Covering the Bases: Game 13
Some notes and quotes from the Indians’ 10-7 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.
FIRST: It’s so easy to say a manager left a pitcher in one batter too long when the last pitch thrown results in a home run.
On Thursday, following a three-run home run off the bat of Robinson Cano in the 10th inning, you could slip into that common line of thinking. It was closer Cody Allen’s second inning of work. It was the eighth batter he had faced. The ball that soared into the bushes beyond the wall in center represented Allen’s 30th pitch.
Or maybe, as Allen told us, it was simply, “A bad pitch to a good hitter.”
Let’s see. Here’s where the pitch went:
And, here’s Cano’s slugging percentage on four-seam fastballs that have been tracked in his career by PITCHf/x:
Confirmed. It was a bad pitch to a good hitter.
Now, yes, the home run was a problem. The bigger issue, as Allen also pointed out, was that he issued a pair of walks in the 10th inning before the blast. Steve Clevenger drew a leadoff walk and, even more damaging, Franklin Gutierrez watched a full-count fastball sail low for a two-out free pass with Cano on-deck.
“I just completely botched it,” Allen said.
Still, the matchup with Cano was favorable on the surface. In his career against Cleveland’s closer — SAMPLE SIZE ALERT! — Seattle’s second baseman was 0-for-7. More relevant is the fact that Allen had held lefties to a .189 average in his career before this ill-fated meeting.
Indians manager Terry Francona could have intentionally walked Cano to load the bases, but that would’ve have summoned slugger Nelson Cruz to the plate. Bryan Shaw, who has had mixed results to this point this season, was warming in the bullpen, but Allen vs. Shaw was the matchup Francona preferred.
“Cody’s really good, but he’s better against lefties,” Francona said. “There may come a day where it’s like second and third or something [where you’d intentionally walk him], but no, he’s actually better against lefties. That was the first time Cano ever got a hit. I know Cano is good — so is Cruz.”
When pitching coach Mickey Callaway headed to the mound after Allen’s second walk, it was simply to give the closer a few extra seconds to gather himself.
“We weren’t talking about trying to pitch around him or anything like that,” Allen said. “Obviously, Cano is a very good hitter. He’s dangerous. You don’t want to load the bases for Cruz.”
To use Allen’s phrasing, he just botched the 93-mph fastball to Cano.
SECOND: Seattle’s game-deciding push in extras effectively erased the work of Cleveland’s offense.
Down 5-0, Rajai Davis belted a three-run homer in the fifth. Down 7-3, Cleveland scratched out two runs in the sixth and Mike Napoli delivered a two-run, game-tying, pinch-hit blast in the eighth inning.
While the Indians are 6-7 on the season, I will say this: We’ve seen some in-game fight that was lacking last season, especially in the first half.
“Our offense has done a heck of a job,” Allen said. “We’ve gotten some big hits. Napoli has hit a few huge homers for us. Just to keep fighting right there, that’s something that’s going to pay dividends for us down the road.”
“We’re not going to give up. We know we’ve got a good team,” Napoli said. “We know we’ve got a good offense. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the game, we’re going to go up there, give good at-bats and try to scrap away.
“We’re just trying to get on that roll. Right now, we’re putting some things together and then we back off a little bit. But, it’s the first 13 games. You’d like to play better, but we’re at .500. We’re just going to continue to try to get better.”
THIRD: About that Napoli home run…
Francona informed the first baseman on Wednesday that he was going to be out of the starting lineup for Thursday’s noon game. Carlos Santana started at first and Marlon Byrd got the nod as the designated hitter. Before and during Thursday’s game, though, Napoli did what he could to stay sharp and ready.
“I knew I wasn’t playing today,” Napoli said. “But I came in, did my work and I actually did extra hitting. You watch the game and, I’ve been around for a while, so I know the routine of when you’re not in there, staying loose. I go and hit twice during the game and just watch and see situations.
“It’s never a day off. You might have the opportunity to come in the game late. It’s all about preparation and being ready.”
That kind of preparation and focus is the the stuff Francona loves to see.
“It’s kind of fun,” Francona said, “to watch a guy that’s not playing, sit there for eight innings, and be locked in and then go do what he did. That’s pretty impressive.”
What Napoli did was work into a 2-0 count against Mariners reliever Joaquin Benoit. Then, the slugger drilled a pitch 109.4-mph off the bat to left field, where it sailed into the bleachers. You’ve got to feel for the fan in the poncho who tried to catch it with his bare hand. That’ll sting for a few days.
The blast pulled the game into a 7-7 tie.
“At the moment, it was an exciting moment,” Napoli said. “It’s something that, when you’re on the bench, you think about all game and try to hopefully get that opportunity. But, it doesn’t really mean anything coming away with a loss.”
HOME: If a game is caught in a 7-7 deadlock and heading to extra innings, something didn’t go right. On this afternoon, Cleveland received a second straight subpar outing from righty Cody Anderson.
“If I would have done my job,” Anderson said, “we’d be walking away with a win.”
Anderson gave up five runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings. That makes it 10 runs surrendered on 18 hits in 8.1 innings over his past two starts combined. In the second inning, Anderson gave up a two-run homer to Seattle’s backup catcher, Steve Clevenger. He smacked a 2-1 changeup out to right field, marking the first homer allowed by Anderson on a changeup this season.
“[I’ve been] just leaving my changeup middle-in to those lefties,” Anderson said. “When I get it to the right location, they keep hitting it down the line a little bit. I’ve just got to keep it down and get it where I need it to be.”
“He didn’t walk anybody,” Francona said. “But he pitched behind in the count and he was up, not by design, necessarily. He made some of the guys down in the order probably more dangerous than they need to be. I thought coming out of the chute, though, he was letting go of the ball good, just still up more than it needs to be.”
Those calling for Trevor Bauer to be moved back to the rotation, well, he pitched in relief and turned in a busy pitching line, too. Bauer gave up two runs on three hits with two walks, two punchouts and a hit-by-pitch in two innings.
EXTRAS: Francisco Lindor raised some eyebrows in the ninth inning, when he tried to steal second base with two outs and Carlos Santana sitting in a 1-0 count. One swing wins the game for Cleveland. Instead, one caught-stealing ended the inning. Francona challenged the call, but it was confirmed via replay as an out. The manager defended Lindor’s decision-making after the loss.
“It was a pretty good slide step first-pitch [by reliever Tony Zych],” Francona said. “And then he picked his leg up. … I think it’s a little bit a muddy track, but no, that was a good time to go.”
Stay tuned for more…