Covering the Bases: Game 153
Some notes and quotes from Friday’s 10-4 win over the White Sox
FIRST: When reporters gathered around Jose Ramirez’s locker on Friday night, following another big night for the Indians third baseman, he donned a bright red shirt.
Across the chest was his likeness, a frozen image of Ramirez — sans helmet — pointing with both hands after delivering a hit. The shirt is black and red, but there is a splash of yellow atop Ramirez’s head. No rendering of Ramirez would be complete with out that mess of red-orange hair. Below his image were three bold white words: “YES WAY JOSE.”
The expression is fitting, because while Ramirez’s offensive contributions were once surprising, they have become more expected. Friday night was a perfect example. Ramirez went 2-for-5 with a home run, double and four RBIs, and he didn’t even feel like the story. It was just another solid night for Cleveland’s team MVP.
“It’s really exciting, especially because we’re having such good results,” Ramirez said of the team’s play of late. “We’re always trying to win and we’re always trying to keep on moving forward and thanks to God it’s going well.”
With his latest showing, Ramirez leapfrogged Texas’ Adrian Beltre on the Win Probability Added leaderboard.
WPA leaders (American League)
1. Mike Trout, 6.60
2. Josh Donaldson, 4.62
3. David Ortiz, 4.35
4. Jose Ramirez, 4.07
Ramirez’s 124 wRC+ is second on the Indians to only Carlos Santana (130), who is also red hot of late for Cleveland (on base four times Friday and batting .600 in his past five games). Through 145 games, Ramirez is now batting .315/.367/.469 with 11 homers, 44 doubles, three doubles, 75 RBIs, 82 runs and 22 stolen bases.
Now, in my opinion, Trout should win the AL MVP. It’s not even a question in my mind. But, it will be interesting to see which Cleveland batters garner votes. You could make a case for Francisco Lindor as the team’s most valuable player, and there are stats to back it up. Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis and Santana have also been outstanding.
In the wake of the loss of Michael Brantley, though, Ramirez’s performance has been nothing short of remarkable.
SECOND: You’ve probably heard Trevor Bauer say it after starts more than once this year, or in seasons past. Teams will pile up runs, and the pitcher will say he hit his spot. It was a good pitch. Sometimes, he even acts baffled that the batter delivered.
Well, Bauer was well within bounds to say that on Friday.
Let’s start with the most unbelievable one. In the fifth inning, Bauer started Avisail Garcia off with an inside fastball, drawing an excuse-me swing. The White Sox outfielder sliced the pitch down the right-field line, where it decided not stay just inside the line and keep going. It then barely cleared the wall for a two-run homer.
I’ll be honest, off the bat, I watched the ball for a moment and then looked down. I just assumed it was going to hook foul. Nope. And it didn’t just feel like a lucky hit. The numbers back it up. Garcia’s two-run shot had an exit velocity of 95.2 mph with a launch angle of 38 degrees. The expected batting average on that particular type of ball in play was .106. Garcia defied the odds.
“That was ridiculous,” Bauer said. “He hit it. I jammed the crap out of him. He looked to left field, because he thought he pulled it. I have no idea how that was a homer. That’s the way things are going for me personally right now. I can’t seem to keep from giving up runs.”
The balls in play with the 15 lowest expected batting average on Friday night resulted in 14 outs, and that crazy home run. On top of that, the previous play was similarly fluky. Todd Frazier sent a pitch into the left-field corner for a double. That one had an 81.9 mph exit velo and 26-degree launch angle. That one had an expected average of .137.
The other home run allowed by Bauer was a two-run shot by Melky Cabrera in the first inning. That one was was more legitimate. It came with an E.V. of 100 and had a 21.3 launch angle and a projected distance of 395 feet. Cabrera just took a good swing on an inside fastball off the plate. Take a look:
That’s a tip-your-cap homer right there.
“The other one wasn’t even a strike,” Bauer said. “So, I don’t know. I try to get people to chase balls and they leave the yard. It’s frustrating. I’m trying to do the things that make me successful. I’m trying to work ahead. I’m trying to be aggressive, throw pitches for strikes.”
THIRD: None of the above is to say that Bauer had a bad outing. In fact, the right-hander’s performance was solid, especially when the flukiness of the fifth inning is taken into account.
Bauer logged 7.2 innings, and held Chicago at bay enough to buy time for the offense to mount a comeback. The starter’s effort also allowed Indians manager Terry Francona to only use Zach McAllister out of the bullpen for 1.1 innings. With a bullpen day looming on Saturday, that was big for the Tribe.
“I was able to keep my pitch count down, which is big for tomorrow,” Bauer said. “We have a lot of capable guys in our ‘pen right now, but we used one reliever tonight to keep everybody fresh right now, and hopefully we can get another win tomorrow.”
The homers aside, Francona liked what he saw from Bauer.
“He made a couple mistakes that he paid for,” Francona said. “But, other than that, he was really pretty good. Fortunately, it not only allowed our offense to kind of come back and tie it, and then spread it out, but he really did pitch pretty good.
“The line’s a little bit skewed because of those, but I think he only had two walks and didn’t have a real high pitch count. He’s durable as all get out. He has a way of kind of hanging in there.”
HOME: The win had contributions up and down the lineup. Besides Ramirez and Santana, Lindor chipped in a sacrifice fly and Coco Crisp delivered three RBIs and three hits, including a go-ahead, two-run double in the fifth inning.
And then, there was Napoli.
Following an 0-for-21 slump, Napoli came through with a single in each of his at-bats in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The last two in that sequence knocked in a run for the Indians. They weren’t the big flies that Indians fans have grown accustomed to seeing, but Cleveland can hope the hits start getting the slugger back on a roll.
“He did such a good job tonight of kind of shortening up,” Francona said, “and not trying to get it all back in one swing. He hit the ball the other way a couple times. He stayed up the middle. You watch. The longer ones will come. They’ll fall, though. I thought he had a really good approach tonight.”
With that approach, Napoli now has achieved 100 RBIs on the season. He became the first Indians batter to reach the century mark since Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez did so in 2007. At 34 years old, Napoli is the oldest Cleveland hitter to drive in 100 since Luke Easter way back in 1951.
“It’s something nice,” Napoli said of the milestone. “To be able to do it and be on a winning team, it’s even better. I can’t do it without the people around me. We’ve been complementing each other really well as a lineup. They give me the opportunities to get
EXTRAS: The Indians are now 90-63 and have a seven-game lead in the division with nine games to play. Cleveland’s magic number is down to three, meaning the team can clinch as early as Sunday. Beyond the division crown, though, the Tribe is in the hunt for home-field. And, given the Indians’ 53-26 record at home, that’s a big deal. Texas is a half-game ahead at 91-63 and Boston is a half-game behind at 90-64.
“I check it every night. I look at it during the game,” Napoli said of the scoreboard. “It’s just what it is. You definitely want them to lose. We want the No. 1 seed. We can’t control what they do, but it’s nice to see if they’re down in the game or if they’re losing or
something. We’ve still got to take care of ourselves and win our game.”
Stay tuned for more…