August 9, 2013
Each baseball game is a different story, with different heroes and different villains. On one day it could be a taut, well-played game, on the next a contest more at home on the Beer Field diamond. But get on a winning streak or a losing streak, and all wins and all losses look the same. Tonight the Indians lost their fifth game in a row, and will undoubtedly lose a game to somebody ahead of them in the Wild Card race. But let's look at tonight's game in isolation, without any thoughts about the big picture.
Scott Kazmir faced off against his old team, a stop that wasn't a pleasant one for either the pitcher or the team. After leaving the Angels, Kazmir wandered in the baseball wilderness for a season before emerging with the Indians, a changed pitcher. But tonight he looked familiar to Angels fans, for this start resembled many that he had made in 2010. He gave up 5 runs in the first inning, and although those five runs would be the only runs Kazmir and the Indians would give up, they were the winning runs. After J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill* hit singles to open the game, Kazmir walked uber-star Mike Trout to load the bases. A Mark Trumbo grounder that just got past Asdrubal Cabrera scored two runs, and still there wasn't anybody out. After Kazmir struck out Chris Nelson, he threw a pitch that entered Josh Hamilton's rather small happy zone, and quickly the score was 5-0.
You might think just by looking at the box score that the Indians sleepwalked through the rest of the game, especially when you saw that Jared Weaver went seven innings and allowed just four hits. In this case the stats don't tell the half of the story, for the Indians hit numerous line drives, bloopers, sharp grounders that in many other games this season would have been hits. But due to either good defense, good position, or plain old luck, almost every hard-hit ball off the bat of Tribe hitter turned into an out. To wit: in the bottom of the second, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a shot down the first base line that Mark Trumbo caught. The next batter was Michael Brantley, who of course hit a home run to put the Indians on the board. This was not an offensive display of a team that had given up, especially when you consider that they facing the ultimate control pitcher in Jared Weaver.
Even with BABIP in the other team's camp, the Indians still had opportunities to come back, because again the Angels didn't score after the first inning. Kazmir was pulled with nobody out in the fourth inning. Matt Albers finished the fourth, then gave way to Carlos Carrasco, who had been recalled earlier today in case this very situation had come up. Carrasco had been Dr. Jekyll in Columbus and Mr. Hyde in Cleveland, but tonight we got to see the pitcher that everyone was raving about in AAA. He pitched five scoreless, one-hit innings, striking out four in the process. He did walk three, but was never in any real jams. He made Trout, one of baseball's best players, look silly when he struck him out on two fastballs and a slider. Carrasco's talent has never been in doubt, but to this point he hasn't been able to harness it at the major-league level. Tonight he was able to do that, which not only should keep him with the club (as the Indians shouldn't need to call up another arm, as everyone but Albers got the night off), but could open the door to another shot in the rotation if the need arises. Yeah, just when you're about to break free of Carlos Carrasco, he pulls you back in with outings like this.
In the bottom of the ninth, Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a blooper that most left fielders would let drop in front of them. But not Collin Cowgill, for he made a diving grab, catching the ball just inches off the ground. That's the type of game it was.
*Not exactly household names, especially for a club with one of the highest payrolls in baseball. Shuck, who grew up in north-central Ohio (Galion) signed with the Angels as a minor-league free agent last November, while Cowgill was acquired in June in minor trade.