July 21, 2013
For six innings, Justin Masterson was just about perfect. He had retired the first 18 batters he faced in order, his only miscue (a hit battered) erased trying to steal second. Then Brian Dozier hit a bloop into shallow center field. Drew Stubbs charged furiously, tried to slide and catch the ball at the same time, but just couldn't reach. The ball got past him for a double, but that was immaterial. What was important was that the Twins got their first hit of the game, ending Justin Masterson's bid to become the first Indians pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Len Barker did it 32 years ago.
That bloop hit could just as easily have been caught had Drew Stubbs been playing a bit more shallower in center field, or maybe would have been caught had Michael Bourn been playing there in his stead. That's what makes the no-hitters that do happen so exciting. It isn't just the pitcher retiring 27 batters, it's the pitchers and fielders against the batters and fickle luck. For every batter you are hoping for skill and chance to be on the same page. Was that hit fickle luck or Drew Stubbs not making the requisite amazing defensive play? A little of both. Hunter Pence had to make an astounding diving play to keep Tim Lincecum's no-hitter intact, and had Stubbs done the same thing, Masterson would have been in good shape pitch count-wise to complete the feat. But it didn't happen, and instead the game turned into simply a feel-good win for the Indians.
For the Tribe offense had awakened from its post All-Star Break run slump. The Indians had been held to just two runs on Friday and Saturday night, although the Tribe hitters wound on the back side of fickle luck several times, and just plain old good defense several more. I suppose the assumption with a "pitch to contact" rotation is that the defense behind the pitching needs to be at the very least competent, and for this weekend we saw that assumption come to life. But no amount of diving grabs and perfect throws could turn Scott Diamond's outing into a decent start, for the Indians hit his pitches where luck and defense couldn't reach. The scoring started in the second inning when a Mark Reynolds walk, a botched fielder's choice, a Ryan Raburn single, and a Mike Aviles sacrifice fly sufficed to push across one run. Jason Kipnis went the other way yet again in hitting a two-run homer in the third, making the score 3-0. And Michael Brantley cleared the bases with a two-out, bases-loaded triple to give the Indians a comfortable margin of victory.
And the Indians could have scored several more runs. Aaron Hicks took away a run when he dove to catch Jason Kipnis' line drive with two outs in the fourth inning, and Asdrubal Cabrera once again fell victim to the Minnesota defense when Clete Thomas jumped to catch what probably would have been a home run in the fifth inning.
Random fact o' the day: Mark Reynolds has one (1) extra-base hit over the last four weeks.
The win kept the Indians 1.5 games behind the Tigers and 3.0 games behind Tampa Bay/Baltimore in the Wild Card (with Baltimore playing later tonight).
Roll Call (35 Commenters)
|Daniel Van Meter