The Cleveland Indians capped off the first half of the season with a 5-2 win against the New York Yankees. They finish the curiously long “half” with a 52-43 record, the fifth-best run differential in all of baseball, and a clear agenda to improve the roster for a deep postseason run.
There will be plenty of time to speculate on the specifics over the coming All-Star break. For now let’s discuss how the Tribe won in game 95.
Trevor Bauer gave up an early lead in the second inning. Brent Gardner slapped a lead off single, and then advanced on a Didi Gregorious single and a subsequent passed ball. He eventually scored on an Aaron Hicks single. The lead stretched to two in the next frame. I happened to be looking down when it happened, but when I heard the crack of the bat I knew that Neil Walker had gone deep off of Bauer. It was only the sixth home run allowed by Bauer this season.
The Tribe struck back in the bottom of the fourth. Michael Brantley set the table for Edwin Encarnacion by drawing a walk. Edwin took the bird for a walk a few moments later by pulling a ball down the and into the home run porch, tying the game at two.
Bauer also got a little bit of help in the field. During the top of the fifth Yondwr Alonso made a great jumping grab at first to save a run and get out of the inning. Later, Brantley laid out to make a diving catch and steal extra bases from the Yankees.
The Unusual Decisions that Led to a Win
There has been some discussion on the blog as of late regarding the decision making acumen of the Cleveland Indians’ manager, Tito Francona. Are the Indians the winningest team in the American League since Tito took the helm? Yes. Does that exempt him from reproach when he makes awful, miserable, despicable, disgraceful decisions like calling on Roberto Perez to bunt instead of pinch hitting in the bottom of the 7th?
Perez got the bunt down but Kipnis was promptly thrown out at second on a close play. The defender dropped the ball, but the umpire ruled that he lost it in the transfer to throwing hand, preserving the out.
If this was a complete off-day for Gomes, that might be understandable. But no, it’s just a Bauer start, and at that point in the game the odds of him returning were slim. No “personal pitcher” excuses there, Terry. Why not get a fresh bat in to face Tanaka? Why settle for your worst hitter laying down a bunt when he shouldn’t be, and then failing anyway? Why call up the top switch-hitting prospect in all of baseball if you aren’t even going to use him as a situational hitter?
Nobody knows, really. Perez was immediately lifted for Rajai Davis. He and Greg Allen executed a successful hit and run later in the seventh, but the. Frankie flew out to end the inning.
Since the Indians are heading into the all-star break, they had plenty of options in the bullpen this afternoon. No one is going to pitch for the rest of this week, so Francona reached for Carlos Carrasco in the eighth. Only at this time did he put Gomes in the game, as if to set his awful call to make Perez bunt earlier into better relief.
Carrasco thrashed the Yankees orders and would eventually earn the win courtesy of Brantley’s go-ahead dinger to lead off the bottom of the eighth. The crowd wen a bit nuts, but it was only a preview of the rest of the fun. Jose Ramirez singled up the middle next. He then stole second, lost his helmet, and left it behind as he advanced to third on a bad throw. That’s when Encarnacion took a pitch to the hand. It didn’t look good, as he jumped away and immediately trotted to the clubhouse with his head down. Gonzalez came in to pinch run. Early indications are that it’s likely just a bruise, but the play reminded me of Edwin twisting his ankle in the ALDS last season - it looked really bad live, so I’m glad he’s okay.
After Alonso struck out, the Yankees intentionally walked Kipnis to set up the double play and handedness matchup with Yan Gomes and Chad Green. Gomes lifted a fly to medium-deep right field, allowing Ramirez to tag up and score with a head-first, helmet-flying slide. Gonzalez scored in the next at-bat thanks to a wild pitch, putting Kipnis at third as well. He wouldn’t score, but a three-run cushion was more than enough to let Cody Allen nail down his twentieth save of the season. He struck out the two hitters, walked a pinch-hitting Clint Frazier, then got Neil Walker to pop out to right. Ballgame.
The Indians resume baseball games on July 19th against the Texas Rangers. In the interim, enjoy the home run derby and all-star game this week.