Covering the Bases: Game 126
Some notes and quotes from Thursday’s 9-0 loss to Texas
FIRST: Here’s the deal with Josh Tomlin and home runs: Josh Tomlin is going to give up home runs. He always has. He always will. What has made Tomlin good in stretches is the fact that he limits them mostly to solo shots.
“Those usually don’t beat you,” Tomlin said.
So, Tomlin controls what he can. He pumps strikes, limits walks and typically eliminates the running game when men do reach. Lately, though, the homers have not just come in bunches, but they’ve come in multi-run bunches. That’s a problem. Solos don’t usually beat a pitcher, but two three-run shots will get the job done for the opposition.
That’s what the Rangers delivered on Thursday night. Texas enjoyed a six-pack of runs off two big swings — one each from Carlos Gomes and Adrian Beltre. Cleveland was down 3-0 by the second and 8-0 by the fifth. And, making matters worse, the Tribe’s limping lineup was tasked with facing Cole Hamels and his 1.59 second-half ERA.
It was a bad combination all the way around, but it all started here:
“The past few turns I’ve been out there,” Tomlin said, “I haven’t really given our team a chance to win.”
In the second, the traffic jam came on with two outs. Jonathan Lucroy got it going with a single up the middle (Blame Lucroy!) and then Tomlin walked Mitch Moreland on five pitches. And then, bang! Gomez smacked a 1-0 cutter over the left-field wall at 107 mph.
Let’s take a look at that pitch:
And now let’s take a look at Gomez’s 2016 SLG on fastballs:
So, the guy with the .322 SLG on the year is slugging .500 against fastballs to that spot. Whoops.
In the fifth, traffic arrived with one out. Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Ian Desmond each singled. Then, Carlos Beltran chopped a pitch to first baseman Mike Napoli, who air-mailed it over Francisco Lindor and into left field. Rather than a potential double play, another run scored, and it opened the door for Beltre to whack another three-run shot.
“It was kind of a rough inning all the way around,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Nap was trying to figure out should he throw over or around, and let it fly. And then they hit another one, which obviously hurt.”
Let’s take a look at the location of the cutter to Beltre:
And, now, Beltre’s SLG on fastballs this season:
OK, yeah, Tomlin probably should not have missed there.
I know not everyone likes an arbitrary end point, but I’ve been drawing a line through Tomlin’s season after his July 1 start. Why there? Well, he was 9-1 with a 3.21 ERA through 15 starts at that point, and he gave up eight runs (five earned) the next time out. When you scan his game log, it just looks like the place to draw the line.
In those first 15 starts, Tomlin gave up 19 homers (1.8 HR/9) and allowed 25 total runs on those shots. He gave up 13 solos and six two-run blasts. In the nine starts that have followed, Tomlin has given up 15 homers (2.7 HR/9) and allowed 30 total runs on those long balls. That includes six solos, eight two-run shots, four three-run blasts and one grand slam. He’s gone 2-7 with a 7.51 ERA in that span.
Tomlin reiterated what it seems like he’s said so many times throughout his career: “You’re always concerned when you’re giving up this many home runs, what’s going on. For me, it’s limiting the damage before that, trying to prevent the crooked numbers as best as I can. I don’t rely on stuff, so for me, it’s kind of limit the walks, limit the guys on base and try to do the best I can with nobody on base.”
SECOND: This is where Angry Tribe Fan On Twitter types in all caps at me: BUT YOU CAN’T WIN IF YOU DON’T SCORE ANY RUNS.
Yeah, about that. You see, here’s the thing: Hamels was pitching on Thursday. Now, I get it, Cleveland scored three total runs over 27 innings in Oakland. That was bad, and hard to explain. Thursday? They ran into an ace lefty who is on a tear and currently in the mix for a Cy Young Award.
“He’s got the whole thing,” Francona said. “He’s got a fastball, and he can cut it. A great changeup. A great feel for pitching. He had everything working tonight and you give him a lead, and he knows what to do with it, because he’s not going to walk people.”
That said, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis tipped his cap — “He’s one of the better ones, and maybe one of the better left-handed starters in the game.” — while also putting the onus on the offense to do more.
“We probably just waited to long to make the adjustment, and we’ve got guys just kind of all collectively going through a little skid right now. That’s going to happen. You keep working. It’s tough this time of year, because you don’t want to overwork. You want to save what energy you do have for the game, so you try to find a nice little balance between those two. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we come out of it here soon. I think tomorrow’s going to be a good [day] to say we’re just going to get back to the basics of some good line drives, put it in play, get some guys on base and have a little bit more fun.”
Added Francona: “Well, we haven’t swung the bat the last three or four days. But, I think we’re [near the top] in the league in runs. It’s not realistic that you’re going to hit the ball all over the ballpark all year. You have down periods. We had a week where the pitchers had a tough time. It happens. We’ve just got to fight through it together, and we will.”
THIRD: This marked Cleveland’s first meeting with Lucroy since the catcher blocked the trade that would have put him in an Indians uniform. And, what’d he do? He singled to ignite Texas’ first rally and then helped guide Hamels through eight shutout innings (two hits, no walks, eight strikeouts).
Kipnis quickly said, “No,” when asked if the team had discussed the Lucroy situation at all ahead of this series.
“I think collectively, as an organization and as a team, we moved on pretty fast from that,” Kipnis said. “The only reason we could be mad at him is because he’s a good player and we wanted him to play for our team. If it goes past that, there’s personal stuff, and no one has any of that, any reason to dislike the guy. As the business side of it, we completely understand what he was going through. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. It doesn’t mean anything about him. A lot of us probably would’ve made the same choice if we were in his position. So, we’ve moved on real fast from him. That doesn’t concern us anymore.”
We’ll try to catch up with Lucroy at some point this weekend.
HOME: There was a moment of levity within this ugly loss for the Tribe.
In the bottom of the fifth, Rougned Odor slid hard into second base at the front end of an inning-ending double play. Kipnis was at the bag on the play and, as Odor began to get up, the Indians second baseman playfully backed away slowly. Kipnis then laughed and jogged off the field, and Odor smiled, too.
If you need a refresher on why Kipnis did that, CLICK HERE.
Some fans might be rubbed the wrong way that Kipnis was joking around for a moment during this tough defeat. I actually think it shows some of the mind-set of this Indians team. I’ve said this before, but a veteran (one with a World Series ring) told me many years ago that the best teams don’t just learn how to win. They also learn how to lose.
More than other recent years, this Cleveland club has shown the ability to shake off losses pretty well. In previous seasons, the postgame clubhouse was funereal. Take Thursday, for example, not only did Kipnis have that fun moment on the field, but he willingly met with reporters, covering a wide range of topics, and was candid while injecting humor. It’s not making light of the situation. It’s realizing there is still a long way to go and the best teams still endure nights like this one.
That said, Detroit is now 4.5 back in the standings, and the red-hot Royals are now 6.5 back.
“It’s why you’ve got to finish the whole season,” Kipnis said. “The same way you’ve got to finish all nine innings, it’s the same way you’ve got to finish all 162. We knew [the Tigers] weren’t going to roll over and die. We know Kansas City’s right behind them. They weren’t going to roll over and die. It’s a long enough season to where you can have enough peaks and valleys to make runs and get yourself back into it. It’s going to be a fun month of September. That’s what we wanted it to be. We wanted to have some important games, and we’re definitely going to get that.
“We’ve got the lead right now. We’ve gone through some stretches where we haven’t played that well, and they still haven’t caught us. So, hopefully, we get another nice stretch here where we start playing games and can put some more distance [between] us. We know the big games will be versus them. That being said, these are all big games right now.”
Stay tuned for more…