How many rookie pitchers can say they went toe-to-toe with Gerrit Cole for almost six innings? Tanner Bibee can. Unfortunately, he can also say he was on the receiving end of a bullpen screw-job thanks to James Karinchak and a sprinkle of Eli Morgan ruining a great outing from a potentially great first-year pitcher. A 2-0 Guardians win turned into a 4-2 loss faster than you can say “Wait why is James Karinchak still pitching?”.
First, the good.
Bibee was incredible. This is a battered and bruised Yankees offense not even operating at 50%, but his stuff was real out there today. Much like his start against the Rockies last week, it won’t matter who he is facing — if his stuff can keep playing like this he will be legit for a long time. Again, in a game that included Gerrit Cole, Bibee finished the hardest pitch of the game at 98.6 mph. He couldn’t quite top Cole’s 10 whiffs, but he came close with nine, and in 16 fewer pitches.
Following the control issues he had with his four-seamer in his debut last week, he turned to it 48 times today. There were a few bats on it, including 10 balls in play and 13 foul balls, but it also induced five whiffs and six called strikes. More importantly, he was able to catch a bit more of the upper edge of the zone with it and set up some devastating low sliders.
This one, which fooled DJ LeMahieu to give Bibee his seventh straight out at the time, caught the eye of Pitching Ninja on Twitter. You should probably get used to him showing up there.
Tanner Bibee, Wicked 84mph Slider...and is fired up.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 3, 2023
4th K pic.twitter.com/NGXrn1hNwS
Rick Manning and Matt Underwood couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around whether Bibee was throwing a slider or curveball at times, and I don’t blame them one bit for getting mixed up watching in real time.
Bibee’s deep slider looks an awful lot like his curveball — that’s what makes both of them so deadly. Looking at his movement chart, you can clearly see they are different pitches, but they probably don’t look all that different to a hitter until it’s too late. The curveball also moves a lot slower (79 mph on average today, compared to his 87 mph slider), so if you want to play along at home and keep tabs on which one he’s throwing, that’s the easiest way.
A scary moment happened toward the end of the fifth when Bibee took a comebacker off his non-throwing hand, but he stayed in the game and got the final out of the inning. He even came out to start the sixth, but after a flyout, home run, and double to start the inning, his day was done. All eyes now will be on how his hand heals in the coming days.
Bibee finished with five strikeouts and no walks in 5.1 innings. He also technically had two earned runs because that runner on second came around to score. How did he come around to score, you ask?
So.— Covering the Corner (@CovertheCorner) May 3, 2023
You went to James Karinchak in a high-leverage situation. pic.twitter.com/LHCu8AjLBh
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but I cannot think of a pitcher I would trust less with runners in scoring position than James Karinchak. That’s not even to say Karinchak is totally cooked (although ...), but you just never know what he’s going to give you any given night. Why not discover if he’s going to be lockdown, three-strikeout James or Big Dinger Giver Upper Jimmy in a clean inning? Don’t give him the chance to tack on an earned run to some other guy’s linescore.
Karinchak gave up the one-run lead entrusted to him immediately, with a four-seamer that Anthony Rizzo hit to the outfield for an RBI single. Against all sanity, Karinchak was asked to come out again in the seventh, where he fully gave up the lead on a hanging slider to Willie Calhoun who hit a home run that cleared Yankee Stadium’s Little Tikes right-field wall.
Eli Morgan was tasked with cleaning up the mess, and he did for the most part. Unfortunately, he also gave up his first run of the season in the bottom of the eighth, which put the Guardians behind by two and sealed the deal. His ERA on the season ballooned to an astronomically high 0.64.
In the midst of all this — when the Guardians were trailing, 3-2, in the top of the eighth — Andrés Giménez showed the tenacity of a field mouse by attempting to bunt over Gabriel Arias from first base instead of swinging the damn bat when his team was losing. It didn’t even work; Arias was thrown out at second and Giménez was left to stand at first base and contemplate his life choices. This is a frustrating trend from Giménez that seems to be getting worse. Surely there must be someone who can tell him to cut it out. Oh well.
On the plus side tonight, the Guardians offense did set up their starting pitcher for a win against one of the league’s best pitchers — a pitcher that typically shuts them down deep into games. They drove up his pitch count early and often and had him at 108 pitches and out of the game after six frames. Silver linings don’t show up in the win column, though, and if they could have managed even a couple of runs off the Yankees bullpen they might have started another winning streak.
But they didn’t, and tomorrow they’ll face the possibility of losing their fifth series in a row.