May 21, 2013
Chapter 44: Not almost perfect
When a loss happens, you look for the player(s) responsible. Maybe it was the offense, and bad pitching, or someone making an error. Well, Corey Kluber received the loss, but to blame him for the loss would be an unrealistic in the extreme. Although the way he gave up three runs (in the sixth inning, after five fine innings) lends itself to blame, it's still only three runs, and that's the kind of start that keeps a starting pitcher employed for a while.To paraphrase Herb Score's pearl of pitching wisdom, it's when Kluber pitched, not how, that got him his loss.
For Max Scherzer was unhittable from the second inning on. The Indians scored a run off him in the first inning thanks to two singles and a sacrifice fly. After Brantley's sac fly, Carlos Santana worked a two-out walk. That turned out to be the last base runner allowed by Scherzer on the evening. For most of his outing Scherzer did not strike many batters out, retiring Indians hitters via weak contact, the goal of every pitcher. For while strikeouts may be the sexy statistic, nothing is better for a pitcher than weak contact early in the count. Get enough of that early weak contact and before you know it you'll be pitching in the ninth inning closing in on a compete game. Well, Scherzer didn't quite get there thanks to that difficult first inning, but he almost did, throwing 118 pitches and getting through 8 innings. As his outing wound down, the strikeouts that you expect from Scherzer started to show up. He struck out the last four batters he saw, ending his evening just under his typical strikeout rate (8 innings, 7 strikeouts).
Kluber's statistical line wasn't that bad, either. Knocked around by the Tigers in his last outing, he changed his approach, using his four-seam baseball more often, and got good results. He pounded the strikezone, and held the Tigers at bay through five innings, eventually striking out eight batters and not walking any. Up until the sixth inning, he had only given up three hits, all singles. But then the Detroit offense exploded, with three swings of the bat resulting in three runs. Kluber's control, which up to that point had been excellent, suddenly went away, and he left pitches in the nitro zone of Andy Dirks (middle-in), Torii Hunter (up and away), and MIguel Cabrera (on the plate, which is his nitro zone). The result was a solo homer, a double, and a two-run homer. Kluber managed to right himself and get through the sixth, but with Scherzer's pitching the way he was, the damage had been done.
After Cody Allen took the Indians through the eighth inning, Terry Francona tried to get away with using David Huff to pitch the ninth. Now most of you know my thoughts on the former first round draft pick, so I won't dwell on them. But I will use someone else's!
So Huff's career FB% is 43.4%. This season, that would rank him fifth highest in the AL. His 12.3% K-rate would be the fourth lowest.— Jon (@WFNYJon) May 22, 2013
In other words, if you were going to design a bad pitcher entirely from scratch, he'd look almost exactly like David Huff.— Jon (@WFNYJon) May 22, 2013
Well, Huff walked a batter and gave up two singles, and by the time Matt Albers had cleaned up the mess it was a 5-1 game and what was cracking up to be a difficult save for Jose Valverde turned out to be a lot easier. Papa Grande did allow two base runners, but with a four-run cushion, those potential runs didn't really matter. He made the ninth a bit adventurous, but that was all, and the Indians went down to defeat.