So many frustrating things came out of this game, with most of them happening in the eighth inning. Lest we forget, the Indians added an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning thanks to Carlos Santana’s RBI single, but they could have added at least one more had Abe Almonte stood still while Ramirez and Santana pulled off a double switch. But Almonte swung, and flied out harmlessly to center, and the Indians were lucky to stay out of a double play. Had the Indians added on, perhaps the events of the eighth inning wouldn’t have been enough to turn the game around.
The bottom of the inning started on a sour note, with Boone Logan leaving the game after his second batter faced with what looks like a serious arm injury. We’ll need to wait for confirmation from the Indians, but I think the Tribe front office may need to add a left-handed reliever to their shopping list this July. So Bryan Shaw, who was warming up anyway, entered the game a couple batters early. Shaw’s pitches are always moving, but today his location was awful, beginning with his 2-2 pitch to Brandon Crawford. The Giants shortstop pulled Shaw’s pitch into right field, putting runners at the corners with one down. Then Shaw got hurt by his defense, for Brandon Belt hit a grounder right at first baseman Carlos Santana, but the ball hopped over Santana’s glove, through his legs, and into right field. Perhaps the Indians could have turned a difficult double play, but let’s say that Belt beat the relay out, allowing the tying run to score. Then Shaw strikes out Nick Hundley to limit the damage.
Or maybe not. I’m not familiar enough with Bruce Bochy’s usage of Buster Posey to gauge what he would have done had Hundley stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on first (perhaps he really wanted Posey to get a day off from catching), but he did send Posey to the plate with runners at the corners, two outs, and his team down 4-3. This is where Terry Francona had a decision to make. It would have gone against convention to put Posey on, moving the go-ahead runner to second base, but at the same time, there is a vast difference in skill level between Posey and Gorkys Hernandez, the on-deck hitter. But Francona let Shaw face Posey, and for a couple pitches it looked as though he made the correct call, as Shaw got a head of Posey 0-2. Shaw would just miss the outside corner on the 2-2 pitch, but a couple pitches later, missed badly on the plate, and Posey took advantage of it. He hit a ball that went over Michael Brantley’s head, and because the ball bounced off the wall and back towards the infield instead of over the fence, both runners were able to score. And just to put a nice cherry on top of the inning, Shaw struck out Hernandez on four pitches.
The blown lead erased a workmanlike outing from Carlos Carrasco. Carlos wasn’t especially sharp, allowing six hits and two walks in six innings (including a home run), but got the Indians to the seventh inning with a lead. He even helped his own cause at the plate, working a walk and scoring from second (on a very good slide) on a ball that ate up Brandon Belt. The Giants were sitting several of their key players, making an already weak lineup even weaker, but give Carrasco credit for not allowing any big innings. Through most of this game, I thought the Indians would pull out an ugly win, but wasn’t inclined to dock style points given how poorly the team has played since the All-Star Break. But an ugly loss? I’m going to pick all the nits I saw.
The capstone to the ugly afternoon came in the ninth, when Sam Dyson attempted to close the game. Dyson, you may remember, was responsible for giving up Francisco Lindor’s dramatic grand slam the first week of the season, and now, pitching for the Giants, got a chance to exorcise somewhat those bad experiences. But it wasn’t an easy inning, for he’d give up a single to Brandon Guyer, then walked Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley to load the bases with two outs. Up to the plate stepped Jose Ramirez, who had already collected two hits on the day. Dyson fell behind Ramirez 2-0, then got a called strike despite missing his target by the entire width of the strike zone. That call was actually correct, though you normally rarely see that type of pitch called a strike. The following strike (number 4 below), however, was an awful call.
That changed the course of the at-bat, with Ramirez now having to swing at anything close. He would swing at a borderline strike (pitch 6) and fly out harmlessly to end the game, leaving the bases loaded.
The Indians still are in first place, but barely. Their lead is now a half-game over the Twins, with the Royals just 2.5 games back as of 7:30 Eastern. This was supposed to be a stretch of games in which the Indians put some distance between them and their AL Central competition, but a 1-5 trip to the Bay Area means that they return home with the division very much up for grabs, and with the upcoming schedule chock full of playoff contenders, it’s only going to get more difficult from here on.