Before you read this recap, please know that I have not forgotten how fun the last week was. Heck, how fun the last year was. But god damn if the Cleveland Indians didn’t deserve to lose tonight. A series of boneheaded decisions, culminating in another awful bunt by Lonnie Chisenhall, snapped the Tribe’s season-high winning streak at six games in the most painful way possible.
For the Indians offense, tonight’s game started like many of them during the streak. Francisco Lindor did something good (hit), followed by something not as good (caught sleeping on the bases), Jose Ramirez hit, and Edwin Encarnacion broke out the parrot to pile on his team-leading 17th home run. The Indians were ahead, and even with Josh Tomlin on the mound, things were looking good.
Oh, wait, no. Everything is on fire and my eyes are melting.
Tomlin wasn’t objectively awful through most of the game, to be fair. He gave up three home runs, but he always does that. He still struck out five and didn’t walk anyone in 4.2 innings of work. The issue is, he shouldn’t have been in for the final three batters he faced. The final two, at the very least. He managed to force Hyn Soo Kim to fly out to lead off the fifth inning, but Ruben Tejada and Seth Smith both singled on ugly at-bats from Tomlin. Predictably, Manny Machado blasted a ball to bring everyone home and tie the game at five.
I don’t really fault Tomlin for this loss. He wasn’t his best, but he’s a pitcher who is going to give up home runs in a park that is going to allow home runs. And to the Indians’ credit, they were in a position to overcome the Baltimore Orioles runs late.
Which brings us to Lonnie’s bunt.
Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion both singled to lead off the seventh. Two on with no out and a perfect opportunity to pull ahead with one of your hottest hitters, Lonnie David Chisenhall, up to bat. Nope, let’s have him bunt. It was such a ridiculously bad decision that I cannot imagine everyone being on board with the decision. If Lonnie wanted to bunt, I can only hope that Tito was doing everything to convince him otherwise in the dugout. If Tito wanted Chisenhall to bunt, I assume he has some kind of blackmail to force him to comply. Otherwise, I have no idea what Chisenhall could possibly have been thinking.
Not only did bunting give up one of 27 precious outs in any given baseball game, but it allowed the Orioles bullpen to walk Carlos Santana to load the bases and bring ice cold Yan Gomes up to bat. Gomes struck out, and Bradley Zimmer grounded out to end the inning. Would I have loved the Indians to somehow stumble their way into a big inning despite the idiocy of bunting with two on and no one out? Of course. Do I also think they kind of deserved the fate they got for burying their heads in old school sand? Absolutely.
And keep your “well the Indians only needed one run to win” faux-strategy to yourself. The Indians did not need just one run to win. This was not the bottom of the 10th inning — the Orioles are a team that can score. And, surprise, you can still score with a runner in scoring position and another on first base. It’s a crazy strategy, hitting the ball instead of laying it on the ground so the opponent can easily throw you out, but it occasionally works.
Zimmer may have grounded out in that silly inning, but overall he had another solid game. He robbed Trumbo of extra bases with his leggy stride in center field, and he went 1-for-3 with a walk and some quality base running. Unless Aaron Judge gets tossed into an active volcano, Zimmer has no chance of being the American League Rookie of the Year, but he’ll leave the Indians with a lot to be proud of when the season ends. Assuming he stays up all year, that is.
Now, I’m not one to whine about baseball things (please don’t fact-check that), but the strike zone was atrocious tonight.
See that little orange dot out there, roaming the free space outside of the strikezone? He’s free of worry, nothing in his life can keep him down. Without the confines of the ‘zone, he can be whatever he wants. He could be a period in the next Song of Ice and Fire installment, or he could live his life as a the bottom-half of an exclamation point somewhere. He has his whole life ahead of him. Instead, he was called a strike. Lindor swung at a lot of bad pitches today, but that was not one of them. And it still got called.
Looking at the final score, it’s hard to even remember the Indians led in this game. So much of the second half was just anger, confusion, and disappointment in the decision-making. Even an attempted comeback in the ninth, which ended with a dud of a Yan Gomes at-bat, never felt like it would really happen.
New winning streak starts tomorrow.