Covering the Bases:Game 125

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Oakland Athletics

Some notes and quotes from Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the A’s

FIRST: The Indians and A’s were greeted by a bright blue canvas above the Coliseum for Wednesday’s clash in the East Bay. Manager Terry Francona used an old baseball term, calling the conditions a “high sky” for the game in Oakland.

It didn’t take long for it to come into play, either.

In the second inning of the second straight loss for the Tribe, first baseman Carlos Santana charged in to try to catch what looked like a routine pop fly off the bat of Danny Valencia. With two outs and runners on second and third, the A’s were off to the races, even though Trevor Bauer looked like he was about to escape a crooked number.

“The pop up was a little high,” Santana said later. “I missed. I lost it in the sun. I tried to catch it, but sometimes that happens in baseball. I have to continue to get better.”

Santana overran the fly ball and whiffed in his attempt to reach back behind him to make the catch. Rather than minimizing the damage to three runs, Bauer was hung with a five-spot and that wound up being all she wrote for Cleveland. The pitcher took a moment to collect himself behind the mound before continuing on. And, after he finally did escape, Bauer walked extremely slow off the mound and back to the dugout. He did not hide his frustration in that moment.

“I thought I was out of it,” Bauer said. “I tried to minimize and it didn’t work out. So, I tried to keep going out there and keep throwing innings after that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come back today. We’ve [come back] a lot lately.”

The official scorer (incorrectly) called it a two-run single for Valencia, and that call held until moments before the game’s conclusion. In the ninth inning, it was announced that the ruling was changed to an error after the scorer consulted the teams about the play. It looked like an error right away and the scoring change was the right way to go.

So, rather than needing to instruct you to look behind Bauer’s pitching line, it should be pretty easy to see that — aside from one rocky inning — the righty turned in an admirable effort. He wound up with a quality start (three earned runs in 6.2 innings) and saved the bullpen some work in the process.

“Luckily, I was able to throw some innings up there and help save the ‘pen,” Bauer said. “I guess maybe that’s a slightly bright spot on a down day.”

Francona agreed.

“To his credit,” said the manager, “when it looks like it’s going to be an unload-the-bullpen day, he stayed out there going into the seventh inning. … So, I give him credit for that. Sometimes, you don’t see a guy pitch that deep after that kind of an inning.”

SECOND: Santana’s gaffe in the second had a lot of people asking: Why has he been playing so much first base lately?

Wednesday’s game marked Santana’s fourth start in a row at first and his eighth in the past 10 games for the Indians. After Tuesday’s game, Mike Napoli exited the clubhouse with a significant wrap around one of his legs, but Francona indicated that the first baseman was fine. Napoli said the same on Wednesday.

That said, it’s probably not out of line to say he might be a little banged up.

“Nap [has been] on his feet so much,” Francona said. “There was that period there where he was on the bases so much and diving and getting banged around. He’ll play first [on Thursday in Texas]. I just wanted to give him [some days off]. I thought it’d be good for him.”

Napoli said he has appreciated how the manager has tried to balance his workload.

“I’m on a streak where I’ll probably play the most games I’ve ever played in a season,” Napoli said. “Everything is good. Obviously, [Francona and I] talk about it. We’re trying to do what’s best for all of us. With these long stretches [of games] with only a couple of days off, we’re trying to be smart and do what’s best for us to stay healthy and finish the season strong.”

Napoli has logged 503 plate appearances in 117 games this season. His career highs are 578 and 139, both set in 2013 with the Red Sox.

There were a few fans in my Twitter feed today saying that Napoli is clearly the better fielder than Santana. Well, over their careers as first basemen, that holds up. This year, however, Santana has rated better via some advanced metrics.

Prior to Wednesday, Santana had 1 DRS with a 5.9 UZR/150 this year, compared to -6 DRS and a -8.4 UZR/150 for Napoli. Now, defensive stats are still a bit fuzzy, especially within the confines of one season. So, yes, Napoli (13 DRS, 13.4 UZR/150) has been better over the broader sample of his career than Santana (-8 DRS, -0.6 UZR/150). But, Santana has graded out as the better defender this season. Take that for what it’s worth.

THIRD: Besides Danny Salazar’s rough outing on Tuesday, the pitching held up its end of things for the most part in Oakland. Carlos Carrasco’s eight strong innings helped Cleveland steal a 1-0 win on Monday and, Santana’s error aside, Bauer gave a solid effort on Wednesday.

Where the Indians went awry this week was in the batter’s box. In 27 innings, Cleveland scored a whopping total of three runs, and all via solo homers (Santana on Monday, Chris Gimenez on Tuesday and Roberto Perez on Wednesday).

“Hopefully we just have three days of amnesia,” Francona quipped.

Now, I know you might be feeling like this:


Take your finger off the panic button and remind yourself of this:

Indians’ Offensive Ranks in AL, entering Wednesday
1st in stolen bases (102)
2nd in runs scored (618)
3rd in batting average (.265)
3rd in slugging percentage (.441)
3rd in OPS (.767)
3rd in wOBA (.329)
4th in on-base percentage (.326)
4th in wRC+ (104)

OK, do you feel a little better?

“They pitched us tough. We just couldn’t get it going,” Napoli said. “We’ve been on a good streak of getting a little rally going and scoring runs. It’s just one of those days. They flat-out beat us. We had some good pitching. We just couldn’t get anything going.”

HOME: To narrow the focus a little more, Oakland’s rotation flat-out beat the Tribe.

The trio of Andrew Triggs (four career starts), Sean Manaea (19 career starts) and Kendall Graveman (46 career starts) confounded Cleveland over the past three games. Over 19.2 innings combined, those three turned in a 0.92 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and .179 opponents’ average, piling up 16 strikeouts against five walks with 12 hits scattered.

It felt familiar to Cleveland’s series in Baltimore, where the Orioles’ starters executed an approach that knotted the Indians’ bats. Francona wouldn’t delve into the details of what the A’s were doing to the Tribe.

“I don’t think they have a secret,” said the manager. “But, they executed very well.”


Stay tuned for more…


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