Tribe falls to 71-72
In a pitcher's duel, it's always the little things that give one team an edge over the other. Tonight the Royals did all the little things well while the Indians did a few things very, very wrong, sinking their chances at a victory and perhaps a playoff spot.
If you didn't watch the game, you're probably wondering how a game started by Josh Tomlin and Kris Medlin turned into a pitcher's duel. I'm still trying to figure that out myself, but the record shows that it did, in fact, happen. The Little Cowboy threw the second best game of his season tonight, giving up just two runs while striking out six and going the distance. Only one of those runs should have been earned, but thanks to the Tribe's first critical not-quite-error of the game, the Royals were staked to an early 1-0 lead.
Tomlin cruised through the 1st and did Tomlin things to get a couple outs into the 2nd before things got wacky. Mike Moustakas popped up what should have been the third out in short foul territory, but Yan Gomes somehow lost the ball in the lights. Mossaka, with a new lease on life, stepped up to loft a deep but lazy fly ball to CF. Out number three, right? Nope. Abraham Almonte lost the ball - I guess in the lights? - and allowed Moose to reach 2nd. Tomlin, perhaps to spite his boneheaded defense, uncorked a wild pitch to advance Moustakas to 3rd, and he eventually scored on an RBI single by Salvador Perez. After that painful sequence of events, Tomlin allowed just one more run in the game. Perhaps foreshadowing the buffoonery to follow, the Tribe's pyro guy accidentally set off the celebratory fireworks when Alex Rios crushed a solo shot in the 5th:
So while the Indians and the Progressive Field crew were getting all the little things wrong, the Royals were shutting down Tribe hitters and playing outstanding defense - as usual. Kris Medlin somehow managed to pitch six and a third shutout innings without a strikeout. Sure, you could chalk it up to the angry BABIP gods, but it probably had a little more to do with several stellar defensive plays by the Royals:
- a shift-aided, sliding stop by Ben Zobrist to nail Carlos Santana at first (from short RF)
- a fully-outstretched Alcides Escobar stop and throw to gun down Yan Gomes
- a diving Mike Moustakas catch in foul ground
- a wall-crashing snag in deep foul territory by Alex Gordon
And those are just some of them. I'd embed them all, but I don't want to crash the whole page. Yet despite all the tremendous defense by the Royals, the Indians were still in it thanks to Tomlin's incredible start. In the bottom of the 9th, the Tribe showed signs of life. Lonnie Chisenhall walked to lead off, and Yan Gomes followed with a rocket shot line single (that maaaaaybe could have been caught by Escobar but hell, we were due). What followed was a managerial decision that essentially cost the Indians the game, and may have cost them a playoff chance.
Jerry Sands came on a late defensive replacement for Chris Johnson, and his spot in the lineup was due up with no outs and two on in the bottom of the 9th. Ryan Raburn was on the bench and ready to go, so Terry Francona made the natural call: send in Mike Aviles as a pinch hitter, and order him to sacrifice bunt. The only thing more hilariously stupid than that decision was Aviles' execution, a pop-up bunt almost directly to KC pitcher Greg Holland. Holland bobbled and dropped it, but was able to easily get the runner at 3rd since no one tried to advance on the pop-up. Now with one pathetic out in the books, the Indians were all but done for. Almonte struck out weakly, followed by Giovanny Urshela, who swung so hard (at a ball) that his bat ended up behind the plate. A fitting way to end the game.
Now, as I've said above, close games are often decided by many little things, so it's probably not entirely fair to put this loss all on the Aviles "bunt." Still, it was a baffling decision particularly given the gravity of the situation. Even if Tito was dead set on bunting, he could have gone with Jose Ramirez (who he supposedly was saving to pinch hit for Urshela). Regardless of his reasons, his decision put the Indians at a huge disadvantage. On a night where Tomlin pitched so well, and the stakes were so high, the call was indefensible. The Indians have now dipped back below .500, and their playoff chances are rapidly fading with every loss like this.
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