Was I worried when it appeared a save situation would be available for Brad Hand? Nah.
Was I worried when Brad Hand starting warming in the ‘pen? Ok, maybe.
Was I worried when the lead-off batter got on base against Brad Hand?
A little, yeah.
Turns out there was no reason to worry, because Hand induced a double play in the next at-bat and a ground out to José Ramírez to end the game. All three balls put in play were hit softly — the hardest being Chelsor Cuthbert’s 73.9 mph double play ball.
Keeping with the theme of Alex Hooper’s excellent post earlier today, Hand still didn’t seem to have a good grasp on his fastball tonight. He threw it five times (compared to 10 sliders). Two were fouled off, two were put into play, and one went for a ball. No strikes with the pitch, while his slider caught Royals batters looking four times.
This was Hand’s first save since August 8, and it snapped a streak of four consecutive relief appearances where he allowed one or more runs. It’s been a rough month for the Tribe’s closer, but maybe this can serve as a turning point heading down the stretch. And If it does turn into some kind of fulcrum for Hand’s season, maybe a hard-fought 4-1 win over the Royals can do the same for the rest of the team, too.
Franmil Reyes came in about as cold as you can be having not started a single game in the three-game Mets series, but he still came away with a double. Carlos Santana was the only Indians batter with a multi-hit game, but everyone except Roberto Pérez had at least a hit tonight.
Four of the Indians’ nine hits came in the second inning when Jason Kipnis Reyes, and Tyler Naquin started the inning with back-to-back-to-back hits and Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer.
Naquin inexplicably continues to get pitches to hit, and tonight it was a low changeup from Jakob Junis in that second inning. Naquin, doing what Naquin does, took a low pitch and blasted it into right field at 109.2 mph — the second hardest-hit ball of the game.
On the mound, Zach Plesac quietly had another solid start, going 5.2 innings and allowing one earned run off four hits. He struck out five and walked two, but most importantly, he didn’t allow a single home run, which is a relief given his three-homer game in New York in his last start. Plesac, as usual, relied primarily on a well-located fastball to get him over. He threw it 45 times for 11 called strikes and two swinging strikes.
Plesac’s night was defined by the fifth inning, in which he allowed a single and a walk to the first two batters, then proceeded to get the next three outs without allowing a run to score. It was a gutsy moment for any rookie, no matter what lineup or fringe first-overall-pick team he’s facing.
From the moment Bubba Starling came up to bat with Alex Gordon and Ryan O’Hearn on base, to when Oscar Mercado caught Brett Phillips’ fly out in center field, the Indians’ win expectancy jumped 12%. As such, Zach Plesac finished the game as the Tribe’s overwhelming WPA leader at +15.9. Franmil Reyes and his big second-inning double were next at +9.3.
Plesac also picked off a runner at first for the sixth time this season, which leads the majors. Did I mention he’s only started in 16 games?
And of course I can’t conclude this recap without mentioning Nick Goody, who once again did not allow a barreled ball in his inning of work. He didn’t strike anyone out and Whit Merrifield had a pretty hard-hit single off him, but nothing was squared up. He now has 74 batted balls against him this season and not a single one has been barreled. Incredible.
Fun fact: Goody is one of two pitchers to have at least 70 batted ball events this season and not have a single barreled ball against them. The other one? Aaron Civale.