Indians fall to 74-75
I said in the pre-game post that this series was do-or-die for the Indians. The Indians appear to have chosen "die." Danny Salazar had one bad inning, the offense completely floundered against Ervin Santana, and Terry Francona made another dubious late inning decision, squandering the best chance the offense had all night. Many of us have been clinging to hope, but it's starting to become very clear to me: this is not a playoff-worthy baseball team.
Salazar cruised through the first two innings on 17 pitches, and things were looking good. The third inning turned into a disaster. After retiring the first two batters, Danny walked Eduardo Escobar on one of the many questionable calls by tonight's home plate empire. From there, it went off the rails. Aaron Hicks smashed a liner into the gap in left-center. Michael Brantley ran about a mile and dove full-on in an attempt that might have been the Indians play of the year had he made the catch. Instead, the ball landed just outside his grasp and rattled around in the outfield. By the time Abraham Almonte gathered it and got it in, Escobar had scored and Hicks was on 3rd (worse yet, Brantley would go on to leave the game after his at-bat in the 4th inning, perhaps because of an injury sustained on this play). Just like that, back-to-back doubles by Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer put the Twins up 3-0. But when things were really starting to get hairy, Salazar got a little help from his D, escaping the predicament thanks to an outstanding diving play by Francisco Lindor.
After the 3rd, the pitching ceased to be the Tribe's major problem. Salazar settled in and shut the Twins down over the next three innings. Jeff Manship worked himself into and out of a bases loaded situation without giving up a run, and Zach "The Attach" McAllister contributed his own shutout inning in the 8th. Too bad none of that mattered. Aside from the measly run the indians managed to squeeze out in the 5th inning (a Jose Ramirez RBI single), the Tribe offense was shut down by Ervin Santana and the Twins bullpen. Though they didn't need it, Minnesota also got some help from Tito Francona.
Santana crippled Indians hitters through seven innings with tremendous offspeed stuff, but he got himself into some trouble to start the Tribe 8th. Chris Johnson and Jose Ramirez led off with back-to-back singles. The table was set for Jason Kipnis... who proceeded to bunt...
... Sigh. We've seen it far too much this season, and even moreso recently. Though Kipnis has been struggling lately, he's been one of the Tribe's best hitters all year. Having the one-two punch of Kipnis and Lindor batting with two on and no outs is an absolutely ideal scenario. Why anyone not in the National League would bunt in this scenario is beyond me, particularly when a guy like Michael Martinez is up after Lindor. Nonetheless, it's what Francona called for. So Kipnis executed the sac bunt as planned. Lindor flied out. Martinez girded his loins to step in with two outs, but was called back to the dugout for pinch hitter Ryan Raburn... Just kidding! Raburn languished on the bench as Martinez grounded out and Tito fiddled with the Travelocity app trying to finalize his October vacation plans.
As I said above, I think this is it. This is the game that did it for me. Terry Francona has shown a total lack of will to reconsidering his pro-bunting philosophy, and there just isn't enough talent on this team offensively to overcome his backwards strategery. With Brantley possibly out with a shoulder injury now, that solidifies things even more.
Enjoy these last few games for the beauty of baseball in general. To expect anything more than that would just be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Win Expectancy Chart
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