The game started off so wonderfully. I got home from work and flipped on my TV, not remembering which channel that Fox Sports West was on; luckily, the last thing I watched must’ve been on that channel because as my TV illuminated, I was greeted with an image of Jose Ramirez standing in the batter’s box against Garrett Richards, who was ahead in the count 0-1. A few seconds passed and Richards let loose a 96mph fastball that was immediately turned on and deposited into the right field bleachers. And just like that, the Indians picked up where they left off last night at the Big A and had an early lead thanks to a home run.
Little did I know of the horror that would follow.
Josh Tomlin stepped on the mound for the first time in 2018 and quickly demonstrated how not to pitch at the major league level. After getting Zack Cozart to fly out, Tomlin, similar to Mike Clevinger last night, threw just three pitches to Mike Trout in his first at-bat of the game. The difference was that Clevinger threw three explosive fastballs that got Trout to strikeout swinging; tonight, Tomlin left an 88mph sinker in the zone and let Trout blast a home run to center field. Tomlin (a home run prone pitcher) versus Mike Trout (Mike Trout) is a recipe for disaster, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Tomlin’s first Vintage Solo Shot came at the hands of the best player in baseball. 38 pitches and 7 batters later, Rene Rivera flew out to Bradley Zimmer to cap off a 6-run inning for the Halos.
Trout had the first home run of the game, but it sure as hell wasn’t the most memorable. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, you know that Shohei Ohtani is attempting something incredibly difficult in modern baseball by trying to be a legitimate two-way player. Tonight marked his first start at the Big A and the man did not disappoint. After working Tomlin to a 2-2 count, Ohtani turned on an inside 73mph curve* and launched it into the right field seats. His first major league home run came at home in his first at-bat in front of a home crowd. In all honesty, I didn’t care about the remainder of the game at that point. If the Indians lost, so be it. It’s game 5 of 162. Ohtani will never have another first at-bat in Angel Stadium, and all 35,000 fans in attendance (one of which was my best friend who promptly walked to the gift shop to purchase an Ohtani jersey following the home run) will remember this game and that moment for years to come.
Anyway, back to the train wreck of a baseball game.
Remember how I said that Jose Ramirez had that 2-run home run in the first inning (which also happened to be his first hit of the season)? When I saw it, I didn’t imagine it would be the only Cleveland hit of the entire evening. Which says a lot about the pitching of Garrett Richards. Richards made one bad pitch all game and then settled in on cruise control for the remainder of his 5.2 innings. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and had biting movement. His curveball had devastating drop that caused many hitters to swing right over the top of it and miss. He wasn’t perfect, however; Richards did walk four batters over the course of the game, but his nine strikeouts were enough to counteract any rally that the Indians hoped to start. Richards handed the game off to the trio of Johnson, Parker, and Wood who combined for a flawless 3.1 innings to close out the game.
The Cleveland relief corps, on the other hand, couldn’t stop the onslaught from the Angels after Tomlin lasted just 3.0 innings. Dan Otero had a clean fourth inning, but he gave up a pair of doubles, a single, and a walk in the fifth to give the Angels two more runs. Newcomer Matt Belisle was the only Cleveland pitcher to look somewhat decent, going two scoreless innings before passing the baton to Zach “1.5 pitch” McAllister, who promptly gave up a single an a home run (the fifth for the Angels) to Rene Rivera to make it a baker’s dozen.
If I’m being honest, I got home very late from last night’s game (it went over 3 and a half hours) and woke up 5am this morning for work. After dragging through the day, I settled in for what I hoped was an exciting Cleveland game. Instead, my attention drifted somewhere near the fourth inning and my body must’ve known that nothing was going to change because I dozed off through the last third of this game. But like I said above, it’s game 5 of 162. There is plenty of baseball left to play, such as tomorrow when Corey Kluber faces off against Tyler Skaggs in the daytime rubber match of this series. That being said, I hope that there are fewer games like this one going forward.
*As bad as Tomlin was tonight (and he was atrocious), this particular pitch was not that bad, as pointed out by our own Matt Schlichting:
Yeah, this curveball on 2-2 is not a bad pitch. It's just good hitting. pic.twitter.com/FbDxtSPofr— Matt Schlichting (@MattSchlichting) April 4, 2018