This game was not entirely lost by Sandy Alomar Jr., but he sure didn’t help.
If Francisco Lindor or Carlos Santana could have managed an extra-base hit with the bases loaded, or if Satan himself didn’t enter the baseball and flip it in a random direction in front of Tyler Naquin, maybe some of Alomar’s decisions wouldn’t have been so glaringly brutal in the afterglow of this stinker. But as it is, the universe conspired to dump everything on the Tribe at once and they lost to the lowly Royals, 3-0.
Despite being the only batter with multiple hits, there is a very good case to be made that Delino DeShields should not have batted past the sixth inning. It was there, with runners on first and second, that he faced sinkerballer Jesse Hahn. Hahn threw him nothing but low breaking balls and eventually induced a weak comebacker for an out.
This was a picture-perfect time to bring in Naquin. He’s an expert at hitting both right-handed pitchers and low off-speed pitches — two things that describe Jesse Hahn to a tee. You would think (or hope, if you’re a Royals fan) that he wouldn’t have attacked Naquin in the same way that he did DeShields, but so many other pitchers have done the same despite Naquin’s inability to hit high fastballs. Seemingly everyone in baseball either ignores or is unaware of Naquin’s glaring weakness — including his own manager.
Instead of bringing in Naquin in this situation, Alomar opted to bring him in two innings later against Josh Staumont, a pitcher who does nothing but pump high four-seam fastballs. Bringing in Naquin to face him was doomed to fail from the beginning. He struck out, predictably, on three high fastballs.
That’s a pretty typical bad baseball decision that could have other explanations, or be chalked up to “going with your gut,” which is usually bad but not completely unforgivable. Same goes for bunting in the fifth inning when it’s a tie game and you’re lucky to have anyone on base. Giving away an out there is bad, but it’s nothing but a questionable baseball decision. It doesn’t hurt the Indians in the long run, it just sucks for now. At best, these are two things that could have been overcome by outplaying your manager’s bad decision making.
But letting José Ramírez continue to play hurt when you’re all but guaranteed a playoff spot with two-plus weeks left in the season? That deserves some heavy scrutiny.
Ramírez missed Tuesday’s game and the end of Monday’s because of a thumb issue that has reportedly been bothering him all season. It was bad enough to have him listed as “day-to-day”, yet he started this game and could apparently only handle the pain batting from one side of the plate?
Who cares if José Ramírez hit a home run in the fourth inning or something. Even if it led to a win, it would be much better to have him somewhere healing up for October than swinging away and potentially doing more damage in a mostly meaningless early-September game. The Indians have a 99.8% chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, yet Ramírez is being played as if every win matters right now because he didn’t want to sit.
I mentioned a silver lining earlier, and that would be Carlos Carrasco. Cookie has looked shaky at times this season, but not tonight. He went 7.0 innings, threw 101 pitches and struck out six. His velocity never wavered, and he spotted his fastball for 14 called strikes and eight swings and misses. It was a brilliant night for the Tribe starter, and without a flukey spin on a ball that darted away from Naquin in right field, it would have been pretty solid for Nick Wittgren and Phil Maton, too.