April 18, 2013
Chapter 14:Defeat is not an orphan
The easy way out of this recap would be to point out Cord Phelps' error and be done with it. Unfortunately, although Phelps' error was critical, this loss, like in baseball, was a team effort. It takes pitching, defense, and offense to lose a game, and the Indians were clicking on all cylinders there.
Zach McAllister had a decent enough line (5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 7 SO, 3 BB) but made enough mistakes to torpedo his outing. I thought he got squeezed on a couple occasions, particularly with curve ball. In the fourth inning, for example, he threw a 2-2 curve to Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the the outside corner on the plate that was called a ball. On the next pitch he threw a four-seamer over the inside half of the plate that the Boston catcher lined over the right field fence to give Boston a 2-1 lead. But ultimately McAllister had to make a better pitch than he made; bad calls are going to happen over the course of a season, and you' shouldn't get a pass because the umpire blew a call. Boston's lineup is locked in in the respect that they aren't getting themselves out, and McAllister had to throw a lot of pitches to get through each inning; this was not an outing marred by one bad inning, but five difficult innings.
The offense did make good use of its first couple opportunities against Jon Lester, in both cases bringing home a leadoff double with subsequent well-placed outs. In the second inning Mark Reynolds was the doubler, went to third on a Ryan Raburn fly out to right, and ran home on a Mike Aviles groundout. In the fifth it was Mike Aviles with the double, Cord Phelps with a groundout to the right side of the infield, and Drew Stubbs with the run-scoring groundout. Give them credit for taking advantage of those opportunities, but couldn't muster any easy offense against the Boston left-hander, and was held in check by Boston's bullpen.
We finally come back to Cord Phelps' error. Phelps is up because both Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn are out of the lineup. He hasn't to this point gotten much of a chance to start at the major-league level, but he's making a habit of committing key errors, and no matter how good your bat is, making errors is going to limit your further playing time. Terry Francona has raved about how Phelps played in spring training, and has talked many times about his future as a major-league player. And Phelps did play well this spring, going to Columbus mainly because he had an option left. Phelps is most likely going to become a major-league regular by his positional and batting versatility; he's a switch-hitter, and has the ability to play most positions on the infield. He's the logical successor to Mike Aviles. Having said all that, you have to make the routine plays on defense to be considered a viable player at that position, and he blew a routine play at second in the seventh inning. With one on and nobody out, Shane Victorino hit a grounder to second, which Phelps bobbled; with Victorino's speed, he beat the throw. That led to a three-run inning, which later became the margin of victory.
This series the Red Sox were the better team, and it wasn't really that close. They were the better team in all phases of the game, from defense to base running, to quality of at-bats, to quality of individual pitches.