May 6, 2013
Chapter 30: Duel in the dusk
There were no earned runs scored in this game. Tommy Milone and Zach McAllister both had things under control, and the game probably would have gone into extra innings had the two errors not happened.
Tommy Milone was one of the many Oakland players who played their first full season in 2012, and played a key role in Oakland's playoff run, starting 31 games for the A's. Acquired from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez before the 2012 season, Milone sports a below-average fastball but compensates for it with an outstanding changeup. Last night he threw that changeup 37 times, and it was very effective; the Indians would only get five hits off him, and would not draw a walk.
Zach McAllister used a different tack to get outs, but in pitching, there's a multitude of ways to miss bats. Zach's method mixed his curve with his fastballs, and while he didn't have a lot of strikeouts (just four on the evening), he was much more efficient than previous starts. Weak contact, though it doesn't show up as its own category, is in many ways a more valuable outcome to a pitcher, especially if it comes early in the count. Those easy outs can mean the difference between a pitcher going six innings and seven innings. Last night McAllister pitched into the eighth and almost finished the inning, but allowed a two-out hit with his 111th pitch.
So this was a different kind of game than the Indians were used to. In these rare (for the AL) games, one play can mean the difference between victory and defeat, and sometimes it's a play that you normally wouldn't think much of. That play was a Carlos Santana grounder that two infielders made errors on, and that play placed Santana at second. The Indians had gotten their leadoff runner to second in the third and fourth innings, but both times that runner couldn't score; in the third, Kipnis got picked off trying to steal third, while in the fourth the Indians couldn't get the ball out of the infield after Raburn's leadoff double. But this time, the Indians were able to get Santana home. With one out, Mike Aviles dumped a single into left field, advancing Santana to third. Then Yan Gomes hit a ball to deep center field, easily scoring Santana. That run, as it would turn out, would be the only run scored on the night.
After Rich Hill finished off the eighth, Chris Perez came on to pitch the ninth. This was a rare save opportunity for Perez, who hadn't had one since April 22 in Chicago. Perez was not at his best, as the first batter (Jed Lowrie) he saw smoked a ball right at Santana, and the second (Yoenis Cespedes) smoked a ball up the middle. Then, with Brandon Moss at the plate, Cespedes made a huge gamble; he tried to steal second. If he succeeded, the A's would have two chances to tie the game with a single, but if he didn't, the game was probably over.And Yan Gomes rose to the occasion. Perez threw a high fastball, allowing Gomes to transition easily to a throwing motion, and Gomes threw a laser-guided missile right to Asdrubal Cabrera's glove. Cespedes was out by several feet. Then Perez finished off Moss to end the game.