Covering the Bases: Game 27
Some notes and quotes from Saturday’s 7-0 loss to the Royals.
FIRST: Three pitches into the fourth batter of the first inning, Cody Anderson encountered more of the same.
Anderson fired a cut fastball inside to Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales, but the righty didn’t get it inside enough. With an 0-2 count, Anderson wanted to run it off the plate to help set up the next pitch. Instead, it stayed over the inside corner and Morales made a meal out of the errant offering.
The ball rocketed off Morales’ bat at 107.6 mph and soared a projected 442 feet, according to Statcast. It marked the longest home run of the year for a Kansas City hitter. This one soared over the right-field stands entirely and took a tour of the new Right Field District.
“I was just trying to go in, in off the plate, with a cutter,” Anderson said. “And he got to it before it cut.”
Home runs have been a consistent issue for Anderson this season. After his five-inning showing on Saturday, the righty has allowed long balls at a rate of 2.5 per nine innings, representing the third-highest mark in the Majors among pitchers with at least 20 innings. Last year, Anderson had a 0.9 HR/9 with Cleveland. In his Minor League career, he allowed 0.8 HR/9.
So, what’s been going on this year?
“Height. It’s all thigh-high,” Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “We’re really working on getting that depth back and angling the ball down and keeping the ball down for the most part. Really, the height of his pitches is what’s gotten him so far. The main thing is, you leave the ball out over the plate, thigh-high, people will do damage.”
Let’s take a quick run through the seven blasts Anderson has given up.
April 9: Jose Abreu
This was a first-pitch shot on a 91-mph four-seamer. You can see in the graphic that, as Callaway mentioned, this one was elevated and about belt-high.
April 15: Michael Conforto
This is the first of five allowed this year to a left-handed hitter. This time, it was also a 91-mph pitch, but it was Anderson’s cutter. The righty hit the outer edge, but left it up a hair on an 0-1 count. This looks like a good piece of hitting more than an outright bad pitch.
April 15: Alejandro De Aza
De Aza smacked a 2-1 fastball (also 91 mph) for this homer. Once again, Anderson left it up and did so in a hitter-advantage count.
April 15: Yoenis Cespedes
This is the only curveball that Anderson has surrendered a home run on. It’s his fourth-best pitch, so he doesn’t use it a ton. This one was a 1-1 offering (80 mph) that was hung. After the game, Anderson said his regret was going with the curve, rather than one of his better pitches in this particular situation.
April 21: Steve Clevenger
Anderson fell behind, 2-1, against Clevenger and then left an 86-mph changeup up and over the middle. This was another mistake pitch and Clevenger made him pay.
April 26: Eddie Rosario
Anderson’s best pitch is his changeup, but it hurt him in this matchup. He left it up on the first pitch and Rosario beat him. During this outing, the Indians noticed that Anderson’s stride was off mechanically, leading to his stint at Triple-A to work out some kinks.
May 7: Kendrys Morales
Here is the mistake pitch from Saturday’s game. Now, that’s not a terrible location — down and in — but it’s not an ideal spot against this particular batter, and especially not on an 0-2 count. Rather than getting a waste pitch, Morales received a 91-mph fastball right into his hot zone.
That strike zone map shows Morales’ career slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers. As you can see, low or middle in is where Morales licks his chops. After going away, away with offspeed. Morales was probably looking inside, but he got one right where he can do the most damage.
SECOND: When the day was done, Anderson was charged with four runs on six hits in five innings. He exited after 69 pitches due to cramping in his legs. Both Anderson and manager Terry Francona noted how much the pitcher sweats during games (he goes through at least two jerseys), so better hydration is needed as spring turns to summer.
Really, when you look a little closer at this outing, there are reasons to be encouraged.
Prior to Morales’ homer, Kansas City’s two hits were of the weak-contact variety. And, following that shot, the Royals didn’t do much harm against Anderson (aside from that RBI double by Jarrod Dyson in the fifth). OK, so was it a good outing? No. It wasn’t. But, this was a case of one really bad pitch overshadowing some good strides.
For example, Anderson recorded nine outs via grounders, including two double plays. That’s a rate of 16.2 outs via grounders per nine innings. In his first 20 innings (four starts), Anderson that rate was 10.2 per nine innings. He also averaged 95 mph with his fastball, topping at 97 mph.
It wasn’t great, but it was a step in the right direction.
“I was starting to get some of that weaker contact,” Anderson said, “and some of those different swings, which is huge. I was getting some ground balls. Predominantly, they were hitting the ball on the ground, so that’s something to build off and keep moving forward.”
“Yeah, I thought it was better,” Callaway agreed. “Obviously, 0-2 cutter, trying to go in deep on the lefty early in the game and we didn’t execute. So, [we’re] down 3-0 really quick. I thought he battled the rest of the game and did a pretty good job. Overall, we’re encouraged by what we saw. And [it’s a] good learning lesson for him.
“Trying to throw a cutter in — his third-best pitch — to a pretty good hitter that hits it everywhere. Utilize your 96-97 and you’re going to go off the plate-in and go from there. But, he did a pretty good job with the adjustments in-between and looks pretty decent.”
THIRD: Anderson’s mistakes were also magnified due to the big fat zero that the offense posted against Royals righty Ian Kennedy, who now has a 2.13 ERA on the year. Kennedy went seven shutout innings and had one stretch between the first and fifth innings in which he held the Tribe to an 0-for-14 showing.
“He really pitched. I mean, he threw a lot of strikes,” Francona said. “He didn’t throw the ball in the middle of the plate very much and he changed speeds. … We didn’t have a ton of chances. He just really pitched well.”
Cleveland’s best chance came in the sixth inning, when Jason Kipnis drew a two-out walk with the Tribe trailing, 4-0. Francisco Lindor followed with a single and then Mike Napoli worked a free pass to load the bases. That set the stage for Carlos Santana, who is known for his patience, keen eye and ability to grind out long at-bats to wear out an opposing pitcher.
So, naturally, Santana chopped the first pitch from Kennedy into the ground and to first baseman Eric Hosmer. That made for a routine groundout to end the inning.
Was Francona fine with Santana attacking the first pitch?
“I’m OK with that,” Francona said. “I mean, shoot, that’s the tying run. That was a good pitch to hit. He just kind of rolled over a little bit. Extending innings is always good, but we’re looking for him to maybe hit one in the seats there.”
HOME: It was just one of those days for the Indians. You know, the kind of game where even The Greatest Reliever Who Ever Was or Ever Will Be has a bad day. So, pour one out for Jeff Manship’s ERA, because he finally flinched.
Manship faced four batters in the eighth inning and did not record an out. The righty was charged with three runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise from 0.000 to 3.68 in the blink of an eye.
This marked the…
- First time Manship allowed a run since Aug. 22, 2015, snapping a shutout streak of 23.2 innings for the reliever
- First time Manship allowed more than one run in an appearance since July 22, 2014, when he was with the Phillies
- First time Manship did not record an out in an outing since April 10, 2014
Even the greats have an off night, folks. This, too, shall pass.
“Tough inning,” Francona said, “where the first couple guys got hits — they didn’t hit them real hard. And then, coming through the middle of the order is probably not the best matchup for him. But, you’re down, so you don’t want to start matching up your bullpen. Just a tough day.”
EXTRAS: Let’s leave on a positive note. Think happy thoughts as you watch your daily installment of Francisco Lindor Theater:
Feel any better?
Stay tuned for more…