Indians lead ALCS 3-0
Trevor Bauer attempted to pitch with ten stitches crisscrossing the pinky finger on his pitching hand. He started the game by striking out Jose Bautista looking on a full count. It looked like he might be able to give the innings a solid night of work. He pitched around Josh Donaldson and gave up a walk, then got Edwin Encarnacion to line out.
Sometime during this sequence, a stitch popped. Then another. Soon, Bauer’s pinky began to bleed. He tried wiping some of it off on his jersey, then threw a pitch. Perhaps another stitch popped, as the blood now trickled onto the grass, onto his pants, onto the mound. If Bauer’s pinky happened to split open like that in an office setting, HR would have called an ambulance for him. Bauer tried to pitch anyway, trying to give the Indians its best chance to win the game.
He walked Troy Tulowitzki. Pop. John Gibbons walked to the home plate umpire and demanded that they look at his pinky. It did not take them long to make a decision, although for a moment I wondered if we might see a scene like this from Bauer:
Instead, he shook his head. He accepted that he’d tried, but the rules of baseball prohibit a pitcher from bleeding out while on the mound. As he walked back to the dugout, a chorus of cheers rained down from the sellout crowd in the Rogers Centre. Humans have a long history of enjoying blood, guts, and gore at sporting events. Why, the last known Gladiator fight in the Roman Coliseum was 1,612 years ago. Surely society hasn’t progressed much since then.
Despite the thumbs of nearly 50,000 spectators clamoring for more carnage, Dan Otero stepped in and finished up the inning. The Indians failed to score in their half of the inning.
Otero came back in, then gave up a solo home run to Michael Saunders to tie the game. After allowing another single, Francisco Lindor made a strange, terrifying, and ultimately beautiful double play. On a grounder right at second base, he bobbled it and dropped the ball out of his glove. He dropped to his hands and knees — right hand finding the ball, left knee finding the bag before Saunder’s cleats — then threw a strike to first for the second from what appeared to be a yoga pose.
Jeff Manship returned and pitched an inning of scoreless relief, setting the stage for one of the most important #PartiesAtNapoli of the entire year. Say what you will about momentum being overrated, but after losing their starting pitcher to a geyser of blood and letting the Jays tie the game, a home run from their slumping slugger kept the Indians from going on tilt.
While it might seem impossible, the game then entered a relative lull with Stroman and Zach McAllister pitching until McAllister gave up a triple to Ezequiel Carrera. Bryan Shaw entered after a groundout brought the run home and escaped the inning without further damage.
Then in the sixth, the Indians retook the lead with a solo home run. Stroman threw a 2-2 fastball. Kipnis was looking for a 2-2 fastball. A lucky Blue Jays fan will get to take home a dented baseball after tonight’s game. Lindor struck out, but when Napoli walked John Gibbons decided that he’d seen enough and reached for the bullpen. It did not stop the bleeding. Napoli stole second on a ball in the dirt, then burned clay on a Jose Ramirez single to the gap in right. 4-2 Cleveland Indians
I will take a moment here to emphasize just how good the Indians are on the basepaths. Even our 34-year-old ex-catcher first basemen can hurt you if you nap on him. It’s news to some people, but those who watched the team throughout the regular season are not surprised.
Nap has been so good at that all year. Part of why the Tribe led the AL in overall baserunning by FanGraphs metric this season.— Wahoo's on First (@WahoosOnFirst) October 18, 2016
After Shaw let Pillar single in the bottom of the seventh, Allen managed to tie up several hitters with his hard-breaking knuckle curveball. Then, with two on and two out Allen received some glovely heroics from an unexpected source. Josh Donaldson smacked the next pitch to left field, but Coco Crisp turned 24 and made a sliding catch in left field to prevent one, if not two runs from scoring.
Cleveland might have posted some more runs in their half of the eighth, but a controversial replay on a Francisco Lindor steal ended the inning prematurely. More on this in a moment.
Allen retired the next two Jays, and quietly prepared the mound exactly the way that Andrew Miller likes it. He thanked Allen by striking out Russell Martin badly enough to make his ancestors blush.
In the top of the ninth, The Baseball Rulebook struck another blow to the Indians chances. Tyler Naquin roped a definite double, possible triple, sure-to-score-Crisp-from-first hit to right center field. It hopped off of a particular hard piece of rubber and over the wall, sending Crisp back to third and erasing and insurance run. The Tribe could not punch either of the runners in scoring position home.
Did it matter? No. Andrew Miller stood on the mound and waited for the Blue Jays to step into the batters box. He recorded four total outs, three by strikeout, and allowed one baserunner. The Indians bullpen overall provided 8.1 innings of "relief". The heroes names, in order: Otero, Manship, McAllister, Shaw, Allen, Miller.
The Indians need one more win to reach its first World Series since 1997.
Major League Baseball needs to take a look at revising the rules about tagouts on slides
As mentioned, the replay umpires called Francisco Lindor out after it appeared that he successfully stole second base in the eighth inning. Did he touch the base before he was tagged? Yes. Did the fielder hold the glove against him throughout the duration of the slide and his subsequent deceleration? Yes. Did Lindor lose contact with the bag for .00204 seconds? Yes.
If you want to follow the rulebook literally, then Lindor is out. Meanwhile, left handed and right handed hitters have different strike zones, as do hitters in a 3-0 count vs. an 0-2 count. I pointed it out on twitter: the reality of instant replay does not follow the spirit of the game with the way the rules are written right now. Unless baseball decides to get away with the human eye entirely, a hand or foot coming off of the bag by a mere centimeter shouldn’t constitute an out. The last thing I want is for close plays at second base or that plate to become as ridiculous the simple act of catching a ball in the NFL. Did he maintain possession? Did the ball touch the ground? Did he make a football move? Did part of his shoelace touch the white grass on the sideline before he brought his second foot down? And now that we’ve spent five minutes analyzing this pass in the first quarter, here’s five more minutes of beer commercials!
I absolutely understand the opinion that a player who leaves the bag at any time and is tagged with the ball should be out. I just think that sets an unseemly precedence that will quickly extend to the rest of the game and take away some of the ambiguity that defines the sport.
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From a Mets fan who joined the party:
The Circumstances (Miller, Allen and Shaw) in the ALCS: 11.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 20 K.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 18, 2016
Finally, after several calls went Bautista’s way in the seventh:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) October 18, 2016