Even with the offense finally turning it on in the middle innings against Jon Lester and capitalizing on some bad defense in the eighth, this still didn’t feel like a preview of a fully-powered Indians offense. I don’t buy the idea that they are going to be able to sustain a winning team by hitting three solo shots and hoping Anthony Rizzo forgets how to throw a baseball a routine (poorly-timed) bunt. That’s not how any of this works.
The emergence of Brandon Guyer against left-handed pitching was absolutely real, though. Maybe the Indians officially inking Melky Cabrera to a deal that serves no other purpose than to replace him lit a fire under him. Not a roaring, murder-the-baseball fire, mind you, but enough that he went 1-for-3 with a walk against one of the league’s premier lefties. That’s the kind of Brandon Guyer the Indians need to pair with a fine wine like Lonnie Chisenhall, and if he keeps doing that maybe he’ll stave off the Melk Man a bit longer.
Guyer’s home run tonight opened the scoring for the Indians, at a time when the offense looked its most bleak. Prior to the fifth-inning blast with two outs, nine of the Indians’ 14 outs came on fly outs, according to FanGraphs’ box score. That’s astoundingly bad, and shows how poorly the Indians are adjusting to whatever opposing pitchers want to throw at them.
Lester is a guy who normally keeps the ball on the ground 48-or-so percent of the time, so it’s not like this was his him beating the Indians with his best stuff in typical Jon Lester fashion. No, the Indians were just trying to crank everything straight up into the air and they were all dying in the outfield or mere feet past third base. Also prior to Guyer’s home run, the Indians only had two balls hit harder than a 100 miles per hour off the bat. That’s pretty phenomenal if I’m up to bat 3,000 times, but not great for a team of Very Large Baseball Men over five-and-a-third innings.
After the Guyer home run, of course, is a completely different story. Guyer merely creaked the door open on the scoring, but Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion kicked it down with a pair of solo shots in the sixth. Maybe still worth noting, the Indians generated three more fly outs from the sixth inning onward. Even when things looked like they were clicking, they weren’t entirely.
The final Tribe run of the game was the weirdest. With Francisco Lindor on first and no one out, Jason Kipnis wanted to get home and watch the LeBron game winner on repeat ASAP so he gave the Cubs a free out in an effort to end the game in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, Anthony Rizzo is a Pacers fan (I assume), and he absolutely whiffed the throw to second base as he attempted to double up on Lindor. The Indians may have scored, but Rizzo clearly won the mind games here.
On the mound, Trevor Bauer may not have had his best command ever (and he wasn’t getting the low strikezone he wanted), but he was still able to do this:
Trevor Bauer, Filthy 87 mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/OhGxqaTTPa— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 26, 2018
Trevor Bauer, Nasty 80mph Curveball (grip/release/spin). pic.twitter.com/u88bEdDNkg— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 25, 2018
...which allowed him to strikeout eight Cubs batters over the course of 6.2 innings and 111 pitches. That seems like a lot of pitches in this day and age, but 111 pitches is nothing for Bauer. His last outing he threw 116 and he has yet to throw fewer than 100 pitches in a start this season. He threw exactly that in his April 7 against the Kansas City Royals, but he has yet to dip into double digits. Not only does that show how effective he has been, as does not allowing more than three runs in any start, but it shows a level of trust from Terry Francona, who we know doesn’t hesitate to turn to his million relievers when he gets the chance.
Unfortunately, that brings us to the bad news of the night. Andrew Miller threw just two pitches before grimacing and giving me heart palpitations. Luckily, he and the Indians took no chances and he came out of the game immediately. Even more luckily, it was just hamstring tightness and not something ripping and tearing. It also gave Tyler Olson another opportunity to shine and show that the Indians have two pretty dang good lefty relievers in their bullpen. One has an otherworldly slider, and the other has more arm slots that any mortal can count. That’s a pretty good combination.
With the combined effort of Trevor Bauer, Brandon Guyer, and maybe a little residual greatness leaking over from Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians managed to split the two-game series with the Cubs, and hopefully stave off some tired World Series jokes for a couple days.