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Indians’ late rally against Rays dies with tying run at the plate

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They couldn’t quite close the gap in a 6-4 loss

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Kipnis stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th inning, representing the tying run. There were two outs. Given recent transactions, what would be the reaction to a game-tying home run from the long-tenured Indians second baseman? For fans, immediate pandemonium for a spectacular last-inning comeback. For writers, speculative articles about whether the Indians hitter’s magazine epiphany represented a true return to form that ultimately makes the acquisition of Josh Donaldson confusing. For Kipnis, I can’t imagine it would be anything but blissful vindication.

He struck out.

The Indians lost two of three against the Rays in the series, and fell to a record of 77-59. They struggled all game against the Rays at the plate, only turning the offense on in the 7th and 9th innings. Carlos Carrasco pitched well enough for six innings, but stumbled in the 7th by allowing a walk, two hits, and three earned runs.

It wasn’t all bad today, though

Melky Cabrera made a beautiful throw to nab a runner at third base in the top of the sixth. On the fly, ripped it at 94 MPH. Matt Underwood made a comment wondering if Melky’s issues weren’t rooted in a deterioration of skills, but rather in an extended ramping-up that is now complete due to the time that he missed. I’ve come around to believe the same thing, now. Given the way Melky has played since the break I think he deserves to be the right fielder until a defensive replacement is necessary. In typical fashion Rick Manning declared that Melky should never be removed from a game for defensive reasons, ever again, based on that one throw.

I’ve always thought Manning would make a great GM or manager for the Yankees.

When the offense finally choose to exist

Indians finally scored in the bottom of the 7th against the Rays’ “bullpen”. It feels a little odd to say that given the way that their staff is structured, but I wouldn’t count the opener or starter as bullpen pitchers for a given game.

Anyway, Brantley doubled and then Ramirez singled on a mishandled grounder, which allowed Brantley to score. The inning petered out when Yandy Diaz flew out and Yonder Alonso grounded into a double play.

The real fun happened in the bottom of the 9th. Lindor singled to right field, then advanced to second on a fielder’s choice by Brantley. Jose Ramirez stayed patient and drew a walk, which allowed Diaz to single home Lindor. The Rays made a pitching change and struck out Alonso, but it wouldn’t be a cake walk the rest of the way. Cabrera stepped up to the plate and doubled to left field. Ramirez scored easily from second, and Diaz came around all the way from first, blasting through a stop sign, to score as well.

Kipnis then stepped to the plate. While he did strike out and went 0-4 in today’s game, it wasn’t really that bad of an at-bat. It just happened to be the last one.

Bits of Tribe that may be Tidded

  • Joey Wendle is apparently the best defensive third basemen of all-time. He made several excellent plays today for the Rays, including three absurd plays in the bottom of the sixth. He snagged a Roberto Perez liner, barehanded a Greg Allen grounder and fired a perfect throw, then stopped a would-be double by Francisco Lindor by diving to his right and delivering another perfect throw from foul territory to nail the shortstop.
  • Josh Donaldson ran around the field and hopped over some cones before the game to show teammates, coaches, and media how good he feels. I will withhold judgement until he starts hitting home runs to show how good he feels, and I still really don’t know how to feel about the trade given his injury struggles and yips this season.
  • The Rays are a good, young team, and there isn’t any reason to be upset about the Indians losing a series to them. These things happen. I don’t think they’re going to go on a crazy run and sneak into the playoffs this season, but I would keep an eye on them for next year. It’s a brutal division, but like the A’s — whose roster is built almost entirely of flyball hitters, groundball pitchers, and slick fielders — appear to have tapped into an advantage with openers that no other team is using. Their pitching staff is kind of like the baseball equivalent of a no-name defense in football; the unit is getting publicity, but I bet most baseball fans (including some Rays fans) would have trouble naming pitchers other than Blake Snell and Sergio Romo.
  • Since August 1st, Yonder Alonso owns a wRC+ of 53. Jason Kipnis has a wRC+ of 127. If Terry Francona isn’t comfortable pushing Kipnis off of second base I think maybe there might be a spot for Donaldson — or Kipnis, for that matter — as a 1B/DH. Remember, wRC+ doesn’t include a positional adjustment.
  • Eric Haase made his MLB debut today for the Indians.
  • Kevin Cash pulled Terry Francona’s scooter onto the field for the Rays’ batting practice. It is now missing an important component.

The Indians take on the Kansas City Royals tomorrow at home. It’s Labor Day, an American holiday that we celebrate by having a bunch of sales at mattress stores, car dealerships, and retailers hoping to cash in on back-to-school fever. Because of the holiday (I think?) tomorrow’s game will be at 4:10 PM.