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Mid-game magic wasted by rare bullpen implosion

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This game could have been so much better.

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers - Game One Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

In all honesty, I missed the first ~hour or so of this game because of a work emergency I was dealing with. Once I settled in, the Tribe was already down 2-1 before adding two runs in the fourth inning thanks to a Jose Iglesias double. I thought “hey, maybe I missed the worst part of the game and it can only get better from here”. Up through the top half of the seventh inning, I was right. But things went bad in a hurry in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a bullpen implosion by the team with the better bullpen.

Some of the things I missed this morning included Josh Tomlin being Josh Tomlin. After the Tribe staked an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning (thanks to a sac fly by Jason Kipnis), Josh Tomlin’s patented Solo Shots made not one appearance, but two. J.D. Martinez turned on an inside pitch elevated in the zone and crushed a home run deep up the seats in left field. Tomlin gives up home runs, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Miguel Cabrera then stepped to the plate and did what Miguel Cabrera does: hit dingers against the Cleveland Indians. A pitch just below the zone was golfed into the bullpen out in left center field to give the Tigers the lead. I don’t fault Tomlin for giving up home runs to those two players because they are both good at hitting and Tomlin isn’t great at pitching. Basic arithmetic says that those situations will typically not end well for the Tribe.

The next inning, the pain continued as Tomlin gave up back to back singles to Victor Martinez and Mikie Mahtook to start the inning. After a strikeout of James McCann, Jose Iglesias looped a double into the gap just out of reach of a diving* Bradley Zimmer, clearing the bases and extending the Detroit lead to 4-1.

The Indians weren’t about to just roll over and die. With a shaky Detroit bullpen looming, Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall knocked Anibal Sanchez out of the game in the seventh thanks to a double and a single that cut the lead to 4-2. Daniel Stumpf entered the game and worked the count full on Carlos Santana. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Stumpf left a pitch up near the letters and Santana took off to Cloud City and tied the game. At this point, with both starters out of the game and the fate of the game in the hands of each team’s respective bullpens, things were looking up for the Tribe.

Enter Bryan Shaw.

I do not think that Bryan Shaw is a bad pitcher. Truly I do not. But our own Brian Hemminger came up with a theory that I think holds up:

“This is the problem with Shaw. Normally he's good. But when he's bad, he's insanely bad...So the bad moments are so memorable”

Shaw leads baseball in appearances with 40. If Shaw was this bad all the time, he wouldn’t have a job. The majority of Shaw’s appearances are solid and typically serve as a bridge to the Miller/Allen combo. Today was not one of those days. After walking J.D. Martinez on five pitches, he miraculously got Miguel Cabrera to weakly pop out to right field. However, Nick Castellanos found a gap in the massive wasteland that is the Comerica Park outfield and motored to third with an RBI triple. I place the blame for this one on our good friends Rick Manning and Matt Underwood, as pointed out by our own Matt Schlichting:

Singles by Mahtook and McCann would push across two more runs for the Tigers, effectively erasing the three runs that Cleveland had scored in the top half of the inning. Michael Brantley would get a single in the eighth inning, but the magic was tapped and the game ended with Detroit winning their fifth game in seven chances against the Cleveland Indians so far in 2017.

The nightcap starts in a few hours. Carlos Carrasco is taking on Jordan Zimmermann, and a split would be absolutely lovely.

*This was the second dive that Zimmer attempted during this game. This one did not result in an out, but the first one sure did.