Ten final thoughts for the Indians' 2-0 win over the White Sox, which included some great pitching, some good and bad defense and the possible loss of Michael Bourn.
1. Bourn left the game after the third inning for precautionary reasons for left hamstring tightness. That's not good news any way you cut it for the Indians. This is for two reasons: 1. Hamstring injuries are notorious in any sport for derailing entire seasons, as they tend to linger for quite some time; 2. This is the same hamstring Bourn had surgery on in October and the same one that put him on the disabled list to start the season.
2. The cold weather doesn't help, but it's still bad news for the Tribe. Bourn said after the game he thinks he might miss 1-5 days. Said manager Terry Francona, "Bourny felt his hammy a little bit. Hopefully he caught it to the point where it was precautionary and not something that's going to cost him much time. I think we'll know a heck of a lot more tomorrow." A DL stint might not be warranted if he didn't push it too far. But if you're thinking about the season as a whole, it might not be the worst thing in the world. This might have opened a door for Nyjer Morgan, who played well the first time Bourn went down this season.
3. Jason Giambi also left the game with a cramp in his right calf. Giambi said after the game he just couldn't get it un-cramped and should be fine by tomorrow or Monday. Eleven of the 12 Indians position players got into the game Saturday night, with George Kottaras the only exception.
4. The Indians, all of a sudden, might be pretty thin. Kipnis is out 3-5 weeks with an oblique strain—another injury that can fester and must be treated very cautiously. If Bourn misses time, that likely moves Brantley to center field and Mike Aviles into the starting lineup in left field on some days. Nick Swisher could also move to right field and David Murphy/Ryan Raburn to left field. Elliot Johnson, who would have been an option, was designated for assignment today. Nick Hagadone was just recalled but is now the ninth reliever on the team that can't afford to have nine relievers, unless Bourn is put on the disabled list.
5. Justin Masterson was in ace form tonight. He threw 7 1/3 innings, allowed four hits, no runs and struck out six. He cruised for most of the night except when the Indians defense was poor. He said he's felt good about his last four starts, and the results are starting to show. He hasn't looked like a pitcher worthy of $15-17 million a year very often this season. Tonight was perhaps the second time, maybe third.
6. Two more errors tonight, but there was some positive fielding news. A Lonnie Chisenhall error, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Marcus Semien ripped a line drive to first baseman Nick Swisher, who dove to his left, caught the ball and stepped on first for an inning-ending double play. If Swisher doesn't make that play, the White Sox surely take the lead, possibly a multi-run lead.
7. Afterward, he ran up to Masterson. Said Masterson, "He's like, 'I'm back. I made the play.' He's pumped. That's the way it was tonight." For the first time in a long time, the Indians' defense picked up the Indians' defense.
8. You'd be hard-pressed to find a batter 1-2 combo in the bullpen right now than John Axford and Cody Allen. Each has one poor outing, but has been otherwise unhittable. Allen tonight, with two runners on in the eighth inning and two out in a two-run game, struck out Jose Abreu—currently one of the game's most dangerous hitters—on three pitches, including a nasty curveball for the final strike. Axford, meanwhile, has nine saves on 10 chances. Considering the Tribe gave the White Sox 29 outs, this was a pretty strong outing.
9. "That little s[expletive]'s all over the place." That was Francona on Jose Ramirez, who made his first start of the season tonight. Ramirez went 1-for-3, but he made that one hit exciting. He reached base on a bunt single and then flew around to second on a throwing error by Tyler Flowers. Later, he made a terrific play in shallow right field to get Adam Dunn for the second out in the ninth inning. Said Francona, "He's got a ton of energy and he's got a good feel for the game." Francona added that they were joking that Ramirez should have been called up to a higher league than the big leagues because he already looks like he belongs.
10. While Kipnis is out, and while Francisco Lindor continues to progress in the minor leagues, Jose Ramirez might have a real chance to make an impact in Cleveland. He's electric, and Francona seems like a big fan of his. Considering Bourn might be out, it isn't impossible that Ramirez hit some leadoff, considering his energy and speed.