Thirteen final thoughts after what felt like a must-win at Fenway Park.
1. I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk that Saturday was the final start for left-hander T.J. House with the Indians for a while. He was summoned from Triple-A Columbus when right-hander Zach McAllister went on the disabled list May 22 with a low back strain, but pitched better than a mere replacement. House impressed Tribe manager Tito Francona with his poise, and perhaps with his aggressiveness.
2. Francona keeps talking about the off days on June 23 and 26 before and after two games in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. That gives the Indians something to play with if they want to adjust their rotation. It’s possible they could let House pitch again on Thursday at home against the Los Angeles Angels and hold off on activating McAllister.
3. McAllister pitched four scoreless innings and allowed five hits Saturday night for the Triple-A Clippers in Columbus against Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He walked one and struck out two. He threw 64 pitches, 43 for strikes. His pitch count was limited in case the Indians decide to activate him next week.
4. If the Indians were making a decision between House and McAllister based on personality, it would be House hands-down. House, 24, seems wise beyond his years and speaks confidently. After his debut in Baltimore he told me he didn’t just want to be a fill-in, that he was going after the job. McAllister is polite and respectful, but doesn’t have the outgoing personality of House.
5. House also showed something in bouncing back from a bad start Monday in Texas. He lasted 3 1/3 innings in that outing and was torched for six runs (five earned) on six hits. On Saturday against the Red Sox, House went 5 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out three. He gave up a run in the first on a single to Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz’s RBI double, then settled down until the sixth, when he was gone one batter after Dustin Pedroia’s leadoff double.
6. “I felt more comfortable as the game went on,” House said. “Prior to the second I was not bad, but definitely giving up more hits than I wanted to. But it all came together great.” Asked how he adjusted, House said, “Definitely was ahead a little bit more, throwing quality strikes down in the zone, that was a big key. And Yan (Gomes) mixing it up, he called another great game.”
7. He may be young, but he knows how to pat his catcher on the back.
8. Francona said he thought House “did a pretty good job.” Whether it’s good enough to earn another start remains to be seen. House is a ground ball pitcher and unless the Indians’ defense continues to improve, that’s not the best fit.
9. “Early the game he was a little flatter than he has been, getting under some pitches, but he’d get a double play,” Francona said of House. “Then in the third or fourth inning he started getting on top of the ball a little more and throwing down in the zone, showed the right-handers enough in to get them off some pitches, then going back down. He stayed out there and kept them off the board for the most part. Give T.J. some credit. He got them to hit some balls on the ground when we needed them to.”
10. Even reliever John Axford mentioned House afterward. “It was great to have him go out there after his outing in Texas, I’m sure he wanted to get out there and get a little redemption and throw the ball the way he has in the past for us,” Axford said.
11. House said pitching for the first time in Fenway Park was “awesome,” but not unsettling. “I was having so much fun out there, soaking it up. I stood out there for a second and just looked around and thought, ‘Man, this is great, a 102-year-old ballpark and I get to have my first one here.’ It was fun,” he said.
12. No matter what happens with House and McAllister, the Indians picked up an important victory to halt a four-game losing streak. They improved to 4-5 with the final game of the 10-game road trip Sunday and ace Corey Kluber on the mound against Brandon Workman. “(This will) definitely pick us up,” House said. “This is a good ball club. Yeah, we’ve been scuffling a little bit, but we’re definitely headed in the right direction. It’s definitely an energizer. Come out and win tomorrow and I think that’s a good road trip.”
13. Check another installment of Tales From Tito on the Indians' blog, with Francona's stories about going to the ballpark with his father Tito in honor of Father's Day. They were so good they'll run over two days. Happy Father's Day to all.