When Sean Manaea stepped onto the pitcher’s mound in the first inning, he was bathed in sunlight, while the Tribe hitters were in shadow. But even when the sun dipped low enough to place both mound and plate in shadow, it didn’t make much of a difference.
The same lineup that handed Sonny Gray his worst outing of the season seemed hesitant at the plate against Manaea, not picking up the baseball clearly out of his hand. The Cleveland Indians managed just two hits off him, one on a single off the bat of Daniel Robertson, the other on Francisco Lindor’s home run. Lindor had by far the best swings off Manaea, as in his first at-bat he hit a line drive that center fielder Mark Canha tracked down at the base of the left-field wall.
Manaea’s fastball topped out at 93 mph, but I think it was his mechanics that really baffled the Indians. His release point is hard to pick up, as it’s coming slightly to the side, and that release point was constant throughout the evening.
Jose Ramirez, who has been on fire the last few games, really seemed frustrated in his times facing the Oakland southpaw. And when he did reach base on a walk, he ran himself into a double play because he didn’t see Austin Jackson’s fly out after taking off towards second.
Mike Clevinger wasn’t bad himself, but he made one more mistake than Manaea did. Matt S. today @on this site@ pondered whether curve ball specialists might thrive in the current environment, and in the comments section Supershaw noted that a hung curve was the slugger’s best friend. And while Mike Clevinger didn’t get beat with a hung curve, he did get beat by two hung sliders, both to the same hitter. Both pitches were intended to end up down and away, and both times the ball ended up on the inner half of the plate to Chad Pinder, who didn’t miss either mistake.
Otherwise Clevinger had a fine game. He allowed five hits in total over his 6.2 innings of work, striking out seven in the process. Had he pitched last night, he would have been the winning pitcher and nobody would have cared about the two homers. But such is the cruelty of time and place for a pitcher.
Some minor things that stuck out to me, in case you feel like reading more about this game:
- Zach McAllister’s second pitch has made him a viable pitcher again. For years he’s tried to find an off-speed pitch that he can throw for a strike, and I think finally he’s found one. He’s not really been in many high-leverage situations, but I think he’s going to be working himself into more as the season goes on. Having a reliever who has a 96-97 mph fastball and a credible curve pitching the eighth inning when you’re behind is a testament to how deep this bullpen is now.
- Michael Brantley played Yonder Alonso’s ball off the wall so well, he badly missed his throw to second but Alonso was still tagged out. The 19-foot-wall in left isn’t the Green Monster as far as weird hops are concerned, but it does demand some knowledge from the left fielders who play in front of it, and Brantley has become really good at playing line drives over his head.
- Speaking of Brantley, I thought his 12-pitch at-bat against Manaea in the seventh, even though it ended in an out, could have be important because it perhaps chased him an inning early. But the Indians couldn’t get to either Ryan Madson in the eighth or Santiago Cassila in the ninth.
- Also! Brantley did reach base in the ninth inning when Khris Davis badly misplayed his fly ball, but the play was ruled an error. Had the sun been out, the scorekeeper could have ruled the play a hit, as Davis didn’t get a glove on the ball. But it was an error, and so Brantley’s 14-game hitting streak came to an end.