Terry Francona reportedly talked with players prior to today’s game about the important of this series, and the upcoming stretch of games, and it certainly looks like something clicked.
The first hustle I noticed came before the Indians even scored a run. Bradley Zimmer’s lead-off ground out in the third inning shows up as just that, an out. But actually watching the play, a slow-roller to the Astros first baseman, it was remarkable how close Zimmer came to legging out a hit. He hit a dribbler that he had no business being anywhere near a hit and he came within a footstep of turning it. Pure, unadulterated hustle.
Bradley Zimmer also had a fantastic sixth inning. First, he laid off a pitch that has been his nemesis in the early part of his career and drew a walk. Then he hustled down to second base to avoid what should have been an easy double play. He laid off two pitches in particular — curveballs down over the center of the plate — in almost the exact same spot (and one of those strikes should have been a ball):
There appears to already be a book out on Zimmer to throw down here, and Morton apparently spent his off-day reading it. All four of those pitches down were curveballs. Morton tried to do the same thing earlier in the third inning, but he couldn’t get the pitches down far enough. He still induced a ground out with it, though.
Morton’s increased curveball use shouldn’t be a surprise to you, because I mentioned it in the series preview that has been conveniently pinned on the front page for a day and a half now. And you do read every single thing we write at Let’s Go Tribe. Don’t you? Don’t you?
Another hustle play that didn’t result in anything, and actually ended up kind of bad, was Francisco Lindor’s hustle home on a passed ball in the fifth inning. It’s hard to fault Lindor’s effort on the failed attempt to grab home that resulted in the second out of the inning, but he sure did hustle. The real issue was just that he hesitated and didn’t seem to pick up the ball immediately. He also probably should have slid in feet first as he came up after the play kind of awkwardly shaking his shoulders. My heart sank for a minute, but he appeared to be fine, then came out in the next inning and turned a fantastic, twirling play to get a runner out at first. Frankie’s okay, y’all.
Or how about Lonnie Chisenhall’s attempted hustle in the third inning when he juuuuust missed robbing Josh Reddick of a home run? If only he were a foot taller or the fans were a foot less annoying.
If you like your hustle to actually result in a run, take a gander at Jose Ramirez, a man made of nothing but pure golden hair and stalwart hustle. He took advantage of a defensive miscue in the eighth to turn a double into a triple and was hit home shortly after by Lonnie Chisenhall. Make no mistake about it — Lonnie gets the RBI, but that run was all a result of Ramirez.
As for the dingers, Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall all went yard. I was a bit surprised to see Lonnie’s with an exit velocity of only 95.1 miles per hour. I thought for sure he blistered it, but Baseball Savant did not even categorize it as a barreled ball. Kipnis’ 101.6 mile-per-hour bomb was indeed barreled, though.
As for Bauer, he once again gave up an appropriate amount of runs for a competent offense to get a win. Lucky for him, the offense was very competent tonight, unlike in some of his fewer starts. After a couple rough spots throughout the game, Bauer finished with nine strikeouts and a streak of 10 straight batters retired. Those 10 batters were sandwiched by homers — Reddick in the third and Carlos Correa in the sixth — but that is one hell of a start, regardless.
It was a great game for the Indians. They are not out of the woods yet — keep in mind they had to play their hearts out to come away with a narrow two-run win — but they are in a great spot to finally get on track in 2017.
I leave you with this realization brought about by our own Matt Schlichting. I will never look at Bradley Zimmer the same.