April 6, 2013
Chapter 5: Bauer outrage
This was supposed to be Scott Kazmir's return to the majors, and against his old team to boot. But the feel-good start had to be pushed back a week or so when he pulled a rib cage muscle in the workout before Opening Day. The first option out of Columbus was supposed to be Carlos Carrasco, but yesterday was his last day under suspension, so he could go. So the ball fell to Trevor Bauer, the talented pitcher that the Indians are still figuring out; Bauer was and is going to spend some time in Columbus refining his delivery, but for now Francona didn't want to mess with his mechanics.
We learned two things from last night's spot start: Bauer does have outstanding stuff, but he's also going to need to fix quite a few things in his delivery. He only allowed three hits in five innings, but that's mainly because he didn't throw many pitches in the zone. The game started with four straight walks, and it took a fine defensive play to keep the damage to just one run; Ryan Raburn, making his first start of the season, caught a fly ball in medium right field and made a perfect throw to nab Matt Joyce at home plate.
The adventure continued in the third inning. After walking Desmond Jennings, the Rays leadoff hitter stole both second and third. Jennings then tried to go home on a grounder to Lonnie Chisenhall, but catcher Lou Marson was waiting there with the ball. Because he wasn't given any of the plate, Jennings tried to jar the ball out of Marson's glove by running him over, but it didn't work; Marson hung on, and Desmond became the second Ray thrown out at the plate. Marson was immediately checked to see if he had suffered a concusion; he did not, but he did leave the game the next inning with a sore neck. That left the Indians in a difficult situation, because Carlos Santana was DHing, so that meant they would spend the rest of the game with the pitcher batting. Bauer would bat in the top of the fifth, showing bunt on three consecutive strikes, but pulling the bat back each time, which probably was an order from the bench.
Bauer would get through five innings, but almost every one of them was a struggle; he would walk seven, allow three hits, and strike out two, a very odd line for any starter. In the fourth inning he allowed two more runs on a Kelly Johnson home run He would retire the Rays in order in the fifth, but by then his pitch count had reached the 100 mark, and that was it. He'll probably be optioned to Columbus today in order to activate Jason Giambi, and shouldn't be back for several months. Hopefully the next time he's with the Indians his walk and strikeouts numbers are reversed.
Even so, you can't really blame Bauer for the loss, for the Tribe bats were even uglier than the pitching. If you had look at the pitching matchups this series, you'd figure the Indians would struggle to score runs against Matt Moore and David Price, but they should do ok against Alex Cobb, who made it to the majors as an unheralded control pitcher, never ranking above #14 in the Tampa Bay organizational rankings. But the Indians couldn't do much against him, and when they did, they couldn't push a run across. Cobb would pitch into the eighth inning, frustrating the Indians with his a low-90s fastball, curve, and change. Credit must be given to Cobb, because his location was good, especially given the tiny strike zone, but a lot of the blame must be placed at the feet of the Cleveland hitters. The Indians have scored just 3 runs a game thus far this season, and that included their eight-run outburst on Thursday.
The Indians were hurt by two brutal calls at second base, though those calls did not affect the outcome of the game. Second base umpire C.B. Bucknor, long regarded by me (and many others) as the worst umpire in the game today, missed two calls, both of which later led to runs. Desmond Jennings should have called out when stealing second in the third inning, and Yunel Escobar should have out at second trying to stretch a single into a double. The last blown call eventually led to Matt Albers being thrown out of the game, but the ejection happened after the inning was over with, and Albers was likely done anyway. How Bucknor continues to be employed as an umpire is beyond, and highlights the fact that it's essentially impossible to fire a bad umpire, something that needs to change.
The Indians will try to avoid their sixth three-game scoreless streak in franchise history by trying to score runs off David Price, last year's AL Cy Young winner.