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Late bullpen implosion wastes solid Corey Kluber start

Baseball is annoyingly stupid sometimes.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

And you thought the bullpen was cured.

I understand that this is just one game, and I’m speaking mainly in hyperbole, but the Indians busted out one of the 2018 Greatest Hits, “Bullpen loses game late”, and played it live and loud for an almost sellout crowd for the Cleveland faithful as they dropped game 2 to the Oakland Athletics by a score of 6-3.

I’m comfortable saying that Corey Kluber had a solid outing today. But during the first inning, it wasn’t evident that that would be the case. It took him 24 pitches to escape the first inning, and the A’s came close to scoring when they had runners at the corners. Thankfully, Kluber caused Matt Olson to fly out to center field to end the mini-threat. With the first inning in the books, Kluber went to work. Kluber used 78 pitches across his remaining six innings of work and allowed just four more hits. He didn’t have his strikeout stuff working today (he tallied just three all afternoon), but he didn’t need it, thankfully.

The offense muscled three runs home and they were assisted by some suspect defense on the part of the Oakland Athletics. In the first inning, a single by Francisco Lindor and a double by Michael Brantley set the Indians up for a monster inning with runners on second and third and nobody out. Jose Ramirez then lined out and brought up Edwin Encarnacion, who has absolutely demolished the baseball over the past few weeks (side note: did you know that Edwin was third in the AL in RBIs coming into today? Neither did I). He was unable to launch a dinger this time around, but a roller to second base allowed Lindor to score the first run for the Tribe.

The second run for the Tribe came thanks to an error by Edwin Jackson. A routine ground ball to the Oakland pitcher was bobbled and thrown wide to first base, and instead of Yan Gomes being out, he motored to second base to get into scoring position. Two batters later, Greg Allen scorched an almost home run to right field for a double, bringing home Gomes for the second Cleveland run of the day.

Cleveland got a crucial insurance run in the sixth when Francisco Lindor blooped a single into right field and allowed Tyler Naquin to score. However, for some reason, Lindor thought he could motor to second base and get himself into scoring position along with Greg Allen at third. However, Lindor’s hit stayed in the air long enough that right fielder Stephen Piscotty knew that he wasn’t going to have a play at the plate. Instead, he was able to field the ball quickly and fire it to second to get a sliding Lindor out but a good five feet. A crucial base running mistake that looked like it may not actually matter, but it turns out it would loom large later in the game.

Back to the pitching. Kluber gave way to Neil Ramirez in the 8th inning, and for the first hitter, it looked like things would be smooth sailing. Ramirez had good velocity and command, hitting at least 96 mph and painting the corners against Dustin Fowler as he nabbed his first strikeout. Unfortunately, the next three hitters fared much better. A single by Mark Cahna and back to back home runs by Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis quickly erased the deficit and started a whole new ballgame. Oliver Perez, Zach McAllister, and Cody Allen were able to finish out the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings without incident. Unfortunately, the Cleveland offense was also lackluster in those innings and the game moved into the eleventh.

Enter Josh Tomlin.

I’m not sure why people were so anxious for Josh Tomlin to transition from a starter to a relief pitcher. Sure, he doesn’t walk anyone, and that’s a valuable skill to have coming out of the bullpen. However, Josh Tomlin also gives up a lot of home runs, a skill that is not useful out of the bullpen. Matt Olson led off the inning with a hard single to right field, and then Stephen Piscotty launched a long home run up the bleachers in right field to give the A’s the lead. The one positive on the home run was that Rick Manning was able to recall the “launch angle/backspin” conversation that he heard a few innings prior, so good on him I suppose. To add insult to injury, Matt Chapman hit a hard double to left field, a wild throw by Yan Gomes moved him to third, and an error by Lindor on a ground ball hit by everyone’s favorite non-Indian Jonathan Lucroy allowed the A’s to tack on another run.

Fun notes!

  • Rajai Davis was brought in as a pinch runner for Yonder Alonso in the eighth inning. This backfired for two reasons. One, this forced Tito to then move Edwin to first base and out of the DH slot, forfeiting the Tribe’s ability to have a DH for the remainder of the game. And two, Rajai Davis then tried to steal second base and was promptly thrown out.
  • Greg Allen had a good game. He picked up a couple of hits and a walk. As someone pointed out in the game thread, if he continues to find ways to hit and can stay healthy, he may just have the upper hand on Bradley Zimmer once he returns from the dead.
  • Edwin Jackson was something like 10-1 lifetime against Cleveland coming into today’s game. At least he didn’t beat them again. Take that, Jackson!
  • Hopefully, the front office doesn’t see Josh Tomlin as the long term savior of the bullpen and will be actively pursuing other options as the trade deadline approaches.

Shane Bieber looks to keep his major league record perfect tomorrow as he goes against Brett Anderson in the series finale.