It’s game 2 of the 162-game season, so overreactions are largely unwarranted, both good and bad. And the Indians ended up winning today 2-1, so it’s a net positive regardless of the specifics. But damn was it frustrating to watch at times. Given the current roster makeup, there’s a good chance that we’re going to have this same recap a lot this season: the starting pitching did a phenomenal job to keep the Tribe in the game and the offense did barely enough (or not enough) to win (or lose). Today, the offense did barely enough.
But before we talk about the limited contributions of the lineup, let’s talk about Trevor Bauer. Bauer worked extensively this winter to keep improving on his Cy Young-caliber repertoire, and it was on full display this afternoon. Most notably was his shiny new changeup. Observe:
A thing of beauty. Bauer let loose 27 changeups this afternoon, 7 of which went for swinging strikes. His fastball topped out at 96 mph, allowing Bauer to beat hitters not only with velocity but movement as well (as seen above). One note on Bauer’s performance is that he only threw his curveball, a pitch that has been critical to his success in previous seasons, twice. Maybe he had a better feel for the change today or maybe he’s slowly phasing the curve out. Who knows? At the end of the day, Bauer went seven strong innings and allowed just 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, and he struck out 9 hitters.
The starting pitching is keeping the Indians in games when the offense sputters.
And the offense did sputter again. The Indians managed just 1 hit off of starter Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi also managed to strikeout 11 Cleveland hitters, including Tyler Naquin 3 times. For those keeping score at home, Tyler Naquin is now 0-for-7 with 6 strikeouts to start the season. Two games does not a large sample size make, but it’s going to be a really long season if Naquin, still slotted in the #3 hole in Tito’s lineup, is striking out basically every time he gets up to the plate.
Tyler Naquin wasn’t the only Cleveland hitter who struggled (clearly). Jose Ramirez is still struggling to lay down bunts and to hit in general. Teams are tending to shift on Jose Ramirez more often, and why wouldn’t they? Ramirez has no protection in the lineup so pitchers can comfortably pitch to him, and he’s yet to prove that he can beat the shift. Because of this, Ramirez has resorted to trying to bunt his way on base, which he hasn’t shown he can do. So if Ramirez is going to get on base, he’s going to either need some better protection in the lineup (doubtful) or he’s going to need to learn to hit against the shift. Here’s to hoping.
The offense wasn’t all bad today, however. The first Cleveland run of the 2019 season came off the bat of Hanley Ramirez. The other Ramirez, who’s still trying to prove that he should have a spot on the major league roster, made a statement in a big way in the top of the fourth inning. Odorizzi left a 90 mph meatball over the heart of the plate and, well:
The Twins responded quickly. Jorge Polanco hit a towering shot to right-center field in the bottom half of the inning that stayed up long enough for him to motor to third for a triple. Nelson Cruz would then get an RBI via ground out, and just like that the game was tied once again.
In the ninth inning, the Indians took the lead, but it was more the result of the Twins shoddy defense as opposed to Cleveland’s offensive prowess. After Carlos Santana singled to right field, Blake Parker uncorked two wild pitches in a row that allowed Santana to move to second and then third base. HanRam walked to put runners at the corners, and Greg Allen made his 2019 debut. And it took him all of three pitches to hit a deep fly ball to center field, which allowed Santana to score on the sac fly. Greg Allen deserves more playing time, hopefully Tito agrees.
The game wouldn’t be put away so easily. Brad Hand entered the bottom of the ninth for his first save opportunity of the year and he nearly squandered it. His second pitch to Byron Buxton was a fly ball to Leonys Martin that probably should have been caught. Instead, Buxton ended up with a double. A Max Kepler strikeout and a Jorge Polanco line out brought the Tribe within one out of victory. Nelson Cruz stepped to the plate, and instead of facing him, Brad Hand intentionally walked him, putting the winning run on base. An un-intentional walk to Eddie Rosario loaded the bases, putting the winning run at second base. Thankfully, Hand got C.J. Cron to lazily fly out to right field to end the game.
Again, the Tribe won today’s game, but it did not look good at all. With the exception of Trevor Bauer and Hanley’s home run, it seemed that the Tribe was all but ready to give this game away. They won, but there are still some major concerns regarding how the team will do over the course of a full season.
The Tribe goes for their first series win of the year tomorrow at 2:10 PM. Carlos Carrasco takes on Michael Pineda in day baseball. Let’s hope that the Tribe offense can keep the strikeouts to single digits.