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Cleveland makes adjustments, slugs changeups, mashes Reds

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Tonight, they did the unthinkable

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Forget the score for a second (it was 9-2, not bragging, but y’know), and just focus on these numbers: Cleveland batters saw 24 changeups from Luis Castillo — a pitcher who, admittedly, is off to a slow start but typically features some of the best off-speed stuff in baseball. Of the 17 times they swung at those changeups, seven were put into play, nine were fouled off, and just one was swung on and missed.

For a team that has a painful history against changeups, tonight was pure catharsis. Beyond scoring nine runs following a no-hitter, they finally got to a heavy-changeup pitcher early and often and were rewarded with a pile of runs that allowed their starter to cruise through seven innings of mostly stress-free work.

Eddie Rosario started the score-fest by doubling home his completely unrelated brother, Amed Rosario, who walked earlier in the first inning. Andrés Giménez trickled in another in the second inning, hitting a sacrifice fly to plate Josh Naylor.

Two innings later, the flood gates opened.

Josh Naylor, Jake Bauers, Austin Hedges, Andrés Giménez, all got on base, in order, in the fourth inning. The latter three were all plated by a bases-clearing triple from Cesar Hernandez (off a changeup, naturally), which put Cleveland up, 6-1. And without a defensive or pitching implosion looking imminent, the game was pretty much over then and there.

Just to be safe in the sixth, though, José Ramírez doubled home Hernandez and Rosario (the Amed variety), and Franmil Reyes brought him home to finish off Cleveland’s scoring at nine.

The broadcast booth spent the entirety of Ramírez’s at-bat talking about how mentally tired he looked — that he didn’t quite have that same José pep in his step and was chasing more than he typically does at his best. To be fair, I don’t think they were wrong. Ramírez was hitless in his last 10 plate appearances coming into the at-bat, and he swung at a 97 mph bullet that bounced off the plate. He was playing in his ninth game in a row at the hot corner, it’s not completely unrealistic to think that maybe the dude is just exhausted and needs a day off.

But seemingly on cue, he stroked a double down the right-field line to make everyone regret doubting José’s ability to play every day if he damn well pleases. He also singled in the bottom of the eighth as well. Fittingly enough, his final hit was off a changeup, perfectly placed down and away by Carson Fulmer but smacked opposite-field anyway.

The main beneficiary of this run-scoring outburst — besides my heart rate — was Aaron Civale. He threw each of his six pitches at least four times, including his sinker which has mostly disappeared this year. Over his seven innings and 107 pitches thrown, Civale had 28 called strikes or whiffs, mostly on his cutter.

Civale’s defense also helped him out, which is something they haven’t done for many pitchers this year. Andrés Giménez made an early entry for Catch of the Year with a stunning diving grab in the fourth, for instance.

The old cliché that a great defense play can kickstart an offense was on display here. Giménez robbed Jonathan India of a hit for the final out of the top of the fourth, and in the bottom of the frame Cleveland’s offense unloaded for four runs.

Cal Quantrill and Nick Wittgren had a mess of a time getting through two innings of relief work, but they got there eventually. No harm done when you only give up one run with an eight-run lead.

Corner Pieces

  • In addition to his stellar defensive work, Andrés Giménez laid down an absolutely perfect bunt down the third-base line. Enough that it stumped Eugenio Suarez and he was left to just stare in awe at it.
  • Every ball Jake Bauers hit tonight was at least 89 mph or harder, and two went for singles. His high-xBA barrels are finally starting to fall.
  • Three of the top four hard-hit balls tonight were by Cleveland batters. More accurately, they were by a Cleveland batter named Franmil Reyes. The big man had balls hit at 103.3 mph, 104.3 mph, and 109.4 mph. The other hardest-hit ball? Tyler Naquin’s 106.8 mph, 421-foot home run.

Wait, what?

In the first inning, Luis Castillo let a slider catch juuust a little bit too much of the plate against Reyes. Franmil was left kicking himself over the miss but was smiling ear-to-ear and saying something to Castillo about it. They both laughed it off after the at-bat was over. It was a Great Baseball Moment that, somehow, no one seemed to record a video of.

What’s next

Technically Cleveland can retain a share of the Ohio Cup with a win tomorrow, which would tie the season series at three games apiece. But we’re not quitters here and I refuse to acknowledge a tie with those Kentucky residents down there. Might as well burn the trophy now.

Oh, and the game is probably going to get rained out anyway.