You know those infuriating home runs that Eddie Rosario hit against Cleveland for all those years in Minnesota? He hit another one today, but this time it was beautiful.
This wasn’t as egregious as taking a shoulder-height ball and slugging it 400 feet, but he did turn a Julio Teheran sinker that got a little too high in the zone into mincemeat. At the time, it represented Cleveland’s first hit of the game and cut the Tigers’ 2-0 lead in half.
Three quick outs followed, and that was the story of the rest of the game as Cleveland lost to the Tigers, 5-2. They will play tomorrow and hope to avoid being swept.
Cleveland did chase Tigers starting pitcher Teheran in the fifth inning, but it was mostly due to long at-bats and Teheran himself missing the zone. There were not any lengthy rallies against him or anything — Roberto Pérez and Andres Gimenez hit back-to-back singles to start the third but that was it. Instead, Roberto displayed his usual reluctance to swing at the plate, found himself in a couple of bad counts, but worked out of hit nicely and ended up working an eight-pitch at-bat before his hit, and later in the fifth, he saw eight pitches again before eventually striking out.
Surely he’ll want more than a 1-for-4 day in the future, but he looks like a totally different batter up there at times. Similarly, when he wasn’t hitting homers, Eddie Rosario showed a lot of patience at the plate with two walks and a sacrifice fly in addition to his first dinger in a Cleveland uniform.
It almost looked too easy for Detroit pitchers to gameplan for Franmil Reyes, on the other hand. They knew when he would chase, and they attacked him with sliders down and away. It resulted in a strikeout early and two relatively easy outs. The good news is that the fix appears to be just, y’know, stop swinging at them. The difficult part will be actually stopping.
As a group, Cleveland finished 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and ground into two double plays. Despite some long at-bats and getting to face a bad bullpen early, they were once again easily shut down.
Zach Plesac didn’t bring his strikeout stuff today, but after a rough first inning, he was able to induce enough weak contact to last six innings himself. He seemingly had trouble finding the zone early in the game, with a four-pitch walk against the second batter of the game, Jeimer Candelario. Following that, he gave up a triple to Willi Castro, and an RBI fielder’s choice to Miguel Cabrera.
The two hits he gave up early weren’t even his worst pitches — Willi Castro turned on a high changeup, and Miguel Cabrera caught a slider that was basically at his ankles. The problem wasn’t pitches seeing too much of the zone, it’s that he wasn’t hitting the zone. He might have been getting squeezed a little bit, but his first-inning chart shows that he wasn’t particularly close on quite a few pitches.
He got it sorted out quickly, though, and started rolling after the first inning. Wilson Ramos reached in the second on a catcher interference call (a rare defensive mistake by Roberto Pérez), but Plesac didn’t allow another hit until the fourth, and he finished the day with four strikeouts and two walks over his six innings of work.
Plesac threw his changeup 23 times but didn’t induce a single whiff on it. Maybe part of that was his lack of fastball command early, but no one hit it harder than 97 mph, at least. All in all, he kept the game within striking distance, even with the offense still sleepwalking.
Nick Wittgren, pitching for the first time in five days, looked cold out of the gate, though. That’s to be expected — the first relief outing for most pitchers is basically their equivalent a final spring outing. And at least he didn’t blow a lead, I guess? He looked bad, but I’m not going to assume there’s an issue with him quite yet.
Trevor Stephan made his Cleveland debut, allowing one hit and striking two out. His four-seamer hit 97 with ease early on and leveled out in the low-96 range. His last out of the game was a strikeout on three-straight sliders to Willi Castro.