The Indians won tonight, and I gotta be honest with you, I’m still not completely sure how.
Pitching was effective. That’s a start.
Mike Clevinger is still a little worrying with five more walks in 5.2 innings, but he struck out four and hit his spots to keep the Reds scoreless. Forty-two of Clevinger’s 103 pitches were slider and seven of those were swung on and missed. Another eight were called strikes and all told Clevingers stuff looked good when he could actually locate it. When he couldn’t, he walked himself into tough situations and ended up getting knocked out early as a result.
Clevinger just lacked a dominant “out” pitch tonight, and when it came time to bury a slider or paint the edges with a curveball he was off the mark and couldn’t get anybody to chase. The result was him having to gut through some long at-bats. Two of the four pitches he did get strikeouts on, seen below, probably should have been clobbered.
Luck was definitely on his side, but sometimes that’s just what you need, right?
But the offense. Oh, the offense. They just ... they scored? We we sure this isn’t an error? I have vague memories of Oscar Mercado sliding across home plate with a pretty impressive slide, but no recollection of him getting on base. Surely he didn’t hit the ball, right? That doesn’t happen anymore.
He didn’t, of course. Mercado was one of five Indians batters to draw a walk, but not one of the three that managed to hit a ball harder than 90 mph. He managed to kick off a bit of a rally in the fifth inning aided by bad defense. Luckily, runs by bad defense still count in the great American game.
Overall, the Indians offense was stymied by Tejay Antone, a sinker-slider guy making the first start of his big league career. The Indians’ average exit velocity off him was 77.9 mph, and the hardest they were able to hit his slider was 83.3 mph — a José Ramírez pop-up.
While Francisco Lindor did end up with a hit on the night, he didn’t look any better than he has all season at the plate. The most brutal at-bat came in the third with the bases loaded and one out. At that point it was a 0-0 game, but it looked like the offense might finally get something going — Sandy León and César Hernández drew walks, and José Ramírez singled on a blooper. This was Frankie’s time to shine and pull his team from the depths of hell (and, being that it was the 3rd inning with the bases loaded, give someone a brand new car), but instead he hit into a weak double play ball and the inning was over.
Lindor’s only hit came after the rally in the fifth was over.
Despite the good vibes and giant donger of last night, Franmil Reyes still looks like a lost man at the plate. He struck out twice and wasn’t particularly close to anything, including two ugly swings at pitches in the dirt. I shudder at the thought of him facing Luis Castillo tomorrow night.
Bullpen usage continues to be a little weird, but if we’re going to insist that Brad Hand is perfectly fine and everything is fine and great and good, then it went pretty well. Óliver Pérez, for one, continues to defy age. The silver fox struck out one over an inning of work before being replaced by James Karinchak, who finished off the eighth.
Brad Hand closed out the game and saw his velocity dip back to the 90-92 range while command of his slider continued to be not quite at its sharpest. He threw just as many balls as strikes and benefited from a few close calls at the end — at this point I’m not going to complain about it, though. He got the save, Indians got the win, and at least a partial share of the Ohio Cup will remain in Cleveland.