Trevor Bauer pitched an excellent game even though he only struck out three Rangers. The method for Bauer’s success was weak grounders, which not only got Bauer out of the few jams he faced, but allowed him to pitch into the seventh inning. 10 of the 19 outs Trevor recorded were via a ground ball. Bauer heavily featured his curve from the beginning of the game to his final hitters of the evening; he spiked several curves into the dirt, but was able to throw enough of them for strikes to keep the Rangers on their heels. A lot of Bauer’s troubles have come from missing out of the strike zone early in the count, but tonight he for the most part was able to get ahead of hitters, making that curve just out of the strike zone a pitch to swing at instead of to spit upon.
In the case of the Nomar Mazzaro at-bat in the sixth inning, he threw nothing but curves in a critical situation. Jose Ramirez had made an outstanding defensive play on an Adrian Beltre grounder down the line, but the Rangers now had runners on second and third with two down. Mickey Callaway went to the mound before Mazzaro stepped to the plate, and perhaps said something to the effect of “don’t you dare throw him a fastball”. And so Bauer threw him six consecutive curves, eventually inducing a weak grounder to end the threat. Bauer would retire the first batter he faced in the seventh, and then give way (with Callaway doing the honors - Terry Francona was in the dugout, but not up to trudging to the mound after his medical scare a couple days ago) to Andrew Miller.
The Indians scored three runs off Rangers starter Yu Darvish, one coming just two batters into the game, the other two in the third inning. Darvish, who has the most diverse repertoire of pitches in the game, bent in those early innings but recovered to keep the game close. But the Indians had forced him to make loads of pitches, and so by the sixth Darvish was over 100 pitches, and given that he had left his last start with a sore tricep, the Rangers were forced to turn the game over to their beleaguered bullpen.
The Indians jumped on the opportunity (or not, depending on whether you liked the process). Bradley Zimmer and Roberto Perez would work walks off Ernesto Frieri, then Jason Kipnis would lay down a sacrifice bunt, pushing the runners to second and third. I didn’t agree with the move, especially given that the Indians already had a lead, and that the reliever had just walked the first two batters of the inning. With the top of the order up and the table already set, why not go for the knockout blow rather than a couple of jabs? The Rangers would elect to intentionally walk Francisco Lindor to load the bases, but both Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion would single to push the lead to 5-1. Jose Ramirez ended the threat with a double play. Thankfully the Indians didn’t need more than those two runs, or that bunt would in retrospect hurt. But it’s still an annoyance.
Andrew Miller did would he usually does, which is be the most dominant reliever in the game. He retired the first batter he saw thanks to an at-em ball, then decided against the Rangers making contact, striking out the final four he faced. Performances like tonight have been typical for Miller, but I don’t ever think they’ll get boring. The Texas hitters strolled to the plate to face Miller with looks of resignation on their faces, perhaps thinking that hitting a foul ball would be a minor victory.
Things changed in the ninth. Cody Allen, who had given up the go-ahead home run last night, came into the game, his third appearance in as many days even though he didn’t enter a save situation. That means he won’t be available tomorrow afternoon, but perhaps Francona wished to get him into a game as soon as possible after yesterday’s loss. But rather than a quick and easy rebound appearance for Allen, the ninth inning turned into a dicey situation. Allen gave another home run, this time to Tribe killer Elvis Andrus, then back-to-back singles to fan favorite Jonathan Lucroy and Rougned Odor, which brought the tying run to the plate. Allen used his curve, which was by far his most effective pitch tonight, to put away Robinson Chirinos and finally end the game.