Bullpens battled on the south side of Chicago for the win this afternoon in a contest between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians. Hanging in the balance for the Indians? The chance to extend a ten game winning streak. For the White Sox? Just pride, really — a loss would have extended their record in the last sixteen games to 1-15.
If it were a shootout I’d be happy to bring out the “Indians’ flinched first” cliche, but the end felt about as anticlimactic and predictable as the first half of the Indians’ season. The White Sox cut down the Indians’ winning streak at nine games. Matt Davidson connected for a two-run home run to walk off the Indians 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th.
It is said that to keep a winning streak live, a team needs to keep finding different ways to eeke out wins while avoiding bad luck. It finally caught up with the Indians today. Starter Josh Tomlin commanded the game through the first four innings, allowing only two baserunners thanks to an error by Francisco Lindor and a hit-by-pitch. A tight hamstring forced him out of the game while warming up to enter the 5th, cutting his bid for a no-hitter short. Thanks to a Lindor solo shot in the third he left with the lead, but Leury Garcia mashed solo home run of his own to tie the game off of Nick Goody. It’s not as if Goody gave up the lead without a fight; Garcia is the only batter Goody faced that he failed to strike out.
As a whole the Indians bullpen did a fantastic job holding up its end of the bargain in preserving an excellent, if brief, start from Tomlin. Dan Otero chipped in with an inning and a third of work, allowing only a hit and a walk. Up to this point there had only been two hits surrendered all game.
Then, Bryan Shaw came out to finish the 8th and returned for the 9th. The rest will feel familiar. In fact, I offer it as a template to the rest of the writing staff here at Let’s Go Tribe:
Bryan Shaw is tasked with one of the more difficult roles in baseball: pitching at every whim of Terry Francona, and often in games that are tied or close in the late innings. In most of his appearances, Shaw enters the game, finishes the job without any flourishes, and leaves to little fanfare. It is the occasions when he does not get the job down that he has become known for. It happened again today in the [bottom of the 9th] against [Matt Davidson]. Shaw [left a pitch over the middle of the plate], and [Davidson] did what you expect a major league level hitter to do: he clobbered it.
Is this entirely fair for Shaw to own this reputation? No — Shaw pitches in more high-leverage situations than almost any other pitcher in baseball. It follows, then, that he will “blow” more games than similar setup men who pitch about half as many innings. There are very few instances in which Shaw has to leeway to give up a single run and not also give up the lead.
That doesn’t change the fact that his job is to retire hitters, and he failed to do so today. It cost the Indians the game.
Today’s game happened to be a little more complex than that. In fact, I offer up another template for fellow writers to use, since it also seems to be a recurring theme this season:
The Indians pitching staff kept the [White Sox] offense at bay and the game within striking distance. A better performance at the plate would have carried to day for the Tribe, but once again they suffered from an inability to hit with runners in scoring position. [This afternoon] they went [0-7] in such situations. It’s not as if the Indians weren’t able to hit [Carlos Rodon and company], but they fell victim to poor sequencing and couldn’t connect when it counted. Or, they totally choked. I guess it depends on where you stand when it comes to clutch hitting.
One bright spot in the Indians lineup today was Jose Ramirez, who collected another double to reach  on the season.
Yes, I’m assuming that Jose will just double in every game from here on out.
Additional Tidbits that you may find Noteworthy
- Austin “Ajax” Jackson is now hitting .331/.414/.508. I’m just as confused as you are, but I’m certainly not complaining. Tito apparently has some voodoo platooning magic that he unleashes on discarded outfielders.
- The Indians only drew two walks today despite facing Rodon, who averaged 7 BB/9 entering today’s game.
- Carlos Santana, Bradley Zimmer, and Lindor are each guilty of leaving two hitters in scoring position with two outs today. They should be all sad and hunched over in the corner when you come home, pretending that they don’t see the torn up toilet paper all over the place.