Covering the Bases: Game 100

AlmonteSome notes and quotes from Friday’s 5-3 win over the A’s.

FIRST: The Indians’ bullpen is working underneath a magnifying glass right now. Every pitch, every mistake is being scrutinized, as it is no secret that Cleveland is on the hunt for relief reinforcements before Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

On Friday night, the bullpen held up its end of the bargain.

“Guys did an unbelievable job,” Indians closer Cody Allen said. “Good teams, championship teams, you see a lot they score late and their bullpen holds down leads. It was definitely good to do that.”

Indians starter Trevor Bauer wasn’t having an awful night, but he ran into trouble in the sixth, while Cleveland’s offense was stuck in neutral. Josh Reddick and Khris Davis launched back-to-back homers and then Bauer issued a one-out walk, followed by a base hit to Yonder Alonso.

With the A’s up, 3-0, manager Terry Francona felt it was time to go to his ‘pen.

“Trevor was throwing the ball good,” Francona said. “I was trying to stay with him, but after [the home runs] you’ve got walk-hit and he’s up over 100 [pitches]. The way [Kendall] Graveman was throwing, it seemed like we better try to hold it right there.”

Enter Dan Otero. The reliable righty induced a flyout to right field off the bat of Marcus Semien and then generated an inning-ending grounder from Ryon Healy. Rally over. With that two-batter showing, Otero lowered his season ERA to 1.31 for the Tribe.

“He’s given us a lot,” Allen said of Otero. “He can pitch anywhere. That’s the thing. He can give you multiple innings. He can come in and get righties out. He can get lefties out. A guy like that is key to having a good bullpen. Without him this year, we’d kind of be stuck a little bit, because we haven’t gotten a lot of innings out of lefties. But, Dan can sink the ball and cut the ball. He does a lot of things. He’s been huge for us.”

Then, it was Cody Anderson’s turn. The big right-hander opened the year as Cleveland’s No. 4 starter, but struggled led to a trip back to the Minors and now the Indians are seeing if he can help in relief. The Indians got one run back in the home half of the sixth, and then Anderson sidestepped the potential harm of a leadoff walk with a clean seventh.

The Indians then struck for four in the home half to grab a 5-3 lead. Bryan Shaw, who has been scrutinized more than any of his fellow Tribe relievers this year, then gave Cleveland a one-two-three eighth inning on a dozen pitches. And that set the stage for Allen, who allowed a pair of singles, but escaped harm to seal the win.

There was a touch of drama on the final play.

Reddick gave an Allen curveball a ride 373 feet to dead center. Rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin backpedaled through the grass, across the warning track and then settled just short of the wall. He gloved the deep fly for the 27th out.

“I think Naquin was probably the only guy in Cleveland that knew that ball wasn’t going to quite get out,” Allen said. “It was a little nerve-racking.”

SECOND: Rajai Davis has been receiving a lot of his playing time of late against left-handed pitching, but Francona likes to pick spots for working him into the mix against right-handers. Friday was one of those nights.

Why? Davis, as you may have heard, is pretty fast.

“It’s why he played tonight,” Francona said. “In close games, he can change the game with his speed. We don’t play [him] against every right-hander, but again, that speed plays all the time.”

It paid off at the start of the Tribe’s rally in the seventh. Davis hit a chopper up the middle and Semien ranged over for what looked like a routine groundout. The shortstop bobbled the ball, though, and Davis reached safely.

“I think I should have one-handed it, try to catch it and give yourself a chance,” Semien told reporters. “I didn’t give myself a chance there, so it’s frustrating that it led to a big inning. Rajai’s a fast runner. Maybe I thought about that and didn’t focus on the catch.”

It’s an example of how speed plays a role other than in stolen bases or taking an extra base. Speed can force mistakes.

“His speed will make guys rush on plays,” Allen said. “If he doesn’t hit a two-hopper right at you where you can kind of take your time, a little chopper like that, guys have to rush and try to make a good play. Sometimes you can force guys into a tougher play than it actually is.”

So, instead of no runners on with two outs, the Indians had a man on first with one out. Cleveland went on to score four in the frame to put the game away.

THIRD: Bauer’s outing wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. The Tribe’s lack of early offense just made his mistakes more glaring.

Bauer’s final line looked like this: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HR.

Those two home runs came on back-to-back pitches in the top of the sixth. Reddick crushed a 3-1 fastball and Davis delivered on a first-pitch changeup. Over his past two starts, Bauer has given up four homers in 9.1 innings, compared to eight homers in his first 107 innings on the season.

“I feel like I pitched really well today, actually,” Bauer said. “I know it doesn’t look like I did.”

HOME: Maybe some of you feel for what Abraham Almonte has gone through this season, or maybe you don’t. He was suspended 81 games to start the year for testing positive for a banned PED. He has said he doesn’t know how it got into his system, but, as they say, it is what it is. It was discovered and he got suspended. Believe him or don’t. No one knows the truth by Almonte.

What I can tell you is Almonte has been a model clubhouse citizen since his return to the Indians and he has never shied away from discussing about his suspension. He has always been great to deal with for reporters. The outfielder also played a key role down the stretch last year and has been given a second chance here in the second half this season.

Almonte’s past aside, it was good for the Indians to see him come up big on Friday night. And I’m sure it felt good for him, personally, given the .172 batting average he carried into the game against the A’s.

In the seventh inning, Almonte delivered a pinch-hit RBI single, scoring Davis and moving Naquin from first to third. It helped ignite the Tribe’s four-run inning, which included Almonte also scoring from third on a wild pitch. Jason Kipnis (RBI single) and Francisco Lindor (sac fly) also came through.

“It feels great,” Almonte said. “It was a big situation for the club. I was able to get a hit and keep things rolling there in a good way. I always feel excited to help the team win.”

EXTRA: And for a good laugh…

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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