To quote the great Merritt Rohlfing, the Indians farted into their own pillow tonight. I can’t think of a better way to sum up what just happened in Houston, and because of the 8:00 p.m. start time, I don’t really have the energy to think of one right now.
A fantastic Mike Clevinger start, an offense that occasionally had life, a stunningly effective defense, and even a bullpen that didn’t completely implode for half an inning. For the 2018 Indians, that’s the best they can hope for on any given night, but it just wasn’t enough against the defending World Champions.
For the longest time, Clevinger and Astros starter Charlie Morton had themselves an old fashioned pitchers’ duel. The Astros run came off a George Springer solo home run in the third, and the Indians answered with an Edwin Encarnacion bomb in the seventh. While Springer’s shot would not have been a home run in a ballpark not built for toddlers — what with its 89.7 mile-per-hour exit velocity, 369-foot estimated distance, and eight percent hit probability, Edwin’s was an absolute blast, leaving his bat at little over 105 miles per hour and likely leaving a divot in the right-field bleachers.
During the course of the game, the STO broadcast was talking about how the Astros knew that Clevinger’s breaking and off-speed stuff were great. I believe the phrase “best they’ve seen” was thrown around. They might not be wrong, or they might have been playing it up for the pre-game interview.
Regardless, their goal was to avoid all that and just hope to hit fastballs hard. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they were able to do. Clevinger threw 106 total pitches tonight — which may or may not be an issue in itself, but that’s another story — and 55 of them were fastballs. Of those fastballs, 10 were put into play, mostly hit very, very hard. The other 51 pitches? A mix of curveballs, sliders, and changeups that were put into play a combined nine times and mostly harmless. It’s hard to beat a great team like the Astros normally, it’s even more difficult when they apparently have you scouted to a T.
That’s not to say Clevinger had a bad game by any means, and I’d argue he was way better than his final line (6.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 SO, 4 BB) would suggest. If the Indians had a healthy, trustworthy, bullpen he’s probably taken out before the sixth inning even starts and he avoids walks the first batters he faces, giving up a double to Tony Kemp, and watching Neil Ramirez allow another run to score a batter later. The domino effect of this awful bullpen just doesn’t seem to end, and its latest victim was Micheal Anthony Clevinger.
Before things went to heck in a footbasket (depressingly enough less than half an inning after Edwin tied it), the Indians defense was stellar. Jose Ramirez nearly had a triple play at one point, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was snagging line drives and forcing double plays. Likewise, Greg Allen ignited those Kenny Lofton comparisons again with a tremendous grab in the first inning. Some people might tell you that I publicly stated I don’t see Greg Allen as a superstar on some podcast or something, but don’t believe them, and definitely don’t listen to Episode 88 of the Let’s Talk Tribe podcast to find your ill-gotten proof.
Zach McAllister was awful as always, whatever. Here’s Francisco Lindor having a lightsaber duel with the Astros mascot:
I don’t know why they’re using a royalty-free Sonic the Hedgehog knock-off for the background music, so don’t ask.