braves catcher Brian McCann caught the ball, it was live and he threw it back to reliever Luis Avilan. Cabrera — had he kept running — could have possibly completed the stolen base.
“They weren’t throwing through. We just couldn’t take the base,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We’re trying to yell. It’s kind of a frustrating feeling. He thought it was a foul ball and there’s nothing you can do. You’re too far away. Everybody was yelling, but he thought it was foul.”
It ended the inning, stopped the comeback, and cost Cleveland a key win.
SECOND: The game’s decisive moment came in the bottom of the ninth, when Chris Johnson delivered a walk-off single to left field to propel Atlanta to the win.
The inning began with a strikeout of Joey Terdoslavich and continued with an infield single from Jordan Schafer. The base hit went to the left of the mound, chopping in such a way that the spin essentially stopped the ball before Cabrera could get to it in time. Just a tough-luck infield single. Schafer stole second base, and Smith then induced a flyout to Justin Upton.
This set up a choice: pitch to the left-handed Freddie Freeman or the right-handed Johnson?
Entering Wednesday, Freeman was hitting .311 with 16 homers and 85 RBI while Johnson was batting .331 with 10 homers and 57 RBI. Pick your poison. This season, lefty hitters have posted a .732 OPS off the sidearming Smith compared to a .564 OPS by righties.
Smith opted to intentionally walk Freeman.
“Multiple reasons,” Francona said. “I know Chris Johnson is a good hitter, but it makes sense to let Smitty face CJ instead of Freeman.”
Johnson made the Indians pay with his game-winning single.
“It’s obviously not personal,” Johnson said. “It’s Freddie Freeman hitting in front of me with a base open with a righty on the mound. But, yeah, any time somebody gets walked in front of you on purpose to pitch to you instead, you want to come up big, and that’s what I did.”
THIRD: The Indians have now gone 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position through two games against the Braves. The two runs scored by the Tribe marked the 15th time in the past 24 games that the club scored three or fewer runs. It should come as no surprise that Cleveland has gone 3-12 in those games.
The Indians have one of the better overall offenses in the American League this season (Really. Look it up.), but the lineup has regressed substantially in the second half. The massive slump of slugger Mark Reynolds, leading to his release, has led to an offense that has struggled in the power and run production department.
Entering Wednesday, the Indians ranked 14th in the AL in OPS (.748) and 13th in runs scored (141) in the second half. In the first half, Cleveland ranked sixth and fourth, respectively, in those categories. Francona was asked if the second-half woes on offense was becoming troubling.
“Man, you just try to figure out the game tonight,” Francona said. “Regardless of what’s going on — who’s hitting or who’s not — you try to put a lineup together, play the game and figure out a way to win. We’re getting good pitching and, because of that, we’re staying in games and giving ourselves a chance.”
HOME: Justin Masterson, standup guy that he is, tried to shoulder the responsibility for this defeat. In reality, despite some command woes, the big sinkerballer pitched well enough to win. Over six innings, he held the Braves to two runs on five hits, ending with six strikeouts and four walks.
Why did Masterson blame himself for the loss?
The right-hander pointed to the second inning, when he allowed a two-out double to Andrelton Simmons and followed with a walk to pitcher Paul Maholm to load the bases. That one-two punch led to Schafer delivering a two-run single on a sinker.
“I’m the reason we lost the game,” Masterson said. “In the second inning, I had two outs, Andrelton Simmons in a good count. Lose him, hang a slider to him, he hits it for a double and I’ve got the pitcher up next. I walk him and then Schafer makes a good play on a sinker away to score those two runs. That was kind of the turning point.”
In tight games, little mistakes become more glaring.
“We’re making small mistakes that are unfortunately leading to close losses,” Masterson said. “In one sense you’re excited, because we’re right there. We’re in every single game we’re going after. We’re more or less losing ballgames. We’re not always getting beat. We’re losing ballgames. That’s the unfortunate part of it.”
Indians (71-61) at Braves (80-52)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Turner Field