First, they were inspired. Now, they’re sad and tired. The Indians jumped to an early lead against the Mariners and looked poised to take the first series of the year. This did not happen. Timely hitting carried the Mariners past the Indians 5-4 today. Since it’s Easter, and since Jesus Christ Superstar is on TV tonight, I’ll let Ted Neeley vent for me.
The sustained g5 in Gethsemane is the most important. pic.twitter.com/KysRYtN80O— Veridis Quo ☠️ (@METAKNlGHT) April 1, 2018
If I’m being honest there is another miracle that we should spend the rest of the day acknowledging, but we’ll get to that.
I want to start by talking about Trevor Bauer. The righty debuted his new breaking ball today. I wondered on more than one occasion if he decided to be a little too cute with it. It swoops out of the zone like a hummingbird, but it’s clear he doesn’t quite have the control mastered. This is fine, sometimes. If a pitcher is locating his fastball, and his breaking stuff looks just like it as it’s coming out of his hand, it’s still going to miss bats. That’s the key. However, when hitters know you’re going to throw 40% breaking balls and you aren’t Madduxing them in there, you can’t expect the bat to leave their shoulders as often.
From the stretch, when Bauer threw three pitches it felt like thirty. The pace of the game noticeably declined, as did his effectiveness. The third inning in particular interested me tonight. He threw 32 pitches, ten of which were classified as curveballs by ESPN. He started three at-bats with that pitch, including one in which he opened with three in a row. I’ve been touting the increased rate of breaking balls around the league, though it will be interesting to keep an eye on the trend. Are some hitters starting to make the adjustment? Might Bauer let the pendulum swing too far? I trust that the work he did in the offseason paid off. Should I trust that the work he put in this offseason finally paid off? It’ll take most of the rest of the season to learn the answers. We will not see just a little of an omnipresent brain in the meantime.
That being said, we received a five-inning start from Bauer in which he only gave up two runs. We’ll see if he can change what we consider to be a vintage Bauer start this season, but for now, that’s still it.
At the plate, Bradley Zimmer opened the scoring by singling to right field with two out. Edwin swatted a solo shot to lead off the fourth. These were nice things. Unfortunately, the bottom of the fifth is when things came back to bit Bauer. David Freitas doubled, scooted to third on a Dee Gordon sacrifice, and scored on a Jean Segura double. After striking out Cano, he hit Mitch Haniger and surrendered an unusual double to Kyle Seager. The ball shot off the bat directly toward Yonder Alonso. Expecting it gloveside and chest height, Alonso couldn’t do much when it took a spin-driven bounce over his head on the other side of his body. This allowed Segura to score, tying the game.
Despite another left-handed hitter at the plate in Daniel Vogelbach and a warm Tyler Olson in the pen, Francona let Bauer pitch his way out of the inning. He earned another strikeout on his 100th pitch, but lost a chance at his first win of the season. To his credit, it’s not as if the doubles were stroked.
Hit probabilities of the three doubles in this inning: 24%, 60%, 9%.— Kevin Dean (@kvnbsbl) April 1, 2018
He could just as easily have given up none. BABIP is far too keen on ‘where’ and ‘how’ and not so hot on ‘why’.
Things didn’t improve for the Indians from there. Dee Gordon homered in the bottom of the seventh. WAIT NO DON’T CLOSE THE TAB I’M NOT LYING HE REALLY DID IT. This is the aforementioned miracle. Dan Otero hung one and Gordon launched it. There’s no other way to say it. If you want to know how bad it was, Gordon strutted out of the box like it was a 450-ft no-doubter. It was not nearly that far, but let’s be honest — when Gordon hears that sound come from his bat, he knows its gone, because it’s only happened about 20 times in his entire life.
Much more frustrating than that: Tyler Olson came in and gave up a two-run home run. Hinager was looking fastball, got fastball, and turned on it. Olson’s scoreless streak is dead, there is no Easter bunny, and jet fuel is capable of deteriorating the structural integrity of steel to the point of failure.
Tribe fans received a little bit of hope thanks to the big offseason acquisitions from the last two years. In the 8th, Yonder Alonso hit a double that would be a home run in city other than Seattle, or any month other than April. Edwin Encarnacion brought him home with another bomb to left field. The Indians were within one, but would only creep that close. Edwin Diaz earned his second save of the season by striking out Francisco Lindor.
While it may be a disappointing start of the season for the Tribe, I trust that we’ll all see the saga through. The Indians always seem to struggle on the west coast, and starting the season with two series there feels like a cruel joke.
The next game by the Tribe is tomorrow at 10:07 EDT on Monday Night Baseball. The season is long, the team is good, and someone should probably take this cup away from me if I’m going to go the distance.