Indians improve to 78-56
The first inning of tonight's tiff between the Cleveland Indians and Miami Marlins was a prime example of why it is always bad to overreact in baseball. I started watching a bit late, not until the Marlins had two outs in the inning, and I was ready to declare Bauer on the rough side of his 50/50 nature split between Good Bauer and Bad Bauer. Boy was I wrong.
Sure, Bauer struggled in that first frame. He struck out leadoff batter Dee Gordon, but immediately gave up a hit to Ichiro Suzuki, issued a walk to Martin Prado, then let the floodgates open. Christian Yelich doubled and Derek Dietrich followed two batters later with a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0 before the Indians even removed their bats from their shoulders. It looked like we were having one of those Bauer nights, as if the four hits and one walk in the inning were the indications of what was about to come. Luckily, it was the first batter, the strikeout of Dee Gordon, that guided the rest of Bauer's outing.
Bauer was brilliant throughout the remaining 8.1 innings he dug his toe into the mound, each seemingly flying by faster than the last. From the second inning onward, the only Marlins batter to reach base Christian Yelich via a walk. He was thrown out in next at-bat when it looked like he had a great jump on Bauer, but the pitcher had not started his windup. Instead of walking into second base uncontested, Yelich was thrown out on a close play when Bauer noticed the young center field running and spun around to throw him out. It goes to show just how good of a jump he had that, even with turning around and attempting to pick him off, Bauer was still almost late with his throw.
Although he did not finish with an exactly dominant pitching line -- four strikeouts and three walks -- Bauer was able to induce groundballs in nearly half his opponents' at-bats. The balls that were not weak dribbles to awaiting infielders were caught with great defensive plays, such as Carlos Santana diving to his right to grab a liner backhanded and rob Ichiro of another hit in the third inning. Bauer even helped himself out a bit with some acrobatic plays, including deflecting a comebacker to Jason Kipnis on a play that would surely have meant my death if I was in his position. I have no idea how Trevor got his glove up and his soft, crushable head out of the way in time, but he managed to do it.
This could have easily gone down as a game in which the Indians give up a lead early then struggle to hit anything as they were facing Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. Coming into the game, the 24-year-old pitcher was constantly fooling opposing batters, who collectively had a historically-low contact rate against him this season (67.2%). It did not last long.
The Indians failed to hit a single until the third inning. Or, put another way, their first six hits of the game were all extra-base hits -- five doubles and a two-run home run from Jason Kipnis -- on their way to quickly tying up the game. Even the first single of the game from Santana in the third was helpful as the batter ahead of him, Francisco Lindor, doubled himself into scoring position. Santana hitting behind Lindor against a right-handed pitcher might sound weird, but don't worry -- Lindor was not batting ninth tonight. Instead, newcomer Coco Crisp led off the game, and it worked pretty well.
I am not a fan of seeing Tito switch to a more "traditional" leadoff batter just because he is "traditional." I would much rather have the high on-base percentage guy batting first, but if Crisp can do this every night, sure why not. In his first game to Cleveland since 2005, Crisp was 3-for-5, scoring every time he reached base. In fact, despite the Indians having 12 hits as a team, almost all of that came from the newly-constructed top third of the lineup. Crisp had the aforementioned three hits, two-hole batter Jason Kipnis had two, Francisco Lindor had a huge four-hit night, and Santana added another batting cleanup.
I would be remised if I did not mention the ninth-hitting Roberto Perez, though, who only had one hit on the night -- but a big one. His double in the second inning scored Tyler Naquin from second to tie the game at three.
In his last nine games, including tonight (29 PA), Perez has eight hits, two home runs, and a double. It's been a good streak of games for Perez, who is likely to see his playing time diminished when Yan Gomes returns from his rehab assignment. Maybe not right away, and hopefully by the time he cools off.
Oh, and the Indians bunted in the middle of routing one of the best pitchers in baseball for who knows what reason, but I'll be damned if I'm going to talk about that tonight.