Covering the Bases: Game 51
Some notes and quotes from Wednesday’s 5-4, 11-inning win over Texas.
FIRST: Wednesday did not start off as a good day for the Tribe. Reports swirled, and confirmations soon followed, that veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd had been hit with a 162-game suspension for testing positive for a banned growth hormone.
Byrd met with manager Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations, before the game against the Rangers. The 38-year-old spoke to his team and expressed that this was not the way he wanted his career to end. After that blow to the roster, a handful of players declined comment on the situation.
This wasn’t shaping up as a memorable day in Cleveland’s season.
But, as Trevor Bauer put it…
“When stuff like that happens,” Bauer said, “the field is almost like a little respite, where personal issues, family issues, friend issues, whatever is going on, when you step between the white lines, all that stuff fades. When the game ends, all that stuff comes back pretty quick. It’s a lot easier to handle when you go out on a winning note than when you lose.”
So, it’s safe to say that the Indians needed a good win to salvage the day, and this series.
The Indians took a 2-1 lead in the first inning, and then Texas tied it up in the third. The Indians grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fifth, and then Texas tied it up in the seventh. The Indians ran to a 4-3 lead in the eighth, and then Cody Allen blew a save and Texas knotted things again in the ninth.
Finally, in the 11th inning, Yan Gomes delivered.
After Lonnie Chisenhall opened with a double, Gomes chopped a pitch up the middle and into center field for a single. The player swarmed the catcher on the field and celebrated a great ending to what started off as a bad day. This was now a good day for this group of players, which will carry on without Byrd the rest of the way.
“Once you hear that kind of news, it definitely hit us in there,” Gomes said. “Once we step between our lines, you’ve got to put that stuff aside. It is big, man.”
SECOND: Gomes got the glory, and deservedly so, but don’t overlook the at-bat that Chisenhall turned in to set the stage.
With Byrd out, expect Chisenhall to get some more playing time against left-handed pitchers. Such was the case on Wednesday, when the outfielder was in the lineup against Texas lefty Cole Hamels. In the 11th, Chisenhall was charged with the task of facing sidearming lefty Alex Claudio. No easy chore.
“He disrupts your timing,” Chisenhall said. “He’s throwing multiple speeds. It feels like multiple angles. It’s not as comfortable as you want to be up there. He does a good job. I think he’s just as effective against righties. It’s not a fun at-bat.
“I think his heater was up to 88 [mph], and he had a 66-mph curveball. It’s a big change, especially if you can throw it for strikes. I think he got a couple over. That’s not an easy adjustment.”
Chisenhall received a pair of sinkers. The first tailed low and over the middle, and he fouled it off. The next one was low and inside, but Chisenahall managed to slash the pitch the opposite way. It shot down the left-field line for a double.
Now, the general thought over the years has been that Chisenhall does not hit lefties well. And, his career splits — .261 (.727 OPS) vs. RHP and .247 (.681 OPS) vs. LHP — do show that he is better against right-handers. That said, most of Chisenhall’s woes against lefties comes pre-2014.
“I think at times it’s good for him,” Francona said of having Chisenhall face lefties. “I also think there’s probably certain styles of left-handers that he actually has really good swings against. And I think when he’s swinging the bat well, it probably doesn’t matter as much.”
With his showing on Wednesday, Chisenhall is now batting .385 (5-for-13) against southpaws this year. Dating back to 2014, he has hit .283 (51-for-180) against left-handers. From 2011-13, Chisenhall hit .194 vs. lefties. Part of it is experience. Part of it is Francona picking his spots wisely to expose Lonnie to left-handers.
“I think my quality of at-bat has [improved],” Chisenhall said. “I’m not even sure what the splits are, so I don’t want to comment. I know I hit well against lefties one year, at least, maybe two. The splits are what the splits are, but I feel like my quality of at-bats and approach are much better against lefties.”
THIRD: Bauer walked away with a n0-decision after giving up three runs on four hits over seven innings. It wasn’t an incredible outing, but it was an effective one for Cleveland. It was also a solid showing, considering the right-hander gave up an .833 opponents’ OPS over his past three starts combined.
“I thought I threw the ball well again,” Bauer said.
The bullpen also was solid, with the exception of a brief lapse by Allen. The closer gave up a bloop single and then induced a pair of ground balls, so it’s not like he got beat around. What killed Allen was the fact that he issued a leadoff walk to Mitch Moreland. That’s the cardinal sin of closing, and it came back to bite him on Wednesday.
HOME: Mike Napoli launched a two-run home run in the first inning, marking his 12th shot of the season. What stood out about the shot, though, was the circumstances. Remember back on Monday, when season-ticker holder Kat Heintzelman came with a sign asking for “a hug and a homer” from Napoli? Heintzelman was on the eve of starting chemotherapy, and Napoli obliged with a pregame hug. He then hit a home run in that game. Well, on Wednesday night, Kat got to meet Napoli before the game and then she went to her seats (with her chemotherapy equipment) to watch Cleveland take on Texas. And, of course, Napoli homered again. What a story. Check Indians.com later for more.
Stay tuned for more…