Covering the Bases: Game 9
Some notes and quotes from the Indians’ 7-5 win over the Mets on Saturday.
FIRST: It’s rare to start thinking a no-hitter might be in play after one inning, but Mets righty Matt Harvey looked that good out of the chute on Saturday.
Rajai Davis, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor saw a combined 10 pitches in the first, which went strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Kudos to Davis for actually taking a ball in his at-bat.
The rest of the pitches had the same sequence: called strike, fouled strike, swinging strike. Smell ya later.
“That first at bat,” Lindor said. “Strike one, strike two, strike three.”
The strikeouts didn’t continue like that, but Harvey was no less dominant into the fifth inning. Cleveland went 0-for-13 against the Mets ace before Carlos Santana drew a five-pitch walk. And that, my friends, is where things began to tilt in Cleveland’s favor.
You’ll remember Jose Ramirez’s RBI double to break up the no-hitter two batters later. Or the run-scoring hits by Juan Uribe (single), Kipnis (double), Mike Napoli (single) and Yan Gomes (single). It’d be easy to lose sight of the walk that got things rolling.
“Nothing gets lost,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Why was that free pass so critical?
Let’s let Davis explain…
“I think he was very effective in the wind-up,” Davis said. “Getting him in the stretch, he’s a different pitcher. I think he was very good out of the wind-up. Deceptive. Everything.”
Consider that the Indians went 1-for-14 against Harvey when he was working out of the wind-up on Saturday. When he was forced to move to the stretch, Cleveland went 5-for-8 with three walks, two steals, two doubles and five runs. Davis said getting Harvey into the stretch wasn’t a huge part of the pregame planning, but more of an in-game development that the Tribe exploited.
“He was just comfortable,” Davis said. “And he hadn’t been in the stretch pretty much all game. And once he got in the stretch, it was like an opening for us. And our guys did a good job of taking care of that.”
SECOND: Santana not only made an impact with his patience, the designated hitter showed off his speed in the fifth inning, too. Yeah, you read that right.
After Harvey walked Santana, he induced a flyout off the bat of Napoli. With two outs and Ramirez at the plate, Santana caught the Mets by surprise by stealing second base. It marked his first steal of the season, but don’t forget he swiped 11 bags last year.
“I think he can run,” Davis said. “He’s got some good speed. I think he can do that a few more times this year. Just keep surprising the defense. They didn’t really think he was going.”
Davis paused and then smiled.
“And neither did we.”
Francona praised first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. for his input and help when it comes to the Tribe’s players stealing bases.
“I thought Carlos’ was obviously huge at the time,” Francona said. “And Sandy gets a lot of credit for helping those guys down there. That was fun to watch.”
THIRD: Josh Tomlin, who hadn’t started for the Indians since March 29, gave a gutsy performance in his season debut. The righty lasted five innings, limiting the Mets to one run (via a leadoff homer by Curtis Granderson in the first) on four hits. Tomlin ended with six strikeouts and no walks in the effort.
Tomlin could have gone longer, but he was dealing with leg cramps from roughly the third inning on, per Francona. After one warm-up pitch before the top of the sixth inning, Tomlin grabbed at his right hamstring and left the game. After the win, Francona and Tomlin both indicated that it wasn’t serious.
“I don’t know if it was just the adrenaline of not pitching for that long,” Tomlin, “but my hamstring kept grabbing at me. I knew it wasn’t anything serious like a pull. It was just cramping up on me when I followed through. That last inning when I went out there, it grabbed at me and stayed there. It wouldn’t really release.”
HOME: Long-time Indians beat scribe Paul Hoynes calls Jose Ramirez, “Boom Boom,” and it fits given Ramirez’s style of play. Ramirez goes all out and has learned to better control what looks like reckless aggression at times. As Francona said once, if Ramirez’s helmet is flying off — and it has been a lot of late — good things are usually happening.
Ramirez has been worked into the lineup on a regular basis — mostly in left field, but also at third base. On Saturday, for example, he began in left field and moved up to third later in the game after Francona changed the alignment after using a pinch-runner.
“Versatility,” said Lindor, when asked what Ramirez brings to the table. “He’s a switch-hitter. He can run, he can play defense, he can play outfield, he can in the infield, and
he is performing well. The opportunity they are giving him, he is performing very, very well. I wish he could continue to do that, because he’s helping us win.”
Boom Boom broke up Harvey’s no-hitter with a double to center field in the fifth inning. In the sixth, he waited on a deep fly ball from David Wright that caromed high off the left-field wall. Ramirez played it perfectly and made a quick spin-and-fire relay to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who tagged Wright for the out.
EXTRAS: Whether it’s 3 1/3 shutout innings or 3 1/3 awful innings, 3 1/3 innings is far too small a sample to draw any clear conclusions. Here’s what we can say about Bryan Shaw’s performance to date: It’s concerning.
Shaw has two good outings and two really, really ugly outings. On Saturday, working with a 7-1 lead, the setup man allowed four runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning. He allowed two more homers. On the young season, Shaw has allowed nine runs on eight hits, including three long balls. His velocity is actually up a tick from last year, so this appears to be more of a command issue at the moment.
“It just looks like he’s searching a little bit for the strike zone,” Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said after the game. “Any time you’re searching for the strike zone,
hoping you throw a strike, bad things are going to happen. He needs to get aggressive, throw the ball over the plate with conviction and live with the results.”
Stay tuned for more…