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Umpire incompetence can’t stop Cleveland’s multiple trips to dingerville

Upon further review, this recap is a double

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Visualize a baseball. It’s flying through the air. Wonderful, majestic. Maybe juiced, maybe not. But it’s flying either way. It hits the top of the outfield wall, a bright-yellow line provides a soft cushion for it to bounce and playfully tap the guardrail above it before wafting back into play.

What did you just imagine?

  1. A home run
  2. A double

If you answered No. 2, congratulations, you are qualified to be an MLB umpire and work in their New York offices reviewing replays.

Jordan Luplow already had a home run when he entered the box in the bottom of the sixth with two on and two outs, but he should have left with another. More importantly, this one would have come off a right-handed pitcher, something Cleveland brass have been waiting for him to do since they acquired him from the Pirates three years ago. But, because the ball didn’t clearly enough make contact with the railing behind the yellow home run line (even though, I mean, it did), the umpiring crew called it a double and set off a firestorm of reactions.

Reactions from Twitter, reactions on the field, and even a great reaction from Luplow himself, who dropped the mother of all “are you serious with this?” faces:

I’m certainly not about to complain about this game overall though, even if that one call was infuriating — it was the difference between a 9-0 and 8-0 lead. It was ultimately irrelevant, but still annoying, as Cleveland steamrolled the Tigers in an 11-3 victory and put themselves in position for a sweep Sunday.

What was relevant was the five home runs jacked by Cleveland batters. Along with Luplow’s 432-foot blast in the fourth, Cesar Hernandez, Roberto Pérez, Andres Gimenez, and Franmil Reyes all hit bombs tonight. Reyes’s homer in the seventh inning was just piling on at that point, but it was his third homer in the last two games after he carried the offense to a win on Friday. He took a pitch high and out of the zone — a skill apparently acquired from his newest teammate, Eddie Rosario — and blasted it.

Pérez’s home run was a bit less of a reach, but he turned on a four-seamer in and hit it deep to left-center. He also walked three times tonight, something he’s done only a handful of times in his seven-year career, and not since April of 2016. He’s always had an ability to run into a home run now and again (or 24 of them, like in 2019), but it’s quietly been his ability to work long counts that has helped him contribute on offense. Walking this much (a Carlos Santanian level of free bases) is something entirely new to his game, though.

Pérez also tried to frame a ball in the dirt and the home plate umpire playfully refused to give him a ball afterwards; presumably he gave him the Jordan Luplow face under his mask.

All in all, it was just a good night to be Roberto Pérez, as it was to be a fan of Cleveland baseball.

It seems weird that pitching performances keep getting push to the side in Cleveland’s three-game winning streak, but it’s hard not to marvel at the dingers.

Tonight, Aaron Civale followed up his brilliant 2021 debut with another gem — this time going 7.3 innings with six strikeouts, no walks, and one earned run off three hits. We saw the full extent of his repertoire tonight, with the four-seamer coming out 26 times, his new-look changeup 22 times, and his cutter, curveball, slider, and sinker all thrown at various points throughout the night.

Civale’s curve, while only used 12 times, was on point tonight; dropping out of the strike zone, painted on the outside corner. Seemingly wherever he wanted to throw it, he could. It helped him reach the seventh inning in good shape to pitch a Maddux (a complete-game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches thrown), until Robbie Grossman homered to open the inning. Even still, it was the smallest blemish on an otherwise excellent outing, which continued even as the skies opened up. He gave up a single in the first inning, erased it with a double play, then retired the next 11 batters in order before Nomar Mazar singled in the fifth.

After 90 pitches, Civale was pulled in favor of Oliver Perez finishing off a lefty in the seventh inning. Trevor Stephan pitched a rough ninth inning, giving up a couple hard hits and a two-run homer before finally working out of it with a fly out.

Corner Pieces

  • Both of Cleveland’s sterling defensive infielders had some miscues tonight. First, Cesar Hernandez had a throwing error which allowed Victor Reyes to reach in the eighth, then Andres Gimenez launched the potential game-ending ground ball over the glove of Yu Chang.
  • Cleveland’s five homers were the most since last August, when they hit five ... also against the Tigers. If Luplow’s homer would have counted, it would have been six homers, which they haven’t topped since their 19-5 thrashing of the Yankees on Aug. 15, 2019.
  • With no Emmanuel Clase lighting up the radar gun, it was Trevor Stephan leading the pitch velocity leaderboards with four fastballs all at 97.6 mph or higher. He peaked at 98.6.

Wait, what?


What’s next

Oh, just the chance at their first sweep of 2021. Logan Allen will make his second start of the season tomorrow at 1:10 p.m. ET with brooms on the line.