Covering the Bases: Game 128

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Texas RangersSome notes and quotes from Saturday’s 7-0 loss to Texas

FIRST: Carlos Carrasco wanted to send a slider breaking hard and inside to Mitch Moreland. The idea, with two outs and Texas threatening with the bases loaded in the first inning, was to generate a chase swing or create a ground ball.

Instead, here’s what Carrasco threw:

“A terrible pitch,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Carrasco’s first offering to Moreland stayed elevated and over the heart of the plate. And Moreland, being the professional hitter that he is, swatted it down the right-field line and into the seats for a grand slam. Just like that, Texas had a five-run lead right out of the chute.

SlamBreakdown

In the stills above, you can see where catcher Roberto Perez set up (low) and then see how he had to raise up to the elevated pitch. Carrasco made no excuses about the poorly-executed breaking ball.

“For the homer, I threw a slider,” Carrasco said. “It came back a little bit to the middle. I was supposed to throw something in.”

Here is the spot where the pitch wound up:

GrandSlam

And here is how Moreland has fared vs. sliders from righties in his career:

plot_h_profile

It’s not hard to see why Francona called it a “terrible” pitch when Moreland is slugging between .575 and .875 in the area where that slider hung. There was a lot that happened leading up to the slam that was not on Carrasco, but the best pitchers in the game often find ways to escape, or at least execute the first pitch of a critical at-bat.

“You just learn for your next start,” Carrasco said. “And you try to be better than that inning.”

SECOND: Only one run in the first was earned, thanks to an assortment of issues that happened on the mound and behind Carrasco. It had a similar feel to the five-run blown save Cody Allen had against the White Sox, who dinked and blooped before they blasted.

Here’s what happened leading to the grand slam on Saturday:

  1. Ian Desmond punched a pitch up the middle, where it dropped into center between Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. A soft single.
  2. Cleveland moved into a pull shift against Carlos Beltran, who chopped a pitch the opposite way. Third baseman Jose Ramirez got to the ball, but not in time to have a play at first or second base.
  3. Carrasco missed a sign and thought there was a pick-off play on, so he spun and went to throw to first base on an 0-1 pitch to Adrian Beltre. First baseman Carlos Santana was playing off the base, so there was no throw from Carrasco, who was charged with a balk.
  4. Beltre pulled a pitch to Ramirez, who made a nice grab. Now, had there not been a balk, maybe Ramirez could’ve tried to turn a double play. At the very least now, he could get the out at first. Ramirez did his job by looking Desmond back to third, but the runner hesitated. Ramirez decided not to throw to first, because he felt he could nab Desmond, who retreated with a dive and made it back before Ramirez’s own diving tag attempt. Bases loaded.
  5. Rougned Odor then sent a sharp two-hopper to Santana, who waited on the ball, which took a wicked bounce at the last second. The ball clanked off Santana’s glove and chest, resulting in a run-scoring error. Bases still loaded.

Carrasco struck out Carlos Gomez to move one good pitch away from an escape. Instead, one bad pitch broke things open.

“Just a get- me-over breaking ball and Moreland hit that,” Francona said. “That was a crushing [blow]. A lot of things led up to it, but that really hurt.”

THIRD: Should we expect the Indians to blow the Rangers out on Sunday afternoon? Texas won on Thursday with a 9-0 drubbing. Cleveland countered with a 12-1 laugher on Friday night. The Rangers then ran away with Saturday’s 7-0 rout.

Who held the Indians in check this time? None other than A.J. Griffin, who entered the night with a 4.68 ERA, dealt with shoulder issues earlier this year, didn’t pitch in the big leagues in the last two years (thanks, Tommy John surgery) and hadn’t thrown a quality start since May 2.

Naturally, he held the AL’s second-best scoring offense to no runs over six.

“Their guy tonight, he’s certainly not a power pitcher,” Francona said, “but he’s throwing a real slow breaking ball and then kind of lulling us in and then beating us with his fastball in. If you can stay close, you think maybe, ‘Well, we can string a couple hits together.’ But, once they spread it out, that makes it tough.”

HOME: To illustrate how bad things got on this night, catcher Chris Gimenez was on the mound for the Indians in the eighth inning. For all the conspiracy theorists tracking Cleveland’s late-inning bullpen movement, no, this doesn’t mean Gimenez is the new eighth-inning man.

What this came down to was this: Cleveland was going to be forced to make a roster move postgame had Gimenez not chewed up an inning for the bullpen.

“And, I don’t think anybody deserved to lose their job,” Francona said.

Carrasco didn’t have a one-two-three inning in his abbreviated start. Relief ace Andrew Miller needed 12 pitches to get through the seventh. Gimenez, emergency pitcher extraordinaire, needed only 10 pitches to retire Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos and Nomar Mazara in order in the eighth.

“[Miller] struck three guys out, though,” Gimenez said with a laugh. “And threw about three times harder than I did.”

All kidding aside, it was an admirable effort for Gimenez. He also logged two innings to end Cleveland’s 17-1 loss to Toronto on July 3. The catcher said he has told Francona that he is always available if those types of situations come up.

“Ultimately, that’s really what it’s all about is saving those guys down there,” Gimenez said. “We still have a game tomorrow that’s just as important as the one tonight. I told Tito early on, ‘Listen, if it comes to it, I’ll gladly do it.’ I don’t care what my ERA is, you know what I mean? I couldn’t care less. It’s about saving the guys down there for the bigger innings, when we need them.”

ICYMI: As the all-time, single-season hit-by-pitch king for Rampart High School, I enjoyed putting this one together…

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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