Indians fall to 52-35
After my wisdom teeth extraction yesterday, my oral surgeon told me to avoid any activities that could be strenuous or raise my blood pressure in order to avoid dislodging any of my stitches. I'm almost positive that viewing this game probably falls under the category of things I shouldn't be doing because it was pretty infuriating in the late innings. A game that could have been won was ultimately dropped in extra innings. There were some positives, some negatives, and some events that just made me want to pull my hair out.
The game started off in a semi-promising fashion Salazar was forced to work a little in the first inning and threw 25 pitches, but he got out of the inning unscathed. In the bottom half, Davis took a ball to the elbow on the third pitch of the AB. Kip, for reasons unbeknownst to most, bunted to move Davis over to 2B. Hindsight is 20/20, but the bunt actually worked as Davis was able to steal third and score on an infield single by Carlos Santana. Like so many games this season, the Tribe would again play from in front.
However, things began to turn south in the third inning as Danny continued to struggle against a lackluster Yankees' lineup. For the most part, when Salazar struggles, it's because his secondary pitches are not working. He tends to rely on his fastball, which can usually work because it's such a good pitch. Today, however, the opposite held true; Salazar's offspeed pitches, his changeup in particular, were devastating to opposing hitters, yet his fastball couldn't seem to be thrown with any sort of efficiency. The third inning saw the Yankees take a 3-1 lead as Carlos Beltran blooped an RBI single into right and
Derek Jeter Didi Gregorius launched a two-run bomb to right field.
Thankfully, the Indians answered right back with a three spot of their own in the bottom half of the inning.The party got started with a Jason Kipnis walk and a Francisco Lindor single to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Napoli kept the inning going with a seeing-eye single in the hole on the left side of the infield to plate Kipnis and bring the Tribe to within 1. Santana followed up with a beautiful arcing double that sailed over right fielder Aaron Hick's outstretched arm that tied the game. The scoring ended after Jose "Angry Hamster" Ramirez got his first of three RBIs on the day to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead.
After extending the lead to 5-3 in the fifth thanks to a Jose Ramirez broken bat RBI infield single, things started to turn south in a hurry for Cleveland. Salazar, who was already nearing 100 pitches prior to the sixth inning, came out and began to show signs of fatigue. Truth be told, it may have been better for him not to start the sixth inning. Or at least be pulled after getting both Gregorious and Castro to ground out. With two outs in the inning, Salazar looked like he may be able to sneak through one more inning, but the Yankees would have none of that. Salazar gave up a single to Chase "Let's tackle other players because I'll never get caught" Headley and then deflected a ball up the middle from Rob Refsnyder, allowing him to make it to first. Then, all cell phones were silenced and everyone paid incredible respect to Alex Rodriguez, who was coming in to pinch hit. Salazar walked Rodriguez on 7 pitches. For all the mistakes that the umpiring crew made today, this AB was actually not one of them:
After the A-Rod AB, Salazar left the game having gone 5.2 innings, but he left with the bases loaded. Enter Dan Otero. Otero has been very good for the Indians this season, so this move is defensible. What isn't defensible is leaving a 93 MPH pitch over the outer half of the plate for Gardner to attack for a bases clearing triple. Just like that, the game was 6-5 in favor of the Yankees.
If you know anything about the Yankees (and after today's broadcast, how could you not?), you know that their trio of late-inning relief pitchers, Betances, Miller, and Chapman, is one of the best, if not the best, trio of relievers in baseball. Going into the 7th inning and having to score off of these guys is not an optimal strategy for victory. But, for the second time in the series, the Indians almost did just that. In fact, Jose Ramirez notched his third RBI of the day against Betances, which tied the game in the seventh for the Tribe at 6-6. It looked like the momentum was shifting back to the home team and the Indians would pull out a late game victory against one of the best bullpens in baseball. And then, a bunch of terribleness ensued.
With the game still tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, Lindor started off the inning with a fantastic 10 pitch AB that resulted in a single to left field. Next up was Napoli, who somehow managed to not strike out and got on base with a walk. Winning run in scoring position, nobody out. The next batter, Carlos Santana, hit a slow chopper to the shortstop. Santana may have beaten the throw and loaded the bases, or he may have moved the runners over on a sacrifice. We'll never know because Chase Headley decided to bulldoze into Lindor as he was on his way to third. To make matters worse, the umpires decided that Lindor was somehow at fault and called him out on interference. This was the wrong call. Here's a screenshot I took during the game of the play in question:
If you'll notice, the ball is behind Lindor and directly in front of SS Didi Gregorious. What this image doesn't show is Headley stuttering, changing his direction slightly, and barreling directly into Lindor. Even if Lindor isn't there, there is no way that Headley makes a play on the ball. The official rule protects the fielder making a play on the ball, which Headley was not doing.
The game continued until Brian McCann hit an RBI double to right field in the eleventh inning. Unfortunately for the Tribe, the player manning right was Abraham Almonte, and he absolutely butchered this play. I'd like to think that Chisenhall would have made the play, or at least prevented the run from scoring (the runner came around from first to score due to the terrible misread). The Indians looked to threaten again in the bottom half of the inning when Kipnis led the inning off with a walk. Unfortunately, he was picked off for the second out in the inning. On the next pitch, Mike Napoli struck out on a high fastball to end the game.
Tomorrow is the final game before the All-Star Break. Regardless of what happens, the Indians will go into the break with a multi-game lead over their AL Central rivals. But a win would be nice, so let's do that. Carlos Carrasco and Masahiro Tanaka face off in the series finale at 1:10 PM ET.