There are only so many mistakes you can overcome in a game, no matter how good of a team you are.
It’s debatable about just what tier the Cleveland Indians are in the great echelon of baseball teams, but they certainly are not in the one that can have its manager, offense, defense, starting pitcher, and bullpen all bungle a game on the same day and still expect to win.
First, the very few good things to come out of this game.
Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez homered in the same inning, providing the Indians with their only base hits until the ninth inning, and their only runs for the entire game. They weren’t back-to-back because they sandwiched a Michael Brantley fly out, but they both homered in the fourth inning on a pair of absolutely crushed baseballs. Lindor’s 420-foot monster dong left his bat at 107.2 miles per hour, while Jose Ramirez’s 382-foot shot left at 100.1 miles per hour.
Ramirez’s home run wasn’t even the second hardest hit ball by the Tribe. No, that honor goes to Yonder Alonso — which serves as a nice segue into the awful abyss that was the rest of this game. Alonso’s game-ending double play was a 102.1 mile-per-hour bullet with a Yandy Diazian launch angle of... one. That’s not a great showing when you’re up to bat down by five with one out and the bases loaded. In fact, some might say that’s the absolute worst showing imaginable.
Adam Plutko may have went step-for-step with Edwin Jackson early on, matching the veteran’s perfect game through three innings with his own bid at history, but where Jackson only faltered on two bad pitches to Lindor and Ramirez, Plutko fully collapsed in a nightmare sixth inning. The only out that he recorded in his final frame was a foul out for the second out of the inning. Prior to that, he allowed a double (Brantley threw out Canha when he tried to stretch it to triple), home run, single, double, and a walk in that depressing order.
Plutko lost total control of the zone, bounced pitches, and overall looked ready to be out of there maybe three or four batters before he was finally pulled. He missed so wildly, yet so consistently, that you can kind of see what he was trying to do in his pitch chart for that inning.
The bullpen hasn’t been a total trainwreck in what feels like forever, so they were due for a clunker, I guess. At least they didn’t technically lose this game since Plutko left with a 3-2 deficit, but they certainly didn’t make trying to win the game any easier. Dan Otero — after pitching a clean seventh inning — allowed a home run in the second at-bat of the eighth. Shortly after, Josh Tomlin entered the game and was ineffectively wild. Zero command at the plate, couldn’t find the strike zone, and still managed to give up a home run to Matt Olson.
Tomlin’s disasterous afternoon snapped a streak of five appearances in which he held his opponents in the stadium. His last home run surrender was on June 1.
The pièce de ré·sis·tance to this meal of terror was Terry Francona being absolutely out-managed by Bob Melvin. There’s no way to avoid saying it, no matter how big of a fan you are of Tito (and I’m a big one) — he was out-managed.
In particular, Francona pinch-hit Brandon Guyer for Lonnie Chisenhall to lead off the eighth inning because the Athletics had a lefty on the mound. Brandon Guyer kills lefties, so yay, Tito, right? Well, no. Unfortunately, the opposing manager is well within his right to a) look at a scouting report and see that Brandon Guyer is abysmal against right-handed pitchers and b) switch in a right-handed pitcher to strike him out with very little effort.
I’m just not sure what Francona’s end-game was there. Did he think Melvin just wouldn’t notice Guyer was coming in the game and would leave his lefty specialist in the game? I guess maybe he thought that the lefty would remain in the game to also take out Jason Kipnis, but that would have been a bad decision on Melvin’s part, because of how good Guyer is against lefties. It’s a neat game of chess that managers have to play, and it sucks when you have to watch your own manager get so out-played. Even more so when the answer is already on the lineup card ready to go. Lonnie is good enough against righties and lefties. Let the man hit a baseball.
This is another frustrating loss for the Indians, and they head into tomorrow on the verge of being swept by the A’s — one of many teams above .500 they have struggled against this season. I will say, though, it’s important to remember that the only thing that matters is getting to the postseason. In baseball, you can absolutely stumble into the playoffs by beating up on bad teams, get hot at the right time, and win a World Series. Maybe that’s what the Indians are going for. I have to hope so.