Game Eight: Indians 2, Mariners 1

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via www.fangraphs.com

Highest WPA Lowest WPA
Masterson .269 Santana -.071
Chris Perez .154 Hannahan -.059
Sipp .117 Buck -.058

 

Sometimes you win because you played better than the other team; sometimes you win because the other team made a dumb error. The Indians pitched very well and made some nice defensive plays. They didn't do much on offense. The Mariners pitched very well, though their defense wasn't very good, e.g., Chone Figgins' olé of a hard-hit ball. But the physical errors didn't cost them.

The play that gave the Indians their margin of victory came in the fourth inning. Asdrubal Cabrera took a good pitch the other way for a single, Choo dropped a single into center field, and both advanced when Carlos Santana hit a dribbler to the first baseman. The Mariners, mindful of what Travis Hafner did the previous night, intentionally walked the Tribe DH. That brought up Orlando Cabrera, who did his job, hitting a fly ball to medium-deep left field, deep enough so that Asdrubal could jog home. If Milton Bradley had just lobbed a throw to his cut-off man, or even overthrown his cut-off man and hit whoever was covering second, the Indians would have ended the inning with only one run scored, which may eventually have put this game into extra innings.

However, Bradley did not throw toward second, but toward third, past everyone who could have fielded the ball and into the Indians dugout. That's not really a physical error, since Seattle was not set up for a throw to third, and I'm pretty sure the ball would have been fielded had the infielders been configured differently. I would classify that throw as a mental gaffe, in the same category as a baserunner running around the bases on a fly ball with less than two outs.

In addition to benefitting of that mistake, the Indians also pitched well enough to win. Justin Masterson struck out nine, most of them left-handed hitters*. Masterson had to leave after 6.1 innings of shutout baseball (it takes a lot of pitches to strike a hitter out), so the Tribe bullpen needed to hold a two-run lead over 2.2 innings. Rafael Perez let an inherited runner score but fielded an Ichiro bunt succefully to get the third out of the seventh without giving up the tying run. Tony Sipp worked around a lead-off double, retiring Jack Cust and Justin Smoak to get the game to Chris Perez, who had no trouble facing the bottom of the Seattle order.

With the win, the Indians have won two consecutive series and remain in sole possession of first place.

Next Up: The Indians go for two straight series sweeps. Tomlin vs Bedard at 4:10 PM.

*The correct strategy when facing Masterson is to load your lineup with left-handed hitters. The Mariners just don't have many good ones.
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