Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 9-2 loss to the Texas Rangers Monday night.
1. Josh Tomlin had his first poor outing of the season and Ryan Merritt made a positive debut. But, a key play from Monday night was Indians manager Terry Francona getting ejected for the first time this season and the 41st time in his career.
2. In the third inning of a 3-0 game, the Rangers had runners on the corners with two outs. Mitch Moreland hit a slow roller down the first-base line that Tomlin fielded, but his throw hit Moreland, allowing Ian Desmond to score and the inning to continue.
3. Francona came out to argue that Moreland was running along/inside the base line, meaning it would have been interference. He eventually returned to the dugout and then was ejected by home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez. Francona came out a second time, and Gonzalez walked away from him. He finally returned to the dugout, pointing at the scoreboard showing the replay.
4. Francona was still obviously upset after the game and still awaiting an explanation.
5. Said Francona, “I probably saw it like everyone else did. If you had a chance to look at it, the runner veered back into the baseline. He started out okay, but it looked like he wanted to get in the way of the throw. I think that’s exactly why they put the rule in place. I don’t know what he saw. I didn’t get a very good explanation. I couldn’t get any explanation. … He didn’t say anything. Kept saying, ‘That’s what I have.’ When I went out the second time after he threw me out, he wouldn’t talk to me. I’m still waiting. … I saw it on the board. I couldn’t live with that.”
6. Instead of the Indians getting out of the inning down 3-0, a run scored on that play and Elvis Andrus added an RBI-single to make it 5-0.
More: Jose Ramirez leaning to play angled left-field wall; Door open for Carlos Carrasco to make next start
7. Tomlin finished with nine hits and eight runs allowed (four earned), no walks and one strikeout, raising his season ERA to 3.79. After starting the season 7-0, the first Indians pitcher to do that since Dennis Martinez started the 1995 season 9-0, this was the first time Tomlin had been roughed up. He's been one of the more reliable back-end-of-the-rotation starters in baseball. But Monday night was not a good outing.
8. Said Tomlin, “Just executing pitches and being able to go deep into the game to be able to get a decision. That was not any of my thinking going into it, knowing that I was 7-0. My job is to try to go as deep as I can, whether you get a decision or not. That's what I try to do every time out. I just didn't execute the pitches when I needed to execute them today, and put our team in a bad spot early on and they just kept building on that first inning and I didn't limit the damage enough, and once they kind of tasted blood, they just kept piling it on. My job as a starting pitcher is to try to limit that as much as I can and go as deep as I can in the game to give the guys a chance to come back, and that definitely didn't happen tonight.”
9. Mike Napoli hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season and Marlon Byrd went 4-for-4 and was a triple away from the cycle. That was the Indians’ offense Monday night.
10. A small positive: Ryan Merritt finally got into a game. He was called up for last Monday’s doubleheader in Chicago but has been sitting in the bullpen, as the Indians couldn’t find the right situation for him to enter the game. That came on Monday night, and he took full advantage of it. After the Rangers ripped through Tomlin and rookie Nomar Mazara absolutely crushed a three-run home run off of Austin Adams, Merritt threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out two.
11. Said Francona, “Good for him. He’s been waiting patiently. Keeping his eyes open. He came in and threw the ball over the plate. Got a double play. Really did well. I’m sure he’s taking a sigh of relief that he’s pitched. He held his nerves in check and he threw strikes.”
12. Yan Gomes was impressed, saying, “That was pretty impressive. I think I caught a couple of his bullpens and maybe a game in spring training. That was pretty impressive. That was pretty good stuff that he brought out there. He kept his cool, especially for facing a lineup that -- if you were watching from the bullpen, they were swinging pretty well. They weren't letting many mistakes go. He came in, hit his spots and did a heck of a job. That saves our bullpen for the next couple of games.”
13. After a week, Merritt was obviously nervous, saying, “Oh, yeah. Pretty nervous and a lot of anticipation, but it was worth it getting out there, getting my toes wet, getting a feel for the Major Leagues. It was fun. … I think any newcomer can be nervous, but tried to do my best to stay calm and not let the nerves get to me too much or not stress too much. But definitely nervous. I’m sure I’ll be nervous the next time I go out.”
14. The Indians will have a decision to make once Carlos Carrasco is healthy and ready to return to the rotation, which could potentially be in the next couple of days. Mike Clevinger is a natural option to be sent down. Merritt is the probably the next likeliest to get the call back to Triple-A Columbus, perhaps when Joba Chamberlain is ready to come off the disabled list. At least now, if he does, he has his major-league debut under his belt.
15. Gomes wore clear glasses for the first time Monday night. He was having trouble getting used to his contacts and decided to try them out. He’s now hitting .175 this season, so he could be trying anything at this point.
16. Said Gomes, “It's been something that I've been working on during spring training. I've tried contacts and some dirt or something got in my eye and I can't get used to them. So I got the glasses. They finally came in. I might as well try them out now. … Really, they didn't bother me at all, other than some times in the dugout, I got sweat a little bit and they fogged up. It's just like wearing sunglasses or anything like that. It's just an adjustment period.”
Indians starter Josh Tomlin entered Monday’s game a perfect 7-0 this season. The Texas Rangers made sure he left with a loss and then some, as the Indians were pounded 9-2.
The Rangers scored nine runs in the first four innings that included Tomlin getting knocked around for the first time this season, reliever Austin Adams giving up a monster home run and Indians manager Terry Francona getting ejected.
The Rangers (30-21) started early. Jurickson Profar led off the game with a single and was followed by Ian Desmond, who belted a two-run home run to the bleacher seats to put the Rangers up 2-0 two batters into the game. The Rangers tacked on a third run in the second inning on Bryan Holaday’s sacrifice fly to center field.
The third inning was Francona’s last. With runners on the corners and two outs, Mitch Moreland grounded a ball along the first-base line. Tomlin fielded it, but his throw hit Moreland. A run scored and all runners were safe, prompting Francona to argue that Moreland was inside of the baseline and should have been called the final out of the inning.
Francona was eventually ejected by home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez and came out of the dugout a second time. Elvis Andrus, the next batter, then singled home another run to left field to make it 5-0.
“I don’t know what [the umpire] saw,” Francona said. “I didn’t get a very good explanation. I couldn’t get any explanation. … When I went out the second time after he threw me out, he wouldn’t talk to me. I’m still waiting.”
Tomlin didn’t escape the fourth. Prince Fielder extended the Rangers’ lead to 6-0 with a single and Juan Uribe then committed two errors one on play to end Tomlin’s day. Adams entered, and Rangers rookie Nomar Mazara crushed a three-run home run to center field that cleared the first row of trees and put the game out of reach.
Tomlin finished with nine hits and eight runs allowed (four earned), no walks and one strikeout, raising his season ERA to 3.79.
“I just didn't execute the pitches when I needed to execute them today and put our team in a bad spot early on,” Tomlin said. “They just kept building on that first inning and I didn't limit the damage enough, and once they kind of tasted blood, they just kept piling it on.”
The Indians’ offense came on two home runs. Mike Napoli hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season in the sixth off Rangers starter Derek Holland, and Marlon Byrd (4-for-4) hit his fifth home run of the year in the seventh off Cesar Ramos.
A rare bright spot for the Indians (26-23) on Monday night was left-handed pitcher Ryan Merritt, who made his major-league debut after a week of sitting in the Indians’ bullpen. Merritt was called up last Monday prior to the Indians’ doubleheader in Chicago but couldn’t get into a game. He finally did against the Rangers and threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two.
But Tomlin had his first poor start of the season, and the Indians’ offense had spent two of the previous three days trying to erase early deficits. This one was too much.
One of the challenges of a natural infielder finding playing time in the outfield is learning how to play near the wall on deep fly balls.
In Jose Ramirez’s case, he has to deal with a 19-foot wall that includes an odd angle near the left-field line (under the Home Run Porch) and a video board that will deaden any possible carom.
Ramirez, receiving significant time in left field in Michael Brantley’s absence, is still getting some of the nuances down. It was evident Sunday, when Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo doubled off the left-field wall with the bases loaded in the first inning. Trumbo smashed a 116-mph line drive, per Statcast, right to the section of the wall where it becomes angled, just to the left of the Sherwin Williams ad. Ramirez got caught in-between trying to play a couple different possible caroms, and it got by him, allowing all three runs to score instead of, possibly, only two.
“I’m working on this,” Ramirez said though a team translator. “I still don’t know the wall all the way, because it gives different bounces at different times.”
Prior to Monday’s game, bench coach Brad Mills and Ramirez practiced in left field fielding hits off of different parts of the wall. They found that different sections of the wall will result in different caroms in addition to different angles.
“This is my fourth year here, and there's been some balls that seem to come off a little harder this year than they have other years,” Mills said. “I know Brantley has had much more experience out there, so maybe he made them look like they weren't coming off that hard. I don't know. So, I wanted to go out there and I brought Jose out. … We found a few that seemed to be a little less angled and a little not coming off quite as much.”
The Indians installed a new video board near the top of the wall. If a ball hits the screen in front of the video board, the ball won’t bounce off like if it hits the padding. Ramirez is also to dealing with the relatively new issue of knowing when to keep going toward the wall or when to back off and play the bounce. Then there’s playing the right bounce.
Ramirez added that he’s working during batting practice and watching video of Brantley and others playing bounces off the left-field wall. The Indians this spring wanted to give Ramirez additional time in the outfield to expand his versatility and get his bat in the lineup more often. Brantley’s extended absence has resulted in extended time for Ramirez in left field.
“When he first went out there, I thought there were a lot of new things. And I think he’s kind of slowly progressed,” Mills said. “There’s some other things now that I don’t want him to get comfortable with. One is a little bit of the wall, maybe. And I’m not saying that he is at all, but I just want to give him a little bit of a read of how things are going to come off and do things.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday that the possibility remains that Carlos Carrasco’s next step could be to rejoin the Indians.
Carrasco, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, threw a rehab outing for Double-A Akron Saturday and then threw a side session on Monday. It’s possible he could make one more rehab appearance before joining the Indians. It’s also possible he could make his next start in Cleveland, but with a pitch count. For now, the Indians will see how things progress.
“We’re going to keep the door open for him starting his next start,” Francona said. “I think we also have left the door open with wether we want to let him start, maybe piggy-back him. … We’re leaving all options open. I think we want to continue to discuss it a little bit. And mainly, when I say discuss it, I mean allow the medical people as much time as we can with him. Then we’re able to make a baseball decision based on good medical information and not guessing.”
When the Indians do reactivate Carrasco, it’s possibly Mike Clevinger or Ryan Merritt, in the bullpen are optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
Here are 19 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Sunday afternoon.
1. This game felt similar to Friday’s loss, in which the Indians dug themselves an early hole, battled back to tie but lost in the end. The main difference was that in Sunday’s game, the Indians had two golden scoring opportunities in the end. They just couldn’t convert them.
2. The Indians had two runners in scoring position with no outs in the bottom of the eighth after Jason Kipnis singled and Francisco Lindor doubled. Lindor’s hit was only a few feet from being a game-tying home run. Instead, the Orioles brought in Darren O’Day, who got Mike Napoli to ground out, intentionally walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases and then struck out both Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes to end the inning.
3. The sequence and final pitch that got Chisenhall was something else. O’Day threw eight pitches on the inner part of the plate as he and Chisenhall battled though several foul balls. The ninth pitch was a perfectly placed slider on the outside part of the plate that started off the plate and cut back in on Chisenhall, who was frozen for strike three. It was in-in-in eight times, and then the killer.
4. Said Chisenhall, “He kept pounding me in, pounding me in, close enough I couldn’t take it. I kept fouling it off and he ended up freezing me. I know it caught enough of the plate. I was frustrated with myself. Was kind of a pitch I like to hit off of guys like that. Even after throwing five or six in like that, he just got me. It’s a real tough at-bat, it’s a good situation to score some runs, felt good against him and he won.”
5. In the ninth, a similar story. Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis each singled to open the inning, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Carlos Santana grounded into a fielder’s choice and Kipnis and Lindor each struck out to end the game.
6. Indians manager Terry Francona has often said he’d rather have the scoring chances but not convert than not have the opportunities at all, Still, it’s a tough loss.
7. Said Francona, “It gave us a chance. That’s what you want. Those are hard games to win. … Somebody will whack one and we’ll have a walk-off if we keep doing stuff like that. I mean, I hope we don’t have to do that, but it’ll happen.”
More: Indians SP Carlos Carrasco nearing return; Jason Kipnis providing defense
8. Friday night, the Orioles beat up on Zach McAllister. Sunday afternoon, Hyun Soo Kim hit the first home run of his career off of Jeff Manship to put the Orioles up 5-4 in the seventh. After being seemingly superhuman since the start of last season, Manship has come down to earth recently. Nolan Remold then took Tommy Hunter deep for a solo home run in the ninth, so it wasn’t a great weekend for middle relievers.
9. Unless you’re Dan Otero, who tossed two scoreless innings with three strikeouts that allowed the Indians time to tie it. Otero, somewhat quietly, now has a 0.86 ERA this season.
10. Said Francona on Otero, “At the time, that completely gave us a chance to win the game. He calmed the game down for us. We didn’t win, but it was exactly what we needed. We needed to slow them down, give ourselves a chance. We had really good opportunities. We weren’t able to do much with them.”
11. Prior to that, it was another rough outing for Mike Clevinger in his third career start. The Orioles got to Clevinger early while he struggled to get ahead in the count. With the bases loaded, Mark Trumbo ripped a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall.
12. And it was really ripped. Coming into today, only 13 batted balls had an exit velocity of at least 116 miles per hour, per Statcast. Trumbo’s double was the 14th. Poor command led to being behind which led to a mistake which led to an early 3-0 deficit.
13. Said Clevinger, “With the way my fastball command was in the first inning, it was hit or miss with where that was going to go. I was trying to throw a fastball away. Usually, when I have my command going, I might not have even gone to three fastballs in a row 3-2 or two fastballs in a row 3-2 to him right there, but I kind of cornered myself into throwing that pitch either way and I left it up and he capitalized.”
More: Indians players respond to proposed rule change raising lower part of strike zone
14. It took time for Clevinger to settle in, which is a sign of trouble against a lineup like the Orioles’. Said Clevinger of how he felt after that costly first inning, “It finally felt like I was pitching instead of throwing. It kind of felt like I was throwing at the beginning and I was out of my mechanics. I wasn't there mentally, it didn't feel like, until I got into the second and started finding my groove and it at least clicked for a little bit.”
15. After three starts, Clevinger now has an ERA of 8.79. He’s about as “green” as they come. The Indians like his stuff, and it plays at this level. But he’s learning on the go, and it’s cost him.
16. Specifically, he’s learning that mistakes don’t get covered up like they do in the minor leagues. They get exposed.
17. Said Clevinger, “It's just how easily a mistake is capitalized on, whether it's a walk two hitters beforehand and it turns into a single scores a run or it pushes a single after an out and a sac fly gets him in. It's still attacking, but staying within myself. … There have to be fewer mistakes made. The one thing I can take out of all three of these is there's a lot that I've learned that this level has shown me. I'm a quick learner. I'm not getting down. I can definitely say I've learned a lot. … There's no part of me that doesn't think I belong. That's not there. It's consistency and finding that even keel.”
For the second time in three games, the Indians fell behind the Baltimore Orioles, fought their way back to a tie but couldn’t keep up in the end in a 6-4 loss.
The Indians’ offense successfully climbed their way back into the game after an early deficit, but the key scoring opportunities eluded them in the bottom the eighth and ninth innings.
Facing Brad Brach, Jason Kipnis singled and Francisco Lindor followed with a double off the wall in right field that missed being a go-ahead home run by just a few feet, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out. The Orioles went to Darren O’Day, and the Indians couldn’t convert.
O’Day got Mike Napoli to ground out to third base for the first out and then walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases. Lonnie Chisenhall was frozen for strike three in a nine-pitch at-bat and Yan Gomes struck out swinging to end the inning.
Against Orioles closer Zach Britton in the ninth, the Indians again threatened but came up short.
Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis opened the inning with singles, bringing the potential winning run to the plate. Carlos Santana grounded a ball to third base that was originally called a double play, but Santana beat the throw at first base. Then, a familiar ending. Britton struck out Kipnis and Lindor back-to-back to end the game, just as O’Day had done in the eighth.
“It gave us a chance,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “That’s what you want. Those are hard games to win. … Somebody will whack one and we’ll have a walk-off if we keep doing stuff like that. I mean, I hope we don’t have to do that, but it’ll happen.”
Prior to that, the Indians played catch-up all day.
The Orioles took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Indians starter Mike Clevinger, just as they did on Friday against Trevor Bauer. Clevinger struggled to find the strike zone, throwing more balls than strikes in the first inning. He walked two and allowed a single to Manny Machado to load the bases. Mark Trumbo then made it all costly with a bases-clearing double off the left-field wall.
In the fourth, Jonathan Schoop doubled and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ryan Flaherty, putting the Orioles up 4-0.
Clevinger lasted only four innings, allowed those four runs on four hits and three walks and struck out four. Clevinger has been hit hard in his last two starts and now owns an 8.79 ERA.
“It finally felt like I was pitching instead of throwing,” Clevinger said of how he felt after the rough first inning. “It kind of felt like I was throwing at the beginning and I was out of my mechanics. I wasn’t there mentally, it didn’t feel like, untiL i got into the second and started finding my groove and it at least clicked for a little bit.”
Just like Friday, the Indians came back to erase that deficit. This time, they did it with power. Carlos Santana hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, his ninth of the year, that temporarily tied him with Napoli for the team lead. Three batters later, Napoli took back the lead with a two-run shot, his 10th, to cut the Orioles lead to 4-3.
In the sixth, the Indians finally caught up when Kipnis drove a solo home run to right field, his seventh of the season.
And, just like Friday, the Orioles got to the Indians’ bullpen. Facing Jeff Manship in the seventh, Hyun Soo Kim hit a line-drive solo home run, the first of his career, to put the Orioles up 5-4.
In the top of the ninth, Nolan Reimold added a solo home run against Tommy Hunter. It was just an insurance run, as the Indians’ offense couldn’t convert those two late scoring chances into runs.
The Indians have spent most of the season waiting for two key pieces to return from the disabled list. It appears as though they’ll be getting at least one of them back soon.
Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco took an important step in his rehab from a strained left hamstring on Saturday, throwing four innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits and striking out six for Double-A Akron. He threw 53 pitches and then roughly another 10 in the bullpen. The feedback was positive.
“I think pretty good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Covered first in the first inning … Handled all that. It was good. By all accounts, by his own account, looked healthy and seemed raring to go.”
It’s the first time he had thrown anything above a simulated game or a bullpen session. Carrasco has been on the DL since straining his hamstring trying to cover first base in a game in Detroit on April 24. He was given an original timetable of 4-to-6 weeks, of which he’s currently near the middle.
Carrasco will have a side day of work on Monday, but the next step is still undetermined. It’s possible Carrasco needs a second rehab appearance. Though, when asked if the next move could be to rejoin the Indians, Francona only said, “We’ll sit and figure it out.”
Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched before going down with that injury. Trevor Bauer took his spot in the rotation, and Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson have made starts during his absence.
Kipnis in the field
Indian second basemen Jason Kipnis hasn’t had the kind of torrid offensive start to this season that he had in 2015 when he earned an All-Star selection, this year hitting .271 with a .320 on-base percentage, six home runs and eight doubles. He has, recently, been making as many plays with his glove than with his bat.
By most measurements, Kipins has been better defensively since the start of last season than he had ever been in his first four years. Specifically, his range has been improved. Last year Kipnis has a range runs above average (RngR) of 4.3, the first year that had been a positive number, according to FanGraphs. A positive number indicates above league average. This year, it’s 2.2.
Kipnis’ ultimate zone rating, a more complete defensive rating, was 4.3 last year and is 4.5 this year, the two highest marks of his career.
Kipnis made a couple diving plays during the Indians’ 5-1 homestand earlier in May. He made another in Saturday’s 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. He also made a catch in shallow right field in Cincinnati that would rival some of Francisco Lindor’s best highlights this season.
Francona has been impressed with Kipnis’ defense in his time in Cleveland, especially from a player who didn’t grow up only playing that position. Kipnis is a converted second basemen.
“It’s funny, and he’ll probably tell you, it’s not his natural position and he has to really work at it,” Francona said. “He doesn’t have the luxury of not working at it. But because he’s athletic and he does work at it, he does a hell of a job and he’s got a good arm and he’s athletic. … He doesn’t have the ability to not take ground balls for a week. He’s a natural outfielder, but he’s done a hell of a job.”
In a way, that outfielder’s background helps him make plays Francona sees other middle infielders struggle to consistently make, like that catch in Cincinnati.
“Some guys, for whatever reason, might be really good infielders but shy away on that ball in the air. That was one of the things they were saying [when I got here], that he has a radar.”
Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians’ 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
1. The Indians are now a first-place team. As they were knocking around old friend Ubaldo Jimenez, the Chicago White Sox were blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning to the Kansas City Royals. Now, the Indians hold a half-game lead over both teams and a 2.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers.
2. It’s the first time the Indians have been in first place since they were 1-0 on March 31, 2014. That’s more than two calendar years ago. It’s also the latest in the season the Indians have been in first place since July 2, 2013, the year they ended up earning a wild card berth.
3. Perhaps the best sign for the Indians: They’re also close to getting Carlos Carrasco back into the starting rotation and, potentially, Michael Brantley into the middle of the lineup. Carrasco, who threw 53 pitches in four innings and allowed one run for Double-A Akron Saturday night, is the No. 2 starter and was a legitimate Cy Young contender in the spring whose return will give the Indians options in the rotation. Brantley, of course, will return to the heart of the order, though he is still operating without a specific timeline and has already had two setbacks this year.
More: Indians, Michael Brantley hoping his shoulder holds up this time around
4. Those are two major assets the Indians have had to play without for most of the season. Still, they now sit in first place and have some momentum.
5. Said Mike Napoli, “There's people filling in. They're doing a good job of coming up here and competing and doing what they can. It's going to take all of us to do this. We can't just have individuals out there on their own playing. I think we've done a good job of sticking together and getting what pitchers have been giving us, and passing it on to the next guy. It's something that we're going to have to continue to do to become more of a group and move forward.”
6. As for Saturday, one thing Indians manager Terry Francona talked about after the game wasn’t just getting to Jimenez, but making him pay for it. Often times a pitcher will struggle in the first inning and rack up a high pitch count, but it won’t cost him and he settles into the game. That happened, in a way, for Danny Salazar in Houston, when he struck out three straight hitters with the bases loaded in the first inning.
7. It was in part thanks to some shoddy defense at third base—the Pedro Alvarez experiment at third base has been well documented and not very successful—but the Indians made Jimenez pay for a rough start, scoring six early runs and not allowing him to escape the second inning.
8. Said Francona, “How many times do you see a guy where you let him off the hook and then they settle into the game? We did a good job of not allowing that to happen. It made for a better game for us because you could see them coming. We had to go to [Bryan] Shaw just because there’s so much thunder in that lineup that you don’t want to let them get on too much of a roll.”
More: Indians players respond to proposed rule change raising lower part of strike zone
9. The first inning included three hits, a two-run error and three stolen bases. Two runs scored on an Alvarez error off the bat of Napoli. Later, with him on second and Jose Ramirez on first, Napoli led a double-steal that put both runners in scoring position. Yan Gomes made it count with a two-run single to right field.
10. It was another case of the Indians being the top base-running team in the American League. Last week, Napoli talked about how important base running has been his entire career.
11. Said Napoli Saturday, “Coming up through the minors and in the big leagues, it's always been a part of what we've talked about, what we've done, what I've done. Coming over here, I've tried to bring that with me. Everyone wants to talk about someone has to be fast to be a good baserunner, but it takes instincts. It takes thinking ahead and having a plan. If a guy is going to give you a base, go and take it. That's how I was brought up. I think we do a good job here.”
12. The Indians’ 11 runs were scored on 11 hits, five stolen bases and four errors.
13. For Salazar, it was another quality start to follow up, really his one bad outing this season in Boston. Salazar threw six innings, gave up two runs on six hits and struck out five. He’s now 5-3 with a 2.39 ERA this season. He’s now held opponents to two or fewer runs in eight of his 10 starts and has struck out at least five in nine of them.
14. The early lead didn’t hurt, either. Salazar hasn’t needed much run support this season.
15. Said Salazar, “I think that’s great, gives you a little more confidence to go out there and to work really strong so they can’t come back. I think that’s big. I think that makes the game a little bit easier for us.”
Ubaldo Jimenez had plenty of highs and lows during his tenure with the Indians. On Saturday, facing the Indians, he didn’t stay in the game long enough to have anything but a lowly outing.
The Indians took it to Jimenez early, knocking him out of the game in the second inning en route to an 11-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles. The victory also put the Indians in first place in the American League Central after the Chicago White Sox blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning and lost to the Kansas City Royals.
It’s the first time the Indians have been in first place in the division since winning their Opening Day game against the Oakland Athletics on March 31, 2014, more than two years ago.
A day after Trevor Bauer was knocked around in the first inning, the Indians returned the favor to Jimenez (2-6, 6.36 ERA) with six runs in the first two innings, though only three were earned.
Carlos Santana started it with a single, Jason Kipnis walked and Mike Napoli reached on an error by Pedro Alvarez that scored two. After Jose Ramirez walked with two outs, Napoli led a double-steal that put both runners in scoring position. Yan Gomes then rifled a single to right field that scored both, putting the Indians on top 4-0.
The Indians (26-21) added two more two-out runs in the second inning, as Francisco Lindor singled, stole second and scored on a single off the bat of Napoli. Ramirez was walked again, ending Jimenez’s day and bringing on Vance Worley, who gave up a single to Juan Uribe to extend the Indians’ lead to 6-0.
Jimenez has struggled this season but has had flashes of his former ace self. The Indians did well to capitalize on a poor start.
“How many times do you see a guy where you let him off the hook and then they settle into the game?” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “We did a good job of not allowing that to happen. It made for a better game for us because you could see them coming.”
In the third, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled and Rajai Davis singled to set up another rally. Santana grounded into a double play, but it was enough to score Chisenhall, who later left the game with blurred vision after getting dirt in his eye sliding into second base.
In part thanks to some shaky Orioles (27-20) defense, the Indians continued to add on. Gomes, who finished with three RBI, singled in a run in the fifth after Uribe reached on a second error by Alvarez. In the seventh, Santana added an RBI-single and Michael Martinez later scored on an error by Matt Wieters trying to throw out Santana on an attempted steal of second base. Finally, Jose Ramirez continued his hot streak with an RBI-single in the eighth.
In all, the Indians scored their 11 runs via 11 hits, five stolen bases and four Orioles errors.
It was plenty of offense to support starter Danny Salazar, who threw six innings, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five. It was a quality outing for Salazar (5-3, 2.39 ERA) who has been dynamic all season with the exception of his last outing in Boston, in which he took a step back. Having an immediate cushion helped as well.
“I think that’s great, gives you a little more confidence to go out there and to work really strong so they can’t come back,” Salazar said. “I think that’s big. I think that makes the game a little bit easier for us.”
The Indians and Michael Brantley are hoping the third attempt to work his way back from shoulder surgery will result in his being able to return to the lineup and, this time, stay in it.
The first two attempts didn’t go as planned. Brantley has returned to action twice since spring training but hasn’t been able to stick around, as his surgically-repaired shoulder hasn’t responded like they had hoped.
The Indians are in the thick of the American League Central race and still, for the most part, are awaiting one of the crucial pieces to the middle of their lineup. Brantley returning isn’t the focal point. It’s his shoulder holding up for the rest of the season once he does.
Brantley’s original timetable put his expected return some time around the beginning of May. But he progressed much faster than expected, passing his hitting milestones ahead of schedule. He’s twice felt good enough to play, but it didn’t last long.
Indians manager Terry Francona repeated on Saturday that there was no longer a reason to hold him back.
“[Until] he passed all his milestones, he was never going to move on with the medical people,” Francona said. “But once he did, there was never a reason to hold him back. And the same thing will happen again this time. We’ll certainly be a little bit more conservative.”
He and Brantley agreed that there wasn’t anything they would have done differently.
“Absolutely not. I was ready,” Brantley said. “We talked about it. We had a great process and a great calendar laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”
There is still no timetable for Brantley’s return. Brantley received an anti-inflammatory shot after receiving an impingement diagnosis, was shut down for a week and a half and this week began taking dry swings and hitting off a tee. It’s still a day-to-day process.
“I feel good,” Brantley said. “It’s a process that I’ve got to kind of play through again, but all’s going well so far.”
He added there’s a noticeable difference between how he’s felt before and after the shot. But, for now, it’s just again trying to build up his volume of work and hoping the shoulder responds.
“Any time you’re not with your team, and this is where you want to be, to help contribute and just be around the players, it's like a family around here,” Brantley said. “You miss your family when they’re gone and you’re trying to do your best to get back with them.”
Brantley is a former Silver Slugger outfielder who’s hit at least .310 with a .379 on-base percentage, 15 home runs and 45 doubles each of the past two seasons. Jose Ramirez has done well in his absence, providing the Indians with a spark despite not having a regular spot in the field. But now near the top of the AL Central, getting Brantley back and having him in the lineup for the rest of the season is near the top of their priority list.
That is, if the third try is different.
Here are 17 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Friday night.
1. The Indians fought back from a rough first inning to tie it 3-3 before the Orioles knocked around Zach McAllister in the seventh inning. Manny Machado—who is arguably one of the top two players in the American League right now—doubled, Chris Davis doubled to tie it and on the next pitch, Mark Trumbo took McAllister deep for a two-run home run. A couple of pitches, and a night’s worth of climbing back from a 3-0 deficit was erased.
2. The problem with McAllister Friday night was location. He faced three hitters who have all already hit double-digit home runs this season and left fastballs out over the middle of the plate to where all three could get extended.
3. Said Indians manager Terry Francona, “We fought back to get it tied, feel heck of a lot better about the game, and then Zach came in and he just left balls middle-out. Can’t let those big strong guys get extended like that.”
4. No kidding. Here are the locations (represented by the blue circles), via GameDay, on the three extra-base hits that did McAllister and the Indians in on Friday night in order from Machado to Davis to Trumbo.
5. All three are fastballs, all three are out and over the plate, all three were hit hard.
6. Said McAllister, “And then, when I threw my fastball, sometimes they were elevated too much, and too much plate. The fastballs cost me today, but it wasn't a mix of throwing too many fastballs today. I thought today I had a better mix than I had in the past. I just didn't execute them.”
7. The Indians have Cody Allen for the ninth and Bryan Shaw for the eighth. McAllister, Jeff Manship and Tommy Hunter have all come in for high-leverage situations. This certainly wasn’t the best showing for McAllister, and the pecking order behind Allen and Shaw will continue to be molded. Still, McAllister at times has been terrific this season. It was a bad night. The key is not making it multiple bad nights in a row.
8. Trevor Bauer wasn’t very good in the first inning. Then, he was terrific for the next five. Go figure.