Twenty final thoughts after a disastrous five-run first inning at Yankee Stadium.
1. As erratic as Indians starter Trevor Bauer was, the game might have hinged on Derek Jeter’s single to short that wasn’t really a single and should have been the Indians’ third error of the night. And had it been the second out, everything might have turned out differently.
2. Bauer struck out leadoff hitter Brett Gardner and appeared to get Jeter when shortstop Jose Ramirez made a good defensive play to get to the ball and throw to Carlos Santana at first. Santana had to stretch towards the outfield side of the bag to make the catch and did that, but then dropped the ball. That opened the floodgates as Bauer walked three, one to force in a run, and gave up four singles, only two out of the infield.
3. Veteran Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com said the Yankees don’t usually pad Jeter’s statistics with questionable scoring rulings, although adding to their captain's hit total in his final major league season wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.
4. After the game, Santana’s excuse seemed flimsy. “The field was a little wet. I don’t know what happened, but I slipped a little bit when I tried to (put my foot) on the base and I dropped it,” he said.
5. Santana was following manager Terry Francona’s lead on never dwelling on the past when he said, “I know it’s a long inning. I try to play good defense, but tomorrow is a new day.”
6. Francona said he thought Santana was overly worried about his feet on the play.
7. “I throught Ramirez made a really good effort to get to the ball,” Francona said. “The ball took Carlos to his right and it looked like he got his feet a little bit caught up. I think he ended up being more worried about his feet and the ball hit his glove hard. I think he was off-balance. You could see his foot almost catching the ground when he’s reaching for it.”
8. It’s hard to read anything into Bauer’s terse answers because almost all of them are terse. But when asked what happened after he opened with a strikeout, Bauer said, “Got a ground ball to shortstop.” Asked if it should have been an out, he said, “It wasn’t hit too well. Then I walked a couple guys and they scored some runs.”
9. Francona said Bauer didn’t have his fastball command, but Bauer didn’t blame it on that. “I start off kind of slow sometimes,” he said. “I have flashes where I’m close and I can’t really locate anything. There were some pitches I thought were strikes that weren’t and I threw some pitches that were clearly nowhere close and ended up walking some people. Tough way to start the game off. Made a couple good pitches and you’re in a good spot and all of a sudden you’re not.”
10. It’s hard to tell what those “couple good pitches” were. Perhaps he was referring to how home plate umpire Dan Bellino was calling the game. I’ll let you read between the lines. I don't think he's throwing a teammate under the bus.
11. No matter what Bauer didn’t do (it was the first time this season he didn’t get through four innings), the Indians committed an error in the first on Jason Kipnis’ weak flip to Ramirez that allowed a second run to score on an infield single to second. It should have been two errors, counting Santana’s. Ramirez was tagged with one in the sixth. That would have been the second consecutive three-error night.
12. Making the defense look worse was the fact that Indians pitchers walked seven batters and six of them scored. Of the seven men to take the mound for the Tribe, the only walks were given up by Bauer (four) and John Axford (three, one intentional). Those three came before Carlos Beltran’s grand slam in the sixth inning.
13. Those wondering why Francona walked Jacoby Ellsbury so Axford could face Beltran: Beltran was 1 for 7 with a walk in eight previous plate appearances against Axford.
14. “You can’t just keep going left-right-left there,” Francona said. “We walked Ellsbury to try to pitch to Beltran, somebody he’s handled. I know (Beltran) is really good. You’re trying to get out of that with none and we end up giving up four.”
15. Francona knows the Indians cannot win with errors and walks. But short of acquiring different players or calling some up, there seems little the manager can do. He can’t make his players concentrate.
16. “We all understand the type of team we need to be to win. Not making teams earn every single thing they get doesn’t put us in the best position to win,” Francona said.
17. There were bright spots. Santana snapped an 0-for-12 streak with an RBI single in the first and went 3 for 5 with a double and three RBI. David Murphy went 2 for 4 with an RBI single and raised his average with runners in scoring position to .386. Nick Hagadone relieved Bauer and didn’t allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings.
18. Francona liked what he saw from left-hander Hagadone. “I think he’s trying to earn more innings when the game’s on the line,” Francona said. “I think he’s been really good. Tonight wasn’t an easy situation. He’s warming up since the first inning. He came in three innings later and pitched really well. Maybe in the past something like that might have thrown him a little bit. But he’s handling things and it’s pretty darn exciting because he’s so durable, he’s not a match-up lefty. You can bring him in when he’s pitching well leave him in.”
19. The Indians also scored four runs in the seventh to cut the gap to 10-6, even though it really didn’t seem like a threat to Francona. “That’s a hard way to play,” he said. ”You lose all ability to match up. You know you’re going to have to leave somebody in longer than you’d like to. It’s a tough hole to dig out of. After they score again, that’s always the worry.”
20. In a pre-game ceremony Saturday, the Yankees will unveil a Monument Park plaque for Paul O'Neill, a Columbus native who played at Brookhaven High School. O'Neill spent the final nine of his 17-year career with the Yankees. He hit .303 in New York and claimed the AL batting title in 1994 with a .359 average.