Covering the Bases: Game 149

bauerSome notes and quotes from Sunday’s 9-5 loss to the Tigers

FIRST: Indians manager Terry Francona has said it for several years now. When facing the Tigers, a pitcher needs to establish the inside part of the plate, making it more difficult for some of the Motor City’s mashers to get their arms extended.

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer and catcher Chris Gimenez went into Sunday’s tilt against the Tigers wanting to emphasize that approach.

“That’s something that I noticed we hadn’t done up until this point,” Gimenez said. “That’s something Trevor’s very good at. I just felt like against a certain couple of guys in that lineup that we had to pitch in. We had to let them know that they weren’t going to be able to look out over the plate.

“Trevor doesn’t have the type of stuff that Kluber does, where he can get away with some mistakes or something like that. We have to make them aware that we’re going in there, and then pitch off of it.”

The plan backfired in a big way this time.

Bauer hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch in the first inning, and hit two more batters in a three-run, 33-pitch third. That ill-fated frame began with Ian Kinsler taking a pitch off the helmet, creating a scary scene that had Bauer crouched in concern on the mound. Three batters later, Victor Martinez was rolling in the dirt in pain after taking one off his right leg.

After the game, Bauer issued an apology before answering questions.

“First off, I want to extend my apologies to Ian, Victor and Miguel,” Bauer said. “The scouting report is to pitch in. I obviously did not intend to hit any of them. Regardless of game situation or anything that could happen in a game, I would never intentionally throw at someone’s head. That has no place in the game.

“I know saying sorry for it doesn’t change that it happened. I’m glad that he seemed to be OK and nothing else came of it.”

Bauer ended the afternoon with a robust pitching line: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 3 HBP. The three hit batsmen tied a club record for a single game. The one to Martinez drove in a run. Bauer also allowed a run on a wild pitch in the sixth. The rest of the damage came via a two-run, two-out single by Erick Aybar in the third and a two-out, two-run homer by Justin Upton in the fifth.

It was fair to say that Bauer was laboring with his command.

“That’s probably the understatement,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “There were balls down, up, in, out. We never want to see somebody get hit in the head. You can see by Trevor’s reaction how he felt. And then the [timing] of it, certainly, you could tell there’s no intent.

“I also understand why they were aggravated. Guys were getting drilled pretty good. I get
it.”

SECOND: The Tigers didn’t hide their frustration as the game unfolded.

After Martinez was hit, Kinsler crossed the plate and barked at Bauer and home-plate umpire Jordan Baker. Before the start of the sixth inning, Kinsler was ejected from the contest. Both he and Cabrera appeared to be shouting in the direction of the umpire and Cleveland dugout before Kinsler was tossed.

“He was definitely upset that we had hit three of their better guys,” Gimenez said. “That’s what he was trying to explain to Jordan: ‘That’s the third guy. Three of our best three players, and you’re not doing anything about it.’ I understand. I completely understand his point of that, without a doubt, because I know it does look really bad.

“Anytime somebody on your team gets hits, or three guys, let alone two in an inning, there’s always going to be that jawing back and forth. In the heat of the moment, you don’t really think about the situation. Obvisouly, bases loaded with Victor up, that’s not exactly the right time to hit somebody.”

At the start of the bottom of the third inning, Tigers lefty Daniel Norris fired a pitch behind the back of Rajai Davis. Gimenez took it as a sign of retaliation, and the catcher said he also understood if that was the case.

“They did a good job of coming out the next inning, letting him throw one behind the guy,” Gimenez said. “Everybody has their warnings. I would definitely expect them to not forget that when we play them in a week. Hopefully, nothing crazy happens. I didn’t want to get into a fight today, I know that. Or, break one up, for that matter.”

After Upton launched his tapemeasure shot in the fifth — the ball had an exit velo of 111 mph and went a projected 451 feeet — the Detroit outfielder took his sweet time out of the batter’s box. He flipped away his bat and took five slow steps before beginning his trot.

Gimenez isn’t a fan of that kind of display. He was behind the plate for Jose Bautista’s famous bat flip, and barked at Billy Butler earlier this year for a dramatic home run celebration. This time? Gimenez let Upton enjoy his moment.

“Normally I would have [taken exception to it],” Gimenez said. “But, given the situation, I have to have a little bit longer of a leash on that. I completely understand it. He definitely took his time around the bases, too, but the situation of the game, I completely understand it.”

THIRD: Cleveland’s offense took advantage of a pair of Detroit defensive miscues in the first five innings.

In the second, a fielding blunder by Tigers center fielder Cameron Maybin helped the Tribe to a two-run outburst. In the fifth, Kinsler misplayed a grounder from Jason Kipnis, helping open the door for another two-run showing.

The Tribe continued to chip away in the sixth, when Carlos Santana belted a leadoff homer (his 32nd shot of the season) to trim the Tigers’ lead to 6-5. Jose Ramirez followed with a single up the middle, making it look like the rally would keep going. Then, he was picked off first base by catcher James McCann.

That was a deflating moment for the Indians, who then saw their one-run decifit grow to four when rookie Joe Colon walked two and yielded a three-run homer to J.D. Martinez in the ninth. That wouldn’t normally be a situation for Colon, but Francona is trying to balance giving some young arms experience, while dealing with the recent workload for his bullpen, which logged 10 innings on Saturday.

“That’s part of the reason we were trying to leave [Bauer] out there a little bit,” Francona said. “You start to ask too much. That’s not good, either. Even with a September bullpen, we were possibly looking like 18 innings [of relief in the past three days] — that’s too much. Fortunately, he stayed out there for a while. It was going to be tough either way.”

HOME: There was another storyline present at Progressive Field on Sunday, though it took place behind the scenes.

Following the injury to Carlos Carrasco on Saturday, Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes wrote an opinion piece, declaring the Indians’ postseason chances dead in the water. The headline — which read, “Sept. 17: The day Cleveland Indians’ postseason dreams ended before they began” — did no favors.

I wouldn’t normally bring up another writer’s article, but players (Kipnis and Bauer, specifically) and the Indians took to social media to criticize the column. Fans also had a strong reaction to it online, and some national writers chimed in. This team didn’t need any further motivation, but they got some. Players, coaches and staffers were heated over the story.

The timing was particularly poor, considering Cleveland overcame the loss of Carrasco on Saturday with an emotional, record-setting, extra-inning, walk-off win over the Tigers in one of the biggest games of the season.

Bauer ended his postgame press conference on Sunday with this: “I know some people have said the season is over. They pronounced it yesterday, wrote articles about it. I think it’s complete [bull].”

The Indians know they have a tough road ahead, and an even more difficult one without Carrasco or Danny Salazar in the rotation. It’s not unfair to say that, in the wake of the recent rash of injuries, Cleveland is hardly a favorite to win it all now. That said, this is the same team that has overcome the loss of Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, along with suspensions to Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd. And, hey, once a team makes the playoffs, we’ve all seen some pretty crazy things happen.

That is the mentality of the players right now.

“Don’t get me wrong: It absolutely sucks, losing those two guys,” Gimenez said of Carrasco and Salazar. “That’s something that’s going to be difficult to come back from. But, if there is a team that’s capable of doing it, it’s this team. We’ve played without
Brantley the entire year and have been doing OK. We’ve played spurts without Danny and Carlos and we’ve managed to do OK.

“I think everybody in here, it almost makes you have a little bit more motivation, because
you want to do it so bad for those guys who aren’t here to help us do it in their own right.”

Bauer echoed that reaction.

“Losing Carlos and losing Danny hurts, and we feel bad for them,” Bauer said. “But, no one questions that Josh can step in or Mike Clevinger can step in or [Ryan] Merritt or [Adam] Plutko or whoever else, Cody Anderson, whoever is going to start.

“I think you saw yesterday we got a lot of guys in the bullpen, a lot of guys on this
team, that can go out there and put up zeros and be very competitive.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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