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Indians fall flat as Cardinals avoid sweep

Bad games happen from time to time

MLB: Cleveland Indians at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

It is with immeasurable regret that I must inform you that the Cleveland Indians lost to the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 7-2. Adam Wainwright, 39 years old today, limited the Tribe to four hits in his first complete game since 2014 and the Cardinal’s first since Miles Mikolas in 2018.

It’s a pretty cool day for Wainwright, and I’m celebrating that quietly as a general baseball fan. When it comes to the Indians’ performance, though, there is not much to celebrate.

At the Plate

Tyler Naquin has a ten-game hitting streak and a seven-game extra-base hitting streak. He stroked a two-run home run down the line to right this afternoon to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. The umpires reviewed it for about thirty seconds before confirming that yes, the ball hit the top of the wall and then the railing behind it before bouncing back into play. Naquin murdered the ball: 110 mph EV, .990 xBA

After Naquin’s homer, the Indians did absolutely nothing offensively. Adam Wainwright lobbed curve after curve toward the plate; the Indians seemed to alternate between soft contact and striking out looking. Five of Wainwright’s strikeouts were written backwards on the official scorecard. The other four included two not-quite-checked swings, giving you an idea of how off-balance he left Indians hitters.

Other than Naquin, the only hitters to reach base today were Jose Ramirez (walk), Francisco Lindor (infield single), Franmil Reyes (walk, scored on Naquin’s blast), Delino DeShields (single), and César Hernández (double).

On the Mound

Aaron Civale struggled this afternoon. At one point he balked a run home, presumably because he had the ball up here, like this, but forgot that there was still the balk that he had to think about. From the replay I honest to god think that he was trying to hold back a sneeze, and for some reason that little “oh-shit-ahhhh-nope” twitch was ruled a balk.

I suppose we can add rule 1c-b(4) to the official balk rules: If a pitcher’s nose is all itchy and he needs to sneeze but he can’t sneeze because it would be a balk if he sneezed so he tries to hold back the sneeze and it’s clear that he wanted to sneeze but couldn’t sneeze the not-sneeze is also a balk.

Most of Civale’s troubles today came because his usual pinpoint location on his fastballs drifted out of the zone. His arsenal relies on getting ahead of hitters by freezing them early in the count on fastballs that dart back over the black. Today, far too many got away from him - Of the 71 cutters or two-seamers that he threw today, 27 were taken for balls.

He then tried to battle back by attacking the heart of the zone but Cardinals hitters were ready. He generated only seven swinging strikes, while twelve more were called strikes. A total of 25 were hit, with 13 going into play. Adding insult to injury he couldn’t get anyone to chase his changeup, and the average exit velocity was 93 mph on it when they did. Dexter Fowler also golfed one of his curves for a two-run double.

Given how erratic Civale was today, I give him credit for bowing his neck and getting through six innings. The deep-dive on his pitching today makes it a bit surprising that he didn’t give up more than five runs (one on an achoobalk) and two walks in six innings of work.

After Civale, the Indians trotted out Cam Hill, Adam Cimber, and Dominic Leone. They allowed two runs on three hits in two combined innings.

Tribe Tidbits

  • Roberto Pérez gunned down two would-be stealers today, one each at second and third base.
  • All three of Lindor’s outs today came on balls hit harder than 90 mph today, and two had an xBA north of .330. Some days everything finds a glove. Meanwhile, neither of Paul DeJong’s doubles were particularly well-hit: one had an xBA of .130 and the other came in at .200. I’m not willing to say that BABIP hated the Indians today, though — there were a handful of well-hit balls off of Indians’ pitching that could just as easily have found a hole.
  • The bottom third of the Indians’ order went 1-9 with three strikeouts.
  • [Mike Clevinger Trade Rumors]

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Indians have won six of the last eight series they’ve played, going 16-8 in that time. They take on the Royals tomorrow night in Kansas City.