April 4, 2013
Chapter 3: Some pitching required
After the first two pitching performances by Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, one could think that the Toronto lineup wasn't that hard to pitch to.Masterson and Jimenez allowed a run apiece in their six innings of work, and the bullpen allowed only one run in eight innings of work. Well, the Blue Jays have since shown that they can hit you if you give them the pitches to hit.
Brett Myers was signed specifically to eat innings in a rotation thought desperately to need innings eaten. And in his first start, the Indians needed Myers to have second and thirds, for as mentioned above, the bullpen had pitched eight inning over the first two games. With no off days until after the fourth series of the year (13 games) and with only seven pitchers in the bullpen thanks to Kazmir's injury, keeping the bullpen rested is going to be a difficult proposition even with the starter going his normal 6-7 innings.
Myers was not up the task. I don't think anyone expects Myers to pitch gems, but what happened last night is not acceptable no matter how low the expecatations. Myers allowed seven hits, which would not normally be a horrible outing, but four of those hits were home runs, one of those home runs a three-run homer and another a two-run homer. Myers had an awful spring, allowing an even one run an inning (9.00 ERA) and 15.4 hits per 9 innings, so in this one case his Spring Training stats were relevant to his regular season performance, at least in his debut. Myers at this stage in his career isn't going to get with missing location, as proved tonight. Here's his pitch location to Jose Bautista in the first inning:
Here is his location against JP Arencibia in the second inning:
Now I'm not providing any amazing insight by showing that missing up, in the middle of the plate, or both generally leads to home runs, but Myers made one of those mistakes per inning, and even more worrying, didn't strike out a batter. Jordan Bastian notes that Myers is the first Indian starter to allow four homers and not strike out a batter since Jeff Shaw in 1990. Shaw would eventually move out of the rotation to have a nice career for himself as a reliever, and if Myers repeats this performance a couple more times, could find himself a reliever once again.
Cody Allen wasn't much better than Myers; like Myers, Allen's Spring Training was one to forget, and like Myers, Allen carried his ST stats over to his regular season debut. After Myers was pulled in the sixth, Allen, who was the only reliever not to pitch in the team's first two games, was expected to give the Indians at least a couple innings. But instead he gave up two more runs and barely got through the inning.
Allen's bad performance was key, for even while the Indians were giving up runs by the bucketful, at the same time they kept themselves in the game. They tagged old friend Mark Buerhle with six runs himself; Nick Swisher opened the scoring the first inning with a ground rule double, plating Jason Kipnis. Then, after falling behind 3-1, Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds hit back-to-back homers to the tie the game. After Edwin Encarnacion's three-run shot in the fifth, the Indians tied the game at 6 with three runs in the sixth; Santana hit a run-scoring double, and Lonnie Chisenhall followed with a two-run double.
The bottom of the sixth, though, was the back breaker. Terry Francona tried to eke another inning out of Myers, but that blew up when J.P. Arencibia led off the inning with his second homer of the game. After Allen came in, he allowed the fifth Blue Jay homer of the night, a solo shot by Colby Rasmus. And then Allen dropped the ball on a play at first that allowed Emilio Bonifacio to score from second.
Now down 9-6, the Indians to their credit fought back again. They score a run in the seventh on a rare single by Mark Reynolds, and scored another one in the eighth on a Jason Kipnis double. They would have taken the lead if not for two outstanding defensive plays by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio; he kept the ball in the infield on a Michael Brantley single, not allowing Kipnis to score from second. And with the bases loaded, he ranged far behind second base to field a Carlos Santana shot and throw him out.
The offense finally came up empty in the ninth inning against Toronto closer Casey Janssen. The dream of an undefeated season are now over, but I suppose a series win in Toronto is a small consolation for that.