Well, that was a doozy.
Tonight, Cleveland found themselves with a 2-1 lead, two outs, and a ground ball inches from the glove of their first baseman.
They still lost. And that wasn’t even the worst unforced error of the game.
Josh Naylor could have sealed the game if he had turned that play — just as he did the first two plays in the inning — but he didn’t. Even then, with their closer on the mound, Cleveland had a chance to close the game out. Unfortunately, with an 0-2 count, Clase made a bad pitch. Perhaps understandably rattled by his defense letting him down in the final hour, but it wasn’t great either way.
The end result, following a complete mishandling of the ghost runner in the top of the 10th, was that Cleveland lost, 3-2, and have dropped the first series against their intra-state rivals.
Naylor’s error was egregious, no doubt. It looked like he assumed a step too early that he had the ball; maybe that’s not an error he makes with consistent time at first base. But it was hardly the only thing Cleveland did wrong tonight.
Arguably the worst came in the eighth inning with runners on the corners and no outs. Naylor scorched a ball to the first baseman, who promptly tagged a diving Franmil Reyes. Brutal, but with runners on the corners and no outs before the play, the inning isn’t automatically over, right?
Well, Eddie Rosario had other plans, either ignoring or not receiving a call from his third base coach to tag up at third because the ball was caught. He must have thought the ball bounced in the first baseman’s glove because he sprinted for home and probably felt real good about himself until Joey Votto pointed out that he never tagged up at third.
Votto threw the ball to third to complete the first triple-play turned against Cleveland in over two decades. Four days after the lineup was no-hit for the first time since 2011.
Rosario was only at third because he made a couple of smart baserunning decisions in the at-bat prior, which pretty much sums up this whole game. He stole second and patiently waited to make sure Franmil Reyes’ ground ball would make it to the outfield before he took off. Then he did ... that.
I will now transcribe my handwritten game notes so you can have the full effect of what this inning was like:
Great baserunning by Eddie Rosario in 8th
— nevermind triple play
Eventually, we (including the team) will have to collectively acknowledge that this team has deep issues that go beyond Josh Naylor’s failure to scoop a ball. They are forced to operate on a razor’s edge because the roster received no investment in the offseason. Instead, it’s been stripped for parts and shoved onto the race track with three tires and a driver that’s half asleep.
Also, it’s on fire.
Sure, maybe if the track is going in the right direction and someone brings marshmallows it can all work out. If not, they simply can’t sustain one thing going wrong. Let alone three.
The worst part is a lot also went well tonight, and the final couple innings ruined what should have been a recap spent talking about Triston McKenzie. Before the ninth inning (even with the triple play) it was a mostly fun, tense game that should have been over with another 1-2-3 outing from Emmanuel Clase.
Andrés Giménez doubled in his first at-bat and later on hit his second homer in a Cleveland uniform to give them the lead. Fun!
Triston McKenzie had command issues, but he did an excellent job working out of jams with what he had — he even notched his first career hit. Something good about National League Rules? Also fun!
I don’t know what has gotten into Bryan Shaw lately, but “Uncle Bryan” looks unhittable out there. He threw almost nothing but cutters again and it worked as he held the Reds scoreless in his one inning of work. Fun!
Franmil Reyes looked straight up alright in right field. He made a mental error by trying to throw to second instead of the cut-off man as Votto was rounding third. But before that, he played a ball off the carom perfectly and showed off an impressive arm. Important and fun!
The Reds made plenty of their own mental errors, as well. Joey Votto was a dead duck but rounded third and tried to score anyway, and José Ramírez tagged a runner trying to steal third with no outs. Fun at the expense of an opponent!
For the most part, the bullpen looked great. James Karinchak struck out all three batters he faced, Nick Wittgren was used in a weird spot to face the top of the order but was fine, and Emmanuel Clase was inches away from a mostly harmless inning. But then Naylor’s Boner happened and Oliver Pérez ultimately had to face one too many righties in the 10th and that was that.
Oh well. Rack ‘em up and don’t get swept tomorrow, I guess.
- Jake Bauers was brought in to pinch-hit in the 10th inning and predictably struck out. It feels mean constantly harping on Bauers, but he clearly shouldn’t be on the roster at this point. It’s bad for him and bad for the team to not just DFA him and let him go if it comes to it.
- Cleveland, unlike seemingly every other team, had a very distinct game plan against Tyler Naquin — after years of watching him whiff on high fastballs, they turned it against him. Triston McKenzie and James Karinchak gave him nothing but high cheddar and he went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts.
- Triston McKenzie still can’t seem to get out of the low-90s with his fastball, but at least there was no significant drop in his velocity during the game. At this point, we just have to live with what he is (which can still work!) or shift him to the bullpen and see if that helps.
Cesar Hernandez looks so bad out there right now, and he’s supposed to be one of the few consistencies in the lineup. Maybe it’ll turn around, but right now it’s ugly.
The first leg of the Ohio Cup has been decided, but Cleveland can avoid being swept with Shane Bieber on the mound Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET.