Mike Fiers is a very average pitcher. Everything about his career has been good enough — not great, sometimes kind of terrible, but overall okay. For some reason against the Cleveland Indians, he never fails to bring his best stuff, though. Does he just hate Cleveland? Is it Frankie’s smile? Is it the Browns?
It’s the Browns, isn’t it?
We’ll never know, but he showed the good stuff again tonight.
The 33-year-old journeyman held the Indians to three runs off five hits over six innings. That’s just the second time Fiers has allowed more than two runs against the Indians since the beginning of 2016 — so it was an off game for him, contextually, but another solid outing to give his team a chance to beat the big division bully.
For a while, the Indians were all about helping him out, too. Michael Brantley’s range is atrocious and it showed when he completely missed on a lazy fly ball to left field. The ball had a five percent hit probability thanks to its sky-high trajectory, but Brantley either misjudged it from the get-go, or was caught off guard by late movement. Either way, he slid and his glove was about a yard away from the ball as it bounced in fair territory and went for a ground rule double.
And I still don’t know what Jason Kipnis is doing at second base half the time — whether it’s his arm or technique turning double plays, nothing he does on defense looks smooth in any way. Maybe that’s why I still like him so much, he’s not like Francisco Lindor who makes everything looks so effortless (like his gorgeous ninth inning flip). He makes it seem attainable, like I could be out there doing the same thing. It’s refreshing.
Even with all the bad defense, and slow-starting offense, things started to turn after the sixth. The Tigers needed to use more of their roster than just Fiers, and they had to actually use their bullpen, which has been like the April/May Indians bullpen but for the entire season. Tigers manager Rob Gardenhire even managed the bullpen like Tito did just a few months ago, bringing in a left-handed pitcher and allowing Tito to instantly counter with Brandon Guyer, lefty killer. And kill he did.
Not to rag on Tito too much, though, because he did something else creative and — at least for now — effective. He used Cody Allen to close out the seventh inning and for most of the eighth, instead of as a straight closer in the ninth. The move was reportedly meant to get Allen’s mind off the mechanical issues he has faced recently, and boy did it work. He induced a ground ball in his first at-bat and his only baserunner was a walk before Adam Cimber came in and ended the eighth. Not a bad night at all for the struggling closer.
All told, the Indians hit four home runs, half of them coming off the bat of Lindor, one a 107.4 mile-per-hour scorcher (the hardest-hit ball of the game, and another 102.6 miles per hour off the bat. Lindor moves to being tied with Mike Trout with 28 home runs on the season. My favorite thing about Lindor’s night was his first at-bat. If you have MLB.tv, go back and just look at his face — the dude is smiling from ear to ear and trying to hide it when the pitch comes. Fiers is a pitcher that has frustrated Lindor since he debuted, yet here he is ready to bat and still with a smile on his face.
He’s the dang best.