We knew the Cleveland Indians were probably going to be dominant in the postseason, but this was scary. In addition to dominating the New York Yankees in the big three listed above — offense, defense, and pitching — the Tribe also outmanaged and out pitch-framed(?) their opponent to a frightening degree.
If you’ve ever wondered why Trevor Bauer prefers having Roberto Perez catch him over Yan Gomes, tonight’s game was a perfect example. Bauer induced just nine swinging strikes on the night, but he received a whopping 19 called strikes, many of which were on outside corners and close enough to drive Yankee fans absolutely batty on Twitter. But, for the most part, the calls weren’t bad — if anything, Perez’s superb framing ability helped Bauer on some borderline calls, and a lesser catcher might have cost him a few valuable strikes.
But even with one of the best pitch framers in the game, Bauer wouldn’t have pitched five no-hit innings without dominating stuff, and he had it all tonight. His killer knuckle curveball induced four of his nine swinging strikes, and while the Yankees were able to put it in play seven times, the most of any pitch on the night, it rarely went for any damage.
By the end of Bauer’s night — 6.2 innings, eight strikeouts, one walk — he leaned on his curveball 35 times and left the powerful Aaron Judge powerless. Bauer’s work against Judge was especially deadly, as he struck out the big righty three times. The final Judge strikeout potentially saved Bauer’s outing; it came with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth inning. In an alternate (sadder) universe where Judge homers, the Indians have a much harder time cruising to a victory.
Defensively, it was a mix of the usual suspects and a surprising dive that helped the Indians take an early lead in the ALDS. Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor were outstanding in the infield, of course, but it was Jason Kipnis’s diving catch in center field that will go down in history if the Indians make a run deep into October. It wasn’t an easy catch, even for someone like Bradley Zimmer or Greg Allen who are 1) very fast and 2) actually center fielders. Regardless, Kipnis laid out and grabbed it, much to the elation of his pitcher.
If there was a weak point in the Indestructible Indians Machine of Baseball Death, it was the offense. Twice they loaded the bases early on, and they only came away with one run total. It didn’t matter because of Bauer’s terrific start, but notching a handful of hits isn’t going to cut it all postseason long. Let’s just not mince words here: This was the Jay Bruce show. Without him and his dinger and three runs batted in, we all sweat a little more for three hours. But he was awesome tonight, and the deep, deep sting of losing Ryder Ryan slowly begins to fade.