Tonight, a battle of aces turned to a battle of garbage right before our very eyes.
Corey Kluber vs. Michael Fulmer was rightly touted as a pitching duel, but eventually the Detroit Tigers had to use their bullpen, which is bad. And eventually the Cleveland Indians had to hit with runners in scoring position, which is also bad. If not worse.
The real problem for the Indians offense was that they could not get to the American League’s worst bullpen fast enough. Fulmer lasted six innings, holding the Tribe to just two runs despite only striking out one batter. If the Indians want to win, they need to run a starting pitcher like Fulmer out of the game much quicker than that, especially one with a bullpen as bad as Detroit’s.
They did have three innings to work against that legendarily bad bullpen and they still couldn’t get it done. The Indians had plenty of chances in the seventh and eighth innings, getting two runners on in the former and loading the bases in the latter. Timely grondouts ruined all that, and the bottom of the Indians offense gave away two easy outs to start the ninth, dooming Bradley Zimmer’s best efforts from the beginning.
To Zimmer’s credit, he was a little bit of everything tonight. He got on base and showed off his speed when he scored off an Edwin Encarnacion double, he calmy trotted from center field to almost right field to rob Miguel Cabrera of an easy double in the gap, and he kept hope alive in the ninth only to have Francisco Lindor crush it with a strikeout.
On the mound, Corey Kluber had a good start wasted by the offense for the second outing in a row. He wasn’t able to extend his double-digit strikeout streak, but he still finished with eight whiffs and just one earned run allowed in five innings. There was certainly a case to be made that Kluber was being squeezed in the first and fifth innings, but he was flat-out missing his spots inbetween, leading to his shortest outing since May 2. But still, he put the Indians in a position to win and was let down — don’t let a few bad pitches skew that. This game was on the offense.
Now I should note that when I say “the offense,” that is shorthand for “everyone in the lineup except Zimmer, Encarnacion, and Jose Ramirez.” Those three accounted for two hits apiece, six of the Tribe’s eight total hits, and all three of their runs batted in. Ramirez added the game’s only home run as well, which caused Progressive Field to erupt in a “Jose” chant. And anytime that happens, everything in the world can’t be so bad.
And when I say “the offense,” that is also shorthand for “also the bullpen,” because Nick Goody and Dan Otero combining to allow four runs over 1.2 innings certainly didn’t help things. That doesn’t change the fact that the offense had Detroit’s shoddy bullpen on the ropes multiple times and failed to capitalize, but it doesn’t help things, either.
The Tigers, being the Tigers, found something to complain about tonight. No, it wasn’t a wedding ring or anyone stealing signs, but a light in a bathroom of the suites behind home plate.
Word is, the Tigers complained about a light being on in the bathroom of a suite behind home plate. A new one, for sure. https://t.co/fMQaRDK1mY— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 10, 2017
It was cool that the Tigers used a game on the national stage to continue to be big ‘ole whiner babies, but it was even cooler than ESPN used David Ross to call the first Indians Sunday Night Game in forever. He, of course, reminisced about the World Series, and his big game seven hit that still hurts and no I don’t want to talk about I’m not crying you’re crying shutup get out of my game recap I hate you David.
In all honesty, once Ross got past the World Series talk (and if I wasn’t an Indians fan I probably wouldn’t have even minded it), he was pretty great in the booth. The guy has always been charismatic, and he brought it, along with well thought-out and intelligent notes about what was happening on the field, to the ESPN broadcast. The regular Sunday Night Baseball crew was apparently in Florida getting ready for the All-Star break, but I didn’t mind the B-Team whatsoever. They were leagues better than Billy “I hate everything about this damn sport” Ripkin from last night’s FOX broadcast, I know that much.
This loss wasn’t fun, not getting to post the Golden Girls sweep GIF and head into the All-Star break with a win wasn’t fun either, but there is still a lot to feel good about heading into the worst week of the summer. The Indians looked great for most of this series, at home no less, and they lead the AL Central by 2.5 games. A winning streak here and there, maybe a timely trade deadline deal, and suddenly the Indians are in the playoffs and ready to make another run.
...or everyone gets injured at the All-Star game and Bradley Zimmer retires to pursue a career as a Waluigi cosplayer. I don’t know, I’m not a fortune teller.