May 30, 2013
We've made a big deal about the Indians' schedule from the middle of May through the middle of June, which is about a difficult a stretch of games as anyone in the majors has this season. But although us as fans like looking ahead, that's not the way to look at things as a player or coach. Last night the challenge was Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati lineup, both very difficult matchups, as Bailey came into the game having allowed fewer than three runs in each of his last three starts, and Reds offense ranked second in the NL in runs scored.
Scott Kazmir took care of the Cincinnati lineup, allowing just one run in seven innings. Kazmir has at times been tinkering with his pitches, and even his throwing schedule, but of late he's started to put things together, and last night was his best start in several years. Kazmir's velocity was up, his pitches had excellent movement, and most importantly he was throwing just about everything for strikes. He was pitching as a power pitcher, establishing a mid-90s fastball and then going from there with cutters, and changeups. I don't want to read too much into what was just one start, but if the Indians get this kind of production from Kazmir the rest of the season, that makes this rotation start to look a bit formidable - not fully formidable, just a bit - joining Masterson, McAllister, and the rotation's other salvage project, Ubaldo Jimenez. But let's not jump to conclusions just yet, as Kazmir still only has a 5.13 ERA (78 ERA+), and those past early exits just can't be ignored.
The Tribe offense took care of Homer Bailey in one fell swoop, or actually one fell inning. It was in the bottom of the fourth that the Indians pounced on Bailey, and it seemed to come from nowhere. Bailey had hit Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch to start the inning, and allowed a one-out single to Carlos Santana, but he struck out Mark Reynolds for the second out. That setup doesn't seem right for a seven-run explosion, but that's how it happened, for the Indians scored all seven of their runs right then and there. Michael Brantley got things going with a single, scoring Cabrera from second. Then Yan Gomes, who continues to hit whenever he's gotten a shot, singled to plate run number two. Then Ryan Raburn lined a double down the left field line, scoring Brantley. The Michael Bourn doubled down the left field line, scoring Gomes and Raburn. Then Kipnis singled, scoring Bourn. And just like that, Bailey was out of the game and the Indians were routing the Reds. Alfredo Simon was called on, and he was greeted by and Asdrubal Cabrera double, scoring Kipnis from first base.
The Indians wouldn't score after that, but they wouldn't need to. Kazmir would hold Cincinnati down thrown seven, and then Nick Hagadone and Matt Albers finished things off.
I hate playing what-if games, but if Chris Perez had been able to save the game on Sunday, the Indians would have split their last two series against the Red Sox and Reds. But of course that can't be helped. Now the only thing that matters is Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay offense tonight.