Covering the Bases: Game 93
Some notes and quotes from Tuesday’s 7-3 win over the Royals.
FIRST: One night after an eighth-inning meltdown, the bullpen came up big for the Indians on Tuesday night.
Lefty Kyle Crockett struck out Eric Hosmer in a critical situation in the seventh. Bryan Shaw breezed through an eight-pitch, eight-strike eighth. And Cody Allen worked a drama-free ninth. It was exactly the way you’d draw it up if you were Cleveland.
“Amazing,” Indians starter Danny Salazar said of the bullpen. “I trust these guys. I trust the bullpen.”
The bullpen not only spun 2 1/3 shutout innings, but came up big for Salazar behind the scenes, too.
If you’ll notice in the photo above, that’s Allen’s name stitched into the glove that Salazar is wearing. While he was in San Diego for the All-Star Game, the pitcher accidentally put his glove in the box he was shipping home to Cleveland. Allen, who had a backup glove with him, came through and let Salazar borrow it.
Salazar then turned in a quality start against the Royals.
He might just wear Allen’s glove again.
“If I have to pitch against Kansas City again, I will,” Salazar said with a laugh. “For sure.”
Manager Terry Francona said the Indians “needed a bounceback win” like this one. Twenty-four hours earlier, Cleveland’s bullpen coughed up seven runs in the eighth inning, spoiling a strong effort by Corey Kluber. Shaw and Jeff Manship were behind the mess.
Francona was thrilled to see Shaw, who has been hit with plenty of criticism for the handful of collapses he’s been associated with this season, come back with a strong outing one night later. Shaw struck out Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez, and then induced a groundout back to the mound from Alex Gordon.
“He threw strikes and worked ahead,” Francona said. “I think he wasn’t real pleased with last night, but he was kind of all business out there and that was good to see. I know sometimes you have to answer questions, but we can’t run. We need our guys to get where we want to go. I agree. It was good to see.”
SECOND: The one-out appearance by Crockett was encouraging, because Cleveland has been looking for more effective left-on-left production all year.
The Indians have cycled through Crockett, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny, TJ House, Ryan Merritt and Shawn Morimando as lefty help this year. The last two were really just insurance during thin periods for the staff. The other four have handled the bulk of the lefty specialist chances this year. And, to date, it hasn’t been pretty.
“We’ve been kind of searching all year to find a lefty,” Francona said.
Heading into Tuesday’s action, Cleveland ranked last in the Majors in left-on-left opponents’ average (.310), on-base percentage (.380) and WHIP (1.59). The Tribe’s .761 opponents’ OPS in left-on-left situations ranked 25th in baseball.
This is why Cleveland is in the market for lefty help — specialist, setup or otherwise — as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. An arm like Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman or Will Smith would be welcomed additions.
For now, Crockett is getting another look.
“Just to come out and be a part of this team is exciting right now,” Crockett said. “I’m really glad to be here.”
Fresh up from Triple-A, Crockett’s first assignment was to face Hosmer in the seventh inning. Kansas City had just scored its third run and had a runner on third base with two outs. Salazar hit the showers and it was up to Crockett to stop the bleeding.
Here is the sequence that followed:
Crockett worked ahead, 0-2, and eventually got Hosmer to chase a slider in the dirt for a strikeout. Shaw and Allen then went six up, six down to seal the win.
“He made really quality pitches tonight,” Francona said of Crockett. “Now, I know you’ve got to back it up, but even when he missed on the 0-2, he dotted his fastball. That can be really helpful, because this past week we’ve kind of been searching for that one guy.”
Crockett was happy to be thrown right back into the fire.
“I like it a lot. I don’t like to be babied,” Crockett said. “You want to be in a situation that matters. So, I was glad to get out there. I’ve faced him a few times now and I like the way Gimenez threw that pitch sequence at him. Yeah, I was glad to get out there again.”
THIRD: As for Salazar, the righty struck out seven, walked one and scattered eight singles en route to his 11th win. His ERA held steady at 2.75, which currently ranks first among qualified American League pitchers.
This was Salazar’s first outing after the break, during which he skipped pitching in the All-Star Game due to mild elbow soreness. The issue was never considered serious, but Salazar, who averaged 96 mph on his fastball, was happy to ease any concerns that might’ve lingered among fans.
“Yeah, that was nice,” Salazar said. “A lot of people, they were making speculation and things like that. But, it was nothing serious. It was something really small and we’re on top of that. It’s nothing really bad and I think we’re doing a good job with all the training and stuff to keep myself healthy.”
HOME: Helping Salazar’s cause was Mike Napoli, who launched his team-leading 21st home run in the first inning. The two-run shot rocketed off his bat with an exit velocity of 108 mph, giving him nine homers of at least 108 mph this year.
Napoli and Carlos Santana (two-run single in the fifth) have been on a tear of late.
Over his past 25 games, Napoli has turned in a .301/.416/.538 slash line. During that span, he has boosted his overall showing to .249 (.823 OPS) from .229 (.769 OPS). Santana had an 0-for-5 on June 26 that had him sitting at .231 (.790). In the 19 games he’s played since then, Santana has hit .342/.415/.589, putting him at .254 (.834) on the year now.
EXTRAS: Oh, hey, Francisco Lindor also homered again. He’s now up to 12 on the season, matching his career high from last year. The shortstop scored three runs and knocked in two. Lindor also turned in an impressive defensive play in the ninth inning.
“Just real impressed with Lindor,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s just a fantastically talented young man. Both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, left, right. He’s just good.”
Stay tuned for more…