Covering the Bases: Game 155
Some notes and quotes from Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the White Sox
FIRST: Nothing has come easy for this Indians team, so why should we have expected anything to be different on Sunday?
Throughout the game against the White Sox, Cleveland kept posting updates from Kansas City’s game in Detroit. First, the Royals were up, 2-0, and the Progressive Field crowd roared. Then it was 4-0. The cheers got even louder. A Kansas City win, combined with a Tribe victory, would net an American League Central crown for Cleveland.
The players knew exactly where the chips stood.
“They were putting it on the scoreboard and you could hear the fans getting loud,” Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. “I’ll be honest with you. [The scoreboard is right] there. You can see it. You can say you don’t see it, but it’s up there. You see Detroit’s losing early in the game, 4-0, and we have a chance to do this at home.
“So it’s there. It’s very easy to look up there and kind of gaze and see if they’re winning or losing, and see what we have to do.”
All the Indians had to do was win. Carlos Rodon saw to it that Cleveland didn’t.
The lefty shut down the Tribe’s bats, costing the club the opportunity to wrap up its first division title since 2007 on its own field. When the final pitch was thrown, there was a smattering of boos from the disappointed audience. The Indians provided 53 home wins (the most in ballpark history with the exception of the 54-win showing in 1995) and a Major League-leading 11 walk-off victories. The fans wanted one more.
“Of course, you want to do it in front of the home crowd,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “It would’ve been fun to give high-fives down the line, all that stuff. But, we’ll push it back until tomorrow in Detroit, hopefully.”
The Royals held on to win, dropping Detroit’s record to 83-72. At 90-65, the Indians are at the very least assured a tie for the AL Central crown right now. Detroit would need to win out, and Cleveland would need to lose out, for that to occur. Due to wins for the Orioles and Blue Jays on Sunday, the Indians did not clinch a postseason berth.
As for home-field, the Red Sox have won 11 in a row and now have a 92-64 record, putting them 1.5 games ahead of the Indians. Right now, Cleveland would be heading to Boston to start the AL Division Series. The Rangers (92-64) are knotted with the Red Sox record wise, and went 3-3 against Boston this year, but still have the tiebreaker.
Here are the tiebreaker rules for home-field advantage:
Determining Home-Field Advantage in Two-Team Tiebreakers
1. Head-to-head winning percentage during the regular season.
2. Higher winning percentage in intradivision games.
3. Higher winning percentage in intraleague games.
4. Higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games.
5. Higher winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between the two tied clubs. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until the tie has been broken.
So, nothing is settled. That said, one win over the next four days in Detroit will give the Indians a Central championship. Cleveland ends the season with a three-game road series against the Royals.
“We have a resilient group in that clubhouse,” Tomlin said. “We’re ready for the next challenge, if it has to be in Detroit or Kansas City. [Wherever] it may be, we need to get it done. ”
SECOND: Indians manager Terry Francona had been looking for a day to give shortstop Francisco Lindor a day off. Lindor has looked a little tired of late and headed into the afternoon with no hits in his past 25 plate appearances.
Francona pulled the trigger on an off-day for his All-Star shortstop on Sunday, putting utility man Michael Martinez in the lineup’s No. 9 spot and at short. Naturally, Martinez slipped up twice (one in the field and one at the plate), costing Cleveland.
The first misstep arrived in the fifth inning, when the Indians had a promising rally going after Brandon Guyer led off with a single and Coco Crisp followed with a walk. At that juncture, while struggling to get anything going against Rodon, catcher Chris Gimenez used a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet apiece.
That wasn’t the worst idea, but it seemed ill-timed with Martinez (career 39 OPS+) standing in the on-deck circle. I would’ve rather seen Gimenez swing away, and that feeling was backed up when Martinez popped out to shallow right, not deep enough for a sacrifice fly. Rajai Davis then struck out to end the inning.
The next setback came in the seventh, when Justin Morneau sent a chopper to Martinez at short. He made a throwing error on the play, allowing the leadoff man to reach base. Later in the inning with one out, Avisail Garcia reached on a seeing-eye single up the middle and Omar Narvaez loaded the bases with an infield dribbler.
Carlos Sanchez followed with a fly ball that would’ve been the third out of the inning. Instead, the White Sox got a sac fly and a 2-0 lead.
After Crisp’s walk, the Indians had a 54.5 percent win probability, according to Fangraphs.com. That dropped to 42.3 percent after Martinez’s flyout and then to 33.2 percent after the Davis strikeout. Had Gimenez been bunting to bring up the top of the order, I wouldn’t have minded it so much. In this particular situation, it cost the Tribe.
THIRD: Lost in the shuffled on Sunday, due to Cleveland’s bats going quiet and the anticipated celebration being postponed, was another strong outing by Tomlin.
Tomlin went 6.2 innings for the second start in a row and gave up two runs (only one earned) on five hits. Since his 0-5 August, in which Tomlin posted an 11.48 ERA, he has turned in a tidy 1.40 ERA in 19.2 innings. Over that span, the righty has seven strikeouts, no walks and has held batters to a .214 average.
Francona said Tomlin’s latest was encouraging.
“Very much so,” said the manager. “He’s building each start and he’s holding his stuff, so that’s really good.”
Tomlin’s lone strikeout on Sunday came in the seventh against slugger Todd Frazier, who tipped his cap to the pitcher as he left the box.
“I wasn’t sure why he was doing that,” Tomlin said. “I know I appreciate it.”
Of course, Frazier did get the best of Tomlin in the fifth. One of the Indians starter’s skills is practically eliminating the running game. In the fifth inning, though, Frazier singled and then stole second base off Tomlin and catcher Chris Gimenez. Three batters later, Frazier scored from second on a two-out single by Carlos Sanchez.
“He likes to take a walking lead and then go,” Tomlin said. “And I knew that. That’s why I picked over a couple times. I knew at some point in that at-bat, if I don’t pay attention to him, that he probably could have went, or was going to go or try to attempt to steal a base. In that situation I was just trying to attack the hitter.
“Throwing over there a couple times, I was just trying to hold the ball as long as I could and then go. Apparently, he got that walking lead and then went. He’s done that to us a couple times. I was very aware of what he wants to do and how he does steal bases, but the times I picked over there, he wasn’t really doing it. Bad guessing on my part.”
HOME: Small mistakes like that were magnified on Sunday in light of how Rodon was dealing for the White Sox.
The lefty worked eight innings and matched a career high with 11 strikeouts. It marked the first time in his career that he logged at least eight shutout frames, too. Rodon allowed only two hits, and worked around the potential harm of three walks issued. Goodnight,Tribe.
“”He’s a young pitcher and he’s getting better with starts,” Francona said. “We’ve seen a lot of him, because he’s in our division. His offspeed is better, even his delivery is smoothing out and, like a lot of young pitchers that have talent, you’re starting to see him gain experience. He’s pretty good.”
In his brief career against the Indians, Rodon now has a 2.45 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 55 innings.
“He’s one of those guys you’ve got to get to early,” Kipnis said, “kind of like a little Verlander, when he gets tougher as he goes further in the game and picks up some velo. I mean, we just ran into a hot pitcher today. He was on his stuff. He pitched a great game.”
And in case you missed it, here is Cleveland’s reaction to the passing of Jose Fernandez:
Stay tuned for more…