Covering the Bases: Game 11

NapSome notes and quotes from the Indians’ 3-2 win over the Mariners on Tuesday.

FIRST: Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Mike Napoli were in the batting cage on the field at Progressive Field a few hours before Tuesday’s game. Hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo was feeding them pitches through a pitching machine, rather than throwing.

This wasn’t just a case of a coach trying to save his arm. The machine was sending pitches that broke inside on the right-handed hitters. They were sliders, as seen from a left-handed pitcher. Left-handed pitchers have been featured in surplus against Cleveland of late.

Seattle’s starter for Tuesday, Wade Miley, represented the seventh lefty starter seen by the Indians in their first 11 games. Last year, there were times where it seemed like teams purposely altered their rotations to throw lefties at the Tribe. Out of the gates this year, this feels more like a schedule-based fluke.

Manager Terry Francona sees it that way, too.

“I felt like last year, teams were trying to manipulate their rotations so we could face some lefties,” Francona said. “This year, we’re actually positioned a little bit different, where we’re OK. It’s just the luck of the draw. I haven’t seen anybody move their rotation or anything.

“And with [Michael] Brantley and [Lonnie] Chisenhall out, we have righties in their place.
It’s about the most I’ve ever seen, though. That’s for sure.”

So far, the Indians have faced David Price, John Danks, Chris Sale, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, Steven Matz and Miley.

Cleveland tweaked its roster over the winter to hopefully improve production against lefties, but it hadn’t really worked out too well leading up to Tuesday. Right-handed hitters Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Rajai Davis and Juan Uribe, for example, were a combined 5-for-58 (.086) against lefties through the Tribe’s first 10 games.

Well, things got better on Tuesday. The Indians went a combined 9-for-17 against Miley, whose first four walks of the season all came in his fourth and final inning. Two came with the bases loaded to put the Indians up 3-0. In the third, Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli, who have both done well vs. southpaws, had back-to-back two-out doubles to put the Indians on the board.

After Miley left, M’s lefty Mike Montgomery logged 2 2/3 innings in relief.

Here is how Cleveland’s lineup fared against the left-handers on Tuesday:

Davis: 1-for-3, single, walk, RBI (4-for-25 on the year)
Kipnis: 1-for-4, infield single (5-for-26)
Lindor: 3-for-3, 2 singles, double, walk, RBI (11-for-24)
Napoli: 1-for-3, double, walk (6-for-21)
Santana: 0-for-3 (2-for-21)
Gomes: 1-for-3, single (7-for-21)
Byrd: 2-for-3, 2 singles (3-for-17)
Uribe: 1-for-3, single, walk (2-for-18)
Cowgill: 0-for-2, walk (0-for-9)

Napoli was asked what it has been like to see so many lefties out of the chute.

“It’s nice for me,” he said with a laugh. “But, yeah, it’s a little odd. You really don’t run into a streak like that. It is what it is. We’re going to see some righties and that’ll be good for our left-handed hitters.”

SECOND: The Indians flashed some strong defense on Tuesday night. More specifically, Lindor and Napoli each turned in a highlight-reel play.

Lindor’s gem came in the fifth, when Nori Aoki slapped a pitch from Carlos Carrasco into the hole. The young shortstop glided over, made a backhanded grab and did a jump throw to first base that brought flashbacks of Derek Jeter in his prime.

“That’s a tough play, especially with a speedy guy,” Napoli said. “But, he knew the runner, he knew what he had to do. His exchange was really quick and he made a nice play. He’s capable of doing that kind of stuff. It’s nice seeing it.”

Napoli’s play came in the sixth, when Robinson Cano sent a sharp grounder up the first-base line. Napoli quickly shifted to his left and made a diving snag, recovering swiftly enough to flip the ball to Carrasco at first base for the out.

“You don’t see that play too often in the hole any more,” Francona said of Lindor’s play. “And Nap has been good and continues to be. When you look at him, I’m not sure you realize how good he can move. He’s into the game and it’s been fun to watch.”

THIRD: Carrasco’s outing was not spectacular, but it was a solid performance, especially under the circumstances. He rolled his ankle upon reaching first base, while covering the bag on a play in the third inning. Carrasco stayed in the game, logged 6 1/3 innings and held Seattle to one Kyle Seager solo home run. Carrasco struck out five, walked three and scattered four hits.

(And, really, we should’ve expected that. Seager is now hitting .418 in his career at Progressive Field. And he was in an 0-for-17 slump. So, he was due.)

“[He was] good,” Francona said of Carrasco. “He kind of turned his ankle a little bit. I know it was hard for him to push off, but he continued to pitch and, besides the one pitch to Seager, he kept them off the score board. He did a really good job.”

HOME: There was plenty of groaning across social media when Francona (as he said he would) stuck with Bryan Shaw as his eighth-inning setup man on Tuesday night. And, besides a one-out double to Cano, Shaw looked sharp. He struck out one and got through the eighth unscathed, setting up the save for closer Cody Allen.

It was a great bounceback outing for Shaw, who gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning on Saturday and five runs in two-thirds of an inning on April 9.

“Nobody’s worried about him,” Allen said of Shaw. “He’s as consistent as they come. I was in the same spot last year. It just seems, for those two outings, every time they hit the ball, they got a hit. He fell behind some guys and got hurt, but he’s as consistent as they come. His stuff is really good. It’s not like his velo is way down or anything like that. He’s
in a good spot.

“I think early in the season and then late in the season stuff gets really magnified. A full body of work is what makes guys good. And Shaw’s been really good ever since he’s got to the big leagues. I don’t think anybody is worrying about it.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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