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.”
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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.”
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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.”
18. The potential exists that, for the time being, his time in Cleveland could be limited. Clevinger has the movement, but obviously hasn’t put it all together yet. And, Carlos Carrasco is nearing his return from a strained left hamstring and will be re-entering the rotation.
19. Carrasco could need one more rehab appearance, or he could rejoin the Indians and slot into the rotation again, joining Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin. The timing might actually line up. The Indians could then send Clevinger back to Triple-A to join Cody Anderson as promising young pitchers the Indians can call upon if needed, along with TJ House. Ryan Merritt could also be optioned down, though, giving the Indians some options. Merritt was called up for last Monday’s doubleheader in Chicago but hasn’t appeared in a game yet.