Tribe falls to 64-63
Throughout this season, the only real consistent thing about the Indians has been their defense. And by consistent, I mean consistently awful. The 2014 team is on pace to break just about every kind of team record for defensive ineptitude, and the way things are going, perhaps some American League records as well. Combine that with a recent propensity for close games thanks to both outstanding pitching and little offense, and you set the stage for that defense to lose a game.
The good news from tonight's game is that there was no letdown from Carlos Carrasco. Well, I suppose technically his third start after returning to the rotation was worse than his first two, but let's not quibble with technicalities. Carrasco allowed just two hits in six innings of work. Unfortunately one of those two hits was a Marwin Gonzalez home run, and because the offense could only manage one run, he bequeathed a tie game to the bullpen.
The Indians' lone run came from what seems to be the only source of offense these days: Zach Walters. It has been less than a month since he was traded to the Indians, but in the short time he's been with the organization he's quickly become a key part of the lineup. After Nick Swisher's injury, Walters has settled in as the everyday DH, and he's been hitting like a good one, slugging .576 in 35 PA going into tonight's game. Now that's about all he's done, as his OBP is a paltry .257, but with practically everyone else in the lineup struggling, that August line is as good as anyone's.
When starter Brad Peacock had to leave the game before the sixth inning with what was later called a right forearm injury (gulp), it looked as though the Indians had a major advantage despite the tie game. Statistically the Indians and the Astros are at opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to bullpens, and they'd get at least four innings against Houston's 'pen.
But they did nothing against Kevin Chapman or Josh Fields, and a very promising start against LGFT Tony Sipp went by the boards because they self-destructed on the basepaths. Mike Aviles (who was pinch-hitting for Lonnie Chisenhall*) blooped a base hit just above the vertically-challenged Jose Altuve's glove. Then Tyler Holt (pinch-hitting for Chris Dickerson) laid down a good but routine bunt out in front of the pitcher's mound. Inexplicably Sipp tried to get the force at second, but had chance to nab Aviles, which gave the Indians runners at first and second with nobody out. Roberto Perez now game to the plate, ready to bunt the runners to second and third for the top of the order. But when Perez laid off Sipp's first offering, Aviles stranded himself in no-man's land, and was eventually tagged out after a rundown. Holt was able to get to second during the play, and tried to make up for Aviles' gaffe by getting to third via a steal, but was thrown out in the attempt. All of this happened with Roberto Perez at the plate; he walked to the dish with nobody out, and struck out to end the inning.
But those offensive miscues paled in comparison with what the defense did in the top of the ninth. After retiring Altuve to open the inning, Cody Allen walked Chris Carter. Then he got Dexter Fowler to hit a sharp grounder at Carlos Santana. The Tribe first baseman fielded the ball cleanly, then turned and threw to second to get the force there, but the ball sailed on him and ticked off Jose Ramirez's glove and into center field. Instead of there being a runner at first and two out, there were now Astros at first and third with just one out. Had Asdrubal Cabrera (6,0") still been at shortstop, he might have grabbed the throw from Santana and touch second before the runner did, but then again, Ramirez (5'9") has made many other plays over the last couple weeks that Cabrera wouldn't have pulled off. Fowler then started for second, and Roberto Perez threw a line drive about three in front of second base. The ball ricocheted wildly off of Ramirez's arm into shallow right field, and the Astros took the lead without a base hit or even a ball of any kind hit into the outfield. Houston topped the grisly sundae when Jon Singleton lined a three-run homer over the wall in left to put the game out of reach. The Indians would allow just four hits tonight, but two of them left the yard. That's pretty much the Houston offense in a nutshell.
Well, Houston did do their best to give the Indians a chance in the bottom of the inning by allowing the first two runners on via an error and what should have been ruled an error. But Michael Brantley hit a weak fly ball to left, and Carlos Santana hit into a inning/game-ending double play.
Perhaps the final standings will make this particular game seem irrelevant. But right now this loss seems like a game that could have decided some yet unknown race before it even got started. Over the past week or so, the Indians looked like they might have finally gotten on a roll, but with the last two losses, both to teams on their way to at least 90 losses, they are back within hailing distance of their good friend .500. Which is not a good friend to have when you have designs of playing in October.
*For some strange reason the novel Flowers for Algenon popped into my head when thinking about Chisenhall's season. Weird.
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