In the first of Major League Baseball’s blistering experimental games to determine the feasibility of playing day games on Mercury the Cleveland Indians bested the Los Angeles Angels 4-3. Shane Bieber earned the win for 5 2⁄3 innings of work, but the determining factor in today’s game lay in bullpen play. The Angels leaned on theirs for 7 2⁄3 innings after losing their starter in the first, but the Indians held on despite allowing a run in the top of the ninth.
Please keep throwing fastballs to Jose Ramirez
During the series the Angels decided that Jose Ramirez would not see any fastballs until absolutely necessary. To start today’s game Deck McGuire fed him a steady diet of curveballs. This built the count to 3-2. I’m sure that no one in the Angel’s dugout wanted McGuire to challenge Ramirez with a fastball, but the alternative was likely loading the bases with no out for Edwin Encarnacion.
McGuire reached back and tried to throw one past Ramirez, but I don’t think he hit his target.
This is the textbook definition of Jose Ramirez’s favorite pitch: the Home Run pitch. He blasted it 423 into the right field seats and accelerated the spiral that flushed McGuire from the game after recording a single out. Melky Cabrera grounded out on the first pitch and Leonys Martin popped out to end the inning. Still, knocking the starter out in the first inning tends to be a good omen.
I feel a bad for McGuire, as this was his first game back up from Triple-A. On the other hand, I hope he has learned his lesson about throwing center cut fastballs to the league leader in home runs.
Cody Allen doesn’t need to be the closer to be effective
When Andrew Miller sputtered by hitting a batter after recording a single out, Terry Francona sent long time Indians’ closer Cody Allen to the rubber. Allen entered with the bases loaded and one out with the Indians leading by two. Only a few higher leverage situations can arise during the regular season. Fortunately for the Tribe Allen proved that its recent transactions to bolster to bullpen might pay huge dividends. He eliminated the remaining two batters in the seventh inning, then returned for the eighth and retired the side there, too. He allowed a single hit and needed just 15 pitches to record all five outs.
Brad Hand came in for the close in the top of the ninth. While he did allow two hits and a run, he got the job done and earned his third save as a Cleveland Indians. Would I have pulled off of I-71 while listening to the game if I had to hear Tom Hamilton call another bullpen meltdown? No. No, not at all. Definitely not.
A shoutout to the Angel’s bullpen
It’s not easy to throw a bullpen game when you aren’t planning to do so. Taylor Cole stabilized a game that threatened to topple on the Angels in the first by erasing a bases loaded situation of his own. He then cruised for three more scoreless innings and kept the Angels close enough to be dangerous.
In their seven-plus innings of work the Angel’s bullpen only gave up one run. Jason Kipnis doubled to center field and allowed Brandon Guyer to score after he pinch-ran for Melky Cabrera. It’s never easy to say whether or not this was truly the deciding run in the game. Yes, Hand allowed a run in the top of the ninth and that makes it seem like the game would have otherwise been tied, but causality isn’t tidy.
Other items of note
- Shohei Ohtani drove in a run and socked two hits, continuing his general annihilation of Indians’ pitching.
- Everyone in the starting lineup for the Indians reached base today except for Leonys Martin, who is exempt from reprimand for being awesome so far. While Roberto Perez and Edwin Encarnacion did not get hits, they walked and were hit by a pitch, respectively.
- Andrew Miller only threw six pitches today. I find it interesting that Francona yanked him as soon as he hit a batter. While I’d like to see Miller stay in to work out the kinks, I can also understand the argument that keeping him in when his effectiveness looks dubious might only cause him to strain himself or twerk his mechanics. I don’t really know what the exact reasoning was, but it worked. We’ve beat up on Francona a lot this year for odd bullpen substitutions, so I think he deserves credit for nailing it today.
- The Indians managed to win today despite hitting into three double plays while going only 1-7 with runners in scoring position. It really, really helps when that one hit is Earl Weaver’s Preferred Three-Run Home Run™.
The Indians take on the Twins, again, but at home this week. It is a four-game series, and Trevor Bauer leads the way on the mound tomorrow night.