Thirteen final thoughts after a crowd of 7,744 (many wearing orange) witnessed a power-packed game at Goodyear Ballpark.
1. Much of the skepticism about the Indians improving on their 92-70 record a year ago comes from doubts about the starting rotation after the free agent departures of Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. Even though spring training means nothing, Zach McAllister’s performance Tuesday night against the Giants will feed the negativity.
2. McAllister, the Tribe’s No. 3 starter, was slated to go at least five innings. He lasted three, throwing about 70 pitches. He gave up six runs on nine hits, including three home runs. He struck out four, walked two and hit a batter. Manager Terry Francona said McAllister threw another inning down the street at the Indians’ training complex so he could get stretched out and end the night feeling good about himself.
3. One of the shots off McAllister was massive. In the third, a ball off the bat of Hector Sanchez hit the back of the club section in right field and bounced out of the park. That was one pitch after Pablo Sandoval homered to right. Two pitches, two homers….
4. Francona was not that disappointed in McAllister’s outing. Baffled was probably a better word.
5. “I thought Zach actually threw the ball pretty well. He mislocated some pitches, obviously,” Francona said. Asked if McAllister was struggling with his control, Francona said, “Not all the time. He fell behind a couple hitters. I asked (pitching coach) Mickey (Callaway) at one point, ‘What am I missing here?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know. He’s just getting hit around.’”
6. You would have sworn the moon was full or the game was being played in Colorado. The two teams combined for 37 hits, 20 by the Tribe. The game included seven homers and nine doubles and lasted three hours and 29 minutes. Francona’s initial reaction: “That game had quite a flow, didn’t it?”
7. “They kind of had their hitting shoes on and so did we,” Francona said. “Maybe it was the lights, but everybody was swinging the bat. I’d much rather be part of a game like that than getting beat around. The way it started out you’re like, ‘Man, it’s going to be a long night.’ A lot of guys did a lot of good things offensively.”
8. Catcher Yan Gomes homered twice and went 3 for 4 with three RBI. His first home run in the second inning landed under the left field scoreboard. His second, a game-winning, two-run shot in the sixth, found the bullpen in left field. Left fielder Michael Brantley went 3 for 4 with three doubles and an RBI. Infielder Bryan LaHair ( the designated hitter as he returns from left wrist surgery in September) was 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Right fielder Jeff Francoeur was 2 for 4 with 4 RBI, including a three-run homer to left in a seven-run third inning. Every Tribe starter had a hit except for third baseman Carlos Santana, who went 0 for 4.
9. Several relievers also turned in impressive efforts. Vinnie Pestano, C.C. Lee, Blake Wood (who got the win), Scott Atchison and minor leaguer Brett Brach (who got the save) pitched scoreless innings. Pestano and Lee struck out the side.
10. “Vinnie threw some good breaking balls. At that point in the game they were on everybody,” Francona said of the fifth inning. “Wood’s split and slider had a lot of depth to them.”
11. Pitching-wise, Francona reserved the most praise for Lee, who worked the seventh. “His stuff’s probably borderline electric, running it up there from that angle, 95 or 96 (mph),” Francona said. “That’s what we had him the other day. I bet tonight was just as hard. First time under the lights everybody’s got a little extra.”
12. Moving from Single-A Lake County, to Double-A Akron and then to Triple-A Columbus last season, Lee was called up to the Indians twice, first in July, then in September, when he made five of his eight appearances. Baseball America said he had the best slider in the Indians organization and listed him as eighth overall prospect in the Tribe farm system in 2014. Although he lacks experience, Lee, 27, could become a valuable member of the bullpen before the season ends.
13. Francona’s pre-game meeting with the media got off to an awkward start because of a man repairing a laptop computer in the middle of the press conference table. The man was unfazed whe reporters gathered with their digital recorders and video cameras. He continued to finish his work and carefully put the computer back together. “Are you fixing that or are you struggling?” Francona said. “Neither,” the man replied. “Looks like you’re struggling to me,” Francona said. “I’m about to get out of here,” the man answered. Fortunately for all, he departed shortly after.