What if....Buck's in the outfield in the ninth inning?
Let's strip away all the should-haves from this game, and focus on the last play of the game. Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, one out, Indians up one run. Chris Perez in the game. A fly ball hit down the line in medium-deep left field. Not a particularly hard-hit fly ball, but perhaps catchable. What's the expected outcome? Most of the time, the runner tags up and scores from third, the outfielder probably throws to third to keep the runner on second, and the home team needs a base hit to win the game.
In this instance, the runner from second didn't tag up, and Luis Valbuena, the left fielder, lets the ball drop in front of him. There was no chance of preventing the winning run from crossing the plate. If Valbuena gets a better jump on the ball, he might catch it, but he's not really an outfielder. The normal left fielder was out with a stomach ailment, and the backup left fielder left after getting beaned during the game. Valbuena had to be out there, and the ball found him, just like the ball found Seattle's Carlos Peguero twice before Travis Hafner's walk-off homer back in May. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes luck gets you.
But the Indians had opportunities during the game to get beyond the margin of bad bounces, or in this instances, bad outfielding. Francisco Liriano allowed nine base runners in six innings, but the Indians could only eke out one run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth. In that inning, the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out, but could only score the one run. The lineup, though it looked rather week, had opportunities to score at least another couple runs in support of Justin Masterson.
Masterson pitched his best game of the year. He went 7.2 innings, allowing four hits and no walks. He struck out 6 batters, and the other outs came largely on the ground. His stuff was as good as I've seen it this year. So the loss stings a bit more given that Masterson's great outing didn't lead to a win.
The initial news on Travis Buck is promising; he did not show signs of a concussion. The pressing question now is who exactly will be playing left field for this afternoon's series finale. I seriously doubt Buck will be back on the field that soon after getting hit in the head, so if Brantley can't go again, then Valbuena's back in the outfield.
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