Indians fall to 9-8
Early trouble from Salazar led me to believe that this would be one of those games where he flames out too soon. At one point he'd thrown 40 pitches, with 21 of them being balls. For a moment, I thought that he'd stabilized; he managed to settle in and then retire seven in a row.
He delayed my expectations by an inning or two, it turns out. Salazar exited in the fifth with 4.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 3 K, and 48 balls on 101 pitches.
Granted, we didn't see the full-on Type Ia Supernova of previous years, when one walk led to an accretion of baserunners that inevitably exploded into six runs. For a moment, though, it appeared that he would get out of the inning alive. Nay. He walked, he balked, and was then pulled after intentionally walking Joe Mauer. The Twins took the lead when Jeff Manship surrendered a single to Miguel Sanó. Manship escaped from there, but it capped a particularly disappointing inning for the Tribe. After recording two outs, they allowed three runs.
After this regrettable inning, hope briefly appeared. Another #YanBomb tied it up in the top of the eighth. Then, Juan Uribe doubled. Jose Ramirez snuck on base with a single. Tito Francona, feeling a shift in the cosmos, called for Michael Brantley to make his 2016 debut with a pinch hit. Runners stood at the corners with two outs as the left fielder patiently tapped the bat to his shoulder. Alas, the Doctor lined out to left field.
No matter what the Indians tried tonight, it felt like things were just destined to break the wrong way. Ross Detwiler, Joba Chamberlain and Bryan Shaw contributed three innings of scoreless work, but Zach McAllister finally allowed his first run of the year...in the bottom of the ninth. He left a fastball over the plate and Oswaldo Arcia launched a no-doubt home run into the damp night.
Despite the loss, there are some bright spots to review for the Indians. Francisco Lindor turns spectacular plays so often that the Indians' twitter can't keep up. I lost count of how many excellent plays he converted today, but the one that stands out to me the most is the one that he missed: a grounder behind second base that the scorer ruled a hit. I think it was probably an error, since it hit the heel of his glove. Or, maybe that's the Lindor Effect taking hold; we're all getting so used to spectacular plays at shortstop that when he fails to do the impossible, we're disappointed. When he pulls off the improbable, we shrug it off. He only sprinted thirty feet to his right, lept, and threw an off-balance throw right on the money to beat the runner.
Lindor added two walks tonight, one of them the very first intentional pass of his career. Unfortunately this brought the struggling Mike Napoli to the plate, who is now 2-18 in his last four games with ten strikeouts.
We should also celebrate the ascension of Marlon Byrd. He came into the game as the 10th most valuable right fielder in all of baseball so far this season according to Fangraphs. His batting average on balls in play is currently sitting above .360, so I don't think it will last, but he's played better than the Indians' wildest expectations so far. Tonight he added a double and an RBI single, bringing his stats on the season to .302/.392/.488.
Unfortunately it wouldn't be enough for the Indians tonight. The most reliable pitchers so far this season — Salazar, Manship, and McAllister — made mistakes that gave the Twins just enough leverage to flip the game in their favor. The Tribe send Cody Anderson to the mound tomorrow night opposite Ricky Nolasco, and with a little less bad luck, they can even up the series.
Top Tweets from Indians Twitter
Davis is already 1/3 of the way to matching his SB total for all of 2015. His steal leads to #Indians 2nd run of game with 2 outs in 5th.— Bob Toth (@TheBobToth) April 26, 2016
I am all for review, but maybe don't give a team five minutes to decide whether or not they want to.— Kevin Dean (@kvnbsbl) April 26, 2016
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I know the umps made some pretty iffy calls, but on the whole I think the Indians let this one get away.