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Game 16: Cleveland Indians 19, Houston Astros 6: The offense explodes

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Almost a year after his perfect game, Phillip Humber threw a perfect game of a different sort.

Bob Levey

April 20, 2013

Cleveland 19, Houston 6

Chapter 16: The anti-perfect game

In many ways this game reminded me of the 13-0 win in Tampa Bay two weeks ago; like in that game, the Indians came into this contest struggling to score runs, and almost completely reversed in one game the previous week's offensive ineptitude. The main difference being that two Sundays ago the Indians beat David Price, while last night they beat a pitcher with a lot less career success (the perfect game notwithstanding).

One year ago today Phillip Humber threw baseball's 19th perfect game, joining the likes of Cy Young, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Dennis Martinez, and Randy Johnson in one of baseball's most exclusive clubs. Being a great pitcher is not a prerequisite for pitching a perfect game, nor is being even a good one; one just needs to be perfect on that day and that day alone. There are many Hall of Famers on the list of players who threw a perfect game, but there are also many unremarkable pitchers who nonetheless on one day had the most magical of pitching performances.

However, at the time of his perfect game it seemed that Humber was blossoming into a very good pitcher. The season before (2011) was his first as a full-time starter, and he ended the season with 3.75 ERA (116 ERA+). So when he set down all 27 Seattle Mariners in order on April 21, 2012, the perfecto was a little surprising, but not much. However, Humber's 2012 season fell apart after that game, and he was out of the rotation by July. After the season the White Sox designated him for assignment, and the Houston Astros claimed him on waivers. He's getting a second chance this season, and until last night, it looked like he was making the most of it. He averaged 6.2 innings a start over his first three starts, and came into last night's game with a fine 2.89 ERA. He wasn't striking out many batters (3.9/9 innings) but it's early still.

Well, last night Humber had the anti-perfect game; he did retire Michael Brantley, the first batter of the game on a line drive to the outfield, but after that, the Indians didn't come close to making an out. Here is what happened in that first inning:

  • Michael Brantley flies out to center field
  • Jason Kipnis singles to right field
  • Asdrubal Cabrera singles to center field
  • Nick Swisher doubles to center field. Kipnis scores.
  • Jason Giambi doubles to center field. Cabrera and Swisher score.
  • Carlos Santana walks.
  • Mark Reynolds homers to left. Giambi and Santana score.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall doubles to right.
  • Drew Stubbs singles.
  • Michael Brantley doubles to right. Chisenhall and Stubbs scores.

None of those hits described above were bleeders or cheap hits; they were all line drives, hit as if they taking batting practice before the game. It was readily apparent that Humber had abosutely nothing, and Houston manager Bo Porter took him out of the game having recorded just one out. The rout was on.

Houston unfortunately has had several of these starts in this young season, but unfortunately for them, their bullpen is worse than their rotation. Dallas Keuchel replaced Humber, and was expected to give the Astros some innings, as he'd been a starter in the minors, but only lasted 2.2 innings himself. Having score 8 runs in the first inning, the Indians tacked on 6 more in the second, a single run in the third, and three more in the fourth. By the time the fourth inning had ended, Keuchel had thrown 74 pitches himself, and had given up 7 runs (3 of which were earned). So in essence the Indians had knocked two Houston starters out of the game by the fourth inning.

Every Indian who started the game had at least one hit. Here's the batting lines:

  • LF-CF Michael Brantley 2-6, 2B, BB
  • 2B Jason Kipnis 1-6, BB
  • SS Asdrubal Cabrera 1-2
  • SS Mike Aviles 2-4, BB
  • RF Nick Swisher 4-7, 3 2B
  • DH Jason Giambi 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 BB
  • C-1B Carlos Santana 2-5, 2B, HR, BB
  • 1B Mark Reynolds 2-4, HR
  • 3B Lonnie Chisenhall 2-5, 2B
  • CF Drew Stubbs 3-4, 2B, BB

The big story of the evening was supposed to be Scott Kazmir's return to Major League Baseball. The Houston native didn't pitch an inning for a major-league organization in 2012, and so his making the Indians' rotation was quite a comeback. That triumphant return was delayed almost three weeks when he pulled a rib cage muscle the day before the season began, though, and Kazmir was on a strict pitch count because of the time missed. Kazmir did make his return to MLB last night, but it wasn't very triumphant; he couldn't get through five innings in order to get credit for the victory. Kazmir lasted 3.1 innings, having allowed 6 runs on 7 hits (including 2 home runs) and 3 walks. His fastball was sitting in the low-90s, decent enough for a left-handed pitcher, but his control wasn't there, which was somewhat to be expected.

Unfortunately Kazmir's early exit meant that the Indians had to go to their bullpen early yet again. Since the beginning of the Boston series (one time through the rotation), no starter has been able to even pitch into the sixth inning, meaning that the bullpen has to log at least four innings per game since Tuesday. The good news is that the Indians still had Corey Kluber in the bullpen, and he saved most of the rest of the relievers by pitching the last four innings of the game, not allowing a run in the process. Because of Brett Myers' looming DL stint*, it would make sense for either Kluber or Trevor Bauer to take Myers' spot in the rotation, and Kluber helped his case with those four scoreless innings.

Two Indians left the game due to injury. Asdrubal Cabrera left after the first inning because he injured his wrist while falling down the dugout steps (no, it's not a joke) before the game. He tried to play the game, but after batting right-handed against Keuchel, the wrist started to bother him. X-rays came back negative, but Cabrera probably won't be in the lineup tomorrow. Also, Drew Stubbs left after fouling a pitch off his right left leg late in the game, but thus far there's no update on him.

*Myers went back to Cleveland on Saturday to have an MRI on his right forearm done. I don't see any way that he makes his next scheduled start, and that means a trip to the DL.

Source: FanGraphs

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