Covering the Bases: Game 80

CarreraNotes and quotes from Saturday’s 9-6 loss to the Blue Jays:

FIRST: They tried. Man, did they try. Even with a pitching staff depleted in the wake of a 19-inning game, the Indians tried to get their 15th win in a row.

Instead, Cleveland will have to *settle* for the franchise-record 14-game winning streak that we all just witnessed. They’ll have to live with the fact that the Indians, for once, have a solid lead atop the American League Central and don’t have to worry about playing catch-up for the time being.

And, if it’s all just too much for Indians fans to bear in the wake of this one, just focus on the fact that the Tribe is 14-1 in its past 15 games. That’s still pretty good.

“It was going to end at some point,” Indians catcher Chris Gimenez said. “We weren’t going to go 100-0.”

Let’s take a quick look back at The Streak.

June 17: 3-2 win over the White Sox
Highlight: Carlos Santana hits walk-off home run

June 18: 13-2 win over the White Sox
Highlight: Tyler Naquin reaches base five times, ends a double shy of cycle

June 19: 3-2 win over White Sox in 10 innings
Highlight: Jose Ramirez hits walk-off single

June 20: 7-4 win over the Rays
Highlight: Francisco Lindor has a double, homer and three hits

June 21: 6-0 win over the Rays
Highlight: Corey Kluber spins three-hit shutout

June 22: 6-1 win over the Rays
Highlight: Trevor Bauer fans 10 in complete game

June 24: 7-5 win over the Tigers
Highlight: Four triples, including three in a five-run fourth

June 25: 6-0 win over the Tigers
Highlight: Carlos Carrasco throws a four-hit shutout

June 26: 9-3 win over the Tigers
Highlight: Four home runs in the fifth off Justin Verlander

June 27: 8-3 win over the Braves
Highlight: Lonnie Chisenhall hits key three-run home run

June 28: 5-3 win over the Braves
Highlight: Three-run rally in ninth inning seals the win

June 29: 3-0 win over the Braves
Highlight: Danny Salazar gets 10th win with seven-inning gem

June 30: 4-1 win over the Blue Jays
Highlight: Carrasco strikes out 14 and gives up three hits

July 1: 2-1 win over the Blue Jays in 19 innings
Highlight: Bullpen logs 13 shutout innings, including five from Bauer

That run topped the previous team record of 13 wins in a row, achieved in 1951 and 1942. It was the longest run in the American League since the “Moneyball” A’s rattled off 20 straight wins en route to a movie starring Brad Pitt.

The pitching powered Cleveland’s streak.

Overall, the Indians had a 1.58 ERA and .176/.239/.294 opponents’ slash line over 137 innings, in which they tallied 138 strikeouts against 38 walks. The rotation went 10-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 99 strikeouts and 62 hits allowed in 103 innings. The bullpen had a 0.79 ERA with a .182 opponents’ average in 34 innings.

Here is how the individual pitchers fared over the 14-game stretch:

Pitchers

As for the offense? Cleveland out-hit its opponents, 154-84, and outscored them, 82-27. As a team, the Indians produced a .295/.341/.515 slash line overall and a .288/.352/.432 mark with runners in scoring position. Cleveland had 25 home runs and 57 extra-base hits during The Streak.

Here is how the individual batters fared:

Hitters

Here is what closer Cody Allen had to say, when asked about how this streak compared to the 10-game run the Indians had to clinch a playoff spot at the end of the 2013 season:

“In ’13, we did it to end the season to make the playoffs. That was my first experience of it. Because we made the playoffs, I cherished it, but I didn’t really understand how hard it was to do that as a club, especially in the American League. You can run into a buzzsaw of a starting pitcher one night. Like Toronto, they could’ve been on a nine-game or 10-game winning streak, but if Carrasco pitches the way he does, there’s nothing you can really do about it. Then, the next two years, you kind of grasp how tough it was to do what we did in ’13. It makes right now even more special.”

Here is what Josh Tomlin had to say about it:

“I think we have 25 guys right now that are buying in. They’re playing as a team and doing whatever it takes to help us win a game today. We’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. … That to me is the biggest thing for this year, is watching how everybody just tries to do their part, do their job to help us win today.”

Gimenez had this to say about The Streak:

“I really think it’s just the group of guys. I think we’re starting to believe that we’re pretty good, and that’s something that can be a very powerful thing, to be honest with you. You get a group of guys together that start believing that something can really happen here, it’s amazing. We don’t have the flashiest names out there and a couple of our better players have been hurt for a while, and we’re still managing to claw wins out.”

SECOND: Toronto scored nine runs, so there were plenty of pitches and plays that went wrong for Cleveland’s pitching staff. That said, a close play at the plate in the eighth inning proved to be the dagger.

With runners on first and second and the game caught in a 6-6 deadlock, Josh Donaldson drilled a pitch up the middle. Center fielder Tyler Naquin made a nice leaping grab on the high bouncer and then uncorked a strong throw to the plate.

Ezequiel Carrera (remember him?) sprinted from second to home and slid in headfirst as the throw arrived. Gimenez received the ball and made a swift lunging tag on the diving runner. The catcher’s glove grazed Carrera’s leg around the same time the outfielder’s fingers were sliding across the dish.

Blue Jays reporter John Lott got this tremendous photo from the press box:

If Gimenez has the tag on in that photo (it’s hard to tell), then clearly Carrera is out. If the tag arrived a split-second later, well, then maybe Carrera is safe. Looking at many replay angles, it’s hard to say definitively one way or another.

“Our replay coordinator came up to me and said that I definitely tagged him,” Gimenez said. “That was, I think, my biggest fear, was that I might’ve missed him at some point. But, I definitely thought I had his leg. From where my vantage point was, where I was at, and where he was at, I didn’t feel like he could touch the plate yet.”

Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn agreed with that assessment in real time, calling Carrera out on the play. The runner jumped up and motioned to the Toronto dugout, where manager John Gibbons emerged and quickly challenged the ruling. At that point, it’s out of the hands of the on-field crew. It goes to the Replay Operations Center in New York.

After three minutes and 32 seconds, the call was overturned.

“I went and looked at it six or seven times and I don’t know how you can overrule that,” Francona said. “I mean, I couldn’t tell if he’s safe or out. If he would’ve called him safe, I don’t know how they would’ve overruled it to call him out. I don’t how you overrule that. I know they keep telling us it has to be conclusive. I will look forward to an explanation that I understand from the league, because as of now, from what I’ve seen, I don’t know how they did that. I was shocked.”

Gimenez said the explanation he received was that the replay officials deemed that Carrera made contact with the plate before the catcher applied the tag. So, that at least acknowledges that Gimenez made the tag, which was also hard to decipher. If he did make the tag, it was very hard to say without a shred of doubt that Carrera was safe.

” I don’t know. He might be safe, but you can’t tell,” Francona said. “I looked at every angle there is. They’re supposed to have the same angles we do.”

Added Gimenez: “I thought we had him out. Nake made a pretty good throw on a pretty tough high hop, but I definitely thought I had him in the leg. The explanation that they gave us was that his arm got in there before I tagged him, which I don’t necessarily think that was the case, but I can’t tell, either. But, I definitely thought we had him out.”

Toronto tacked on two more runs to essentially seal the Tribe’s first loss in more than two weeks.

“It was a hard game to win,” Francona said. “But I still would’ve liked to have seen our chances if that guy’s out at the plate.”

THIRD: On the Indians’ transactions page, this is what you see for today:

transaction

Look how tidy that move was for the Indians. Truth be told, that was an extremely complicated transaction that required key contributions from multiple people in multiple states and countries.

Check out the behind-the-scenes story on Morimando’s trip to Toronto:

And then for his Major League debut, he was asked to enter the game in the third inning with Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, and slugger Edwin Encarnacion due to bat. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

“I could hardly feel my release point or my legs,” Morimando said.

The 23-year-old rookie worked 3 2/3 innings in an admirable effort, considering his hectic path to Rogers Centre, the fact that he’s never even pitched in Triple-A and that he was forced to face the Blue Jays’ offense in the middle of Cleveland’s record winning streak. Talk about pressure.

He was needed because Trevor Bauer — Saturday’s planned starter — logged five innings to close out Friday’s marathon. Reliever Zach McAllister started for the Indians inetad and gave up a three-run homer to Encarnacion in the first inning, his lone frame in the loss.

Morimando’s lone setback came in the fifth inning, when he gave up a two-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki. That blast came with two outs, and after a play that should have gotten him out of the inning. Third baseman Juan Uribe charged a grounder from Russell Martin and made an off-target throw that Santana couldn’t pick from the dirt at first.

“We bring in Morimando and he actually showed some poise,” Francona said. “And he went out and got two quick outs and he had a ground ball to third that we don’t convert. And then the home run hurt.”

HOME: The last Indians batter to hit for a cycle was Travis Hafner on Aug. 14, 2003. And, whenever that fact is presented, it begs the question: Travis Hafner? Yes, Pronk had a triple, and he was asked about it plenty of times in the years after that game against the Twins.

“I was on turf in the Metrodome,” Hafner recalled on Saturday. “I have an extra gear on turf. But actually [Torii] Hunter was playing me a little towards left-center and I hit it to right-center. No collisions or anything like that.”

Well, Hafner’s name has now been pushed down a line in the Indians’ record book.

In Saturday’s loss, Rajai Davis homered in the first, tripled in the third, doubled in the seventh and singled in the ninth. And the Rogers Centre faithful, who know Davis from his Toronto days, offered him a standing ovation.

“That was awesome,” Davis said.

For 4,706 days, Hafner enjoyed the distinction of being “the last Cleveland hitter to complete a cycle.” No more.

“I’m glad someone fast has done it. I got tired of people asking me how the heck I hit a triple,” Hafner said. “I’m pumped for Raj. He’s playing great and is a huge part of the Indians’ success this season.”

Here’s more on Davis’ historic day:

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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