It always seems when the Indians play in Texas, the pitching staff gets fried for the next two weeks, the Indians give up a ridiculous amount of joke home runs, and look like they'll never win another game. After Monday's game, it looks like that pitching staff will indeed be fried (thank goodness that they're playing this series just before the All-Star Break), but they were actually the ones administering the beating instead of the other way around.
Aaron Laffey's line doesn't look half-bad, so why was he removed before he even could get through five innings? He couldn't get the Rangers to put the ball in play early in the count. Going deep in the count is not a good thing for a pitcher like Laffey, and in several cases was extremely lucky that the damage done was manageable. I was actually pleasantly surprise when Manny Acta took him out when he struggled in the fifth, though perhaps I had been watching too many Eric Wedge-coached games for my own good. The Rangers were about to get back into the game, with runners on the corners, one out, and the heart of their potent order coming up. This was not a time to allow a struggling pitcher finish the inning just so he could qualify for a win, even with 6-2 lead, for in five minutes there might not have been a win to qualify for.
Acta brought in resident troubleshooter Frank Herrmann, who did give up a single to Vladimir Guerrero, but retired hot-hitting Josh Hamilton on a perfectly-placed fastball, and disposed of Nelson Cruz with a nasty 77-mph curve. Herrmann so far has been utilizing mostly fastballs, so Cruz was not prepared for Herrmann's splitter followed by the slow curve. That was the key moment in the game.
Jason Donald opened up the scoring by blooping a single off the glove of a charging Nelson Cruz, driving home Matt LaPorta. Earlier in the inning, "left fielder" Trevor Crowe reached on a swinging bunt, so the Indians got lucky with placement in the inning. But the rest of their nine runs didn't come on bloopers. Carlos Santana led off the third with a no-doubter to the second deck in right field, and LaPorta followed three batters later with a home run of his own. Jayson Nix contributed two home runs of his own, a solo shot in the fourth and a two-run homer in the seventh.
Of course, what would an Indians game be without an injury to one of their best hitters? Matt LaPorta was briefly knocked out after Elvis Andrus unintentionally struck him with his elbow when he passed first base. Matt would finish the inning in the field, but was removed afterwards for precautionary reasons. LaPorta's been on a roll, posting an OPS over 1.00 since returning to the lineup, and hopefully he just misses a day or so.
The bullpen again went beyond the call of duty, allowing just one run in relief of Laffey's short start. Joe Smith came close to allowing a three-run homer to Nelson Cruz, but thankfully the on-field call was reversed after replay clearly showed the ball curving foul.
|Highest WPA||Lowest WPA|
|Jason Donald||.181||Michael Brantley||-.062|
|Matt LaPorta||.162||Jhonny Peralta||-.034|
|Carlos Santana||.064||Travis Hafner||-.019|