July 23, 2013
If you look at the run differential of this road trip, the Indians played good baseball, outscoring their opponents 25-14. Well, we all know that sometimes run differential can be deceiving, even when it outwardly looks as good as this. Throughout the road trip the Indians played bad defense, missed countless scoring opportunities at the plate, and made several crucial outs on the base paths. And that's reflected in the win-loss record, which is 2-4.
However, taken from this disappointing road trip was some very good pitching performances, and today's finale capped them all. Scott Kazmir was brilliant, allowing just one hit in eight innings. Now in years past you might chalk that up to a dreadful Seattle offense, but that's not the case now. A lot of young talent has started to establish itself in Seattle, from Kyle Seager (140 OPS+) to Nick Franklin (122) to Justin Smoak (126), and Kendry Morales (129) was also in the lineup. The Mariners as a team came into today's game hitting .274/.352/.483 over the last four weeks. So Kazmir made one of the hottest offenses in the American League look like a Midwest League team. And if it wasn't Asdrubal Cabrera's throwing error, he would have kept the Mariners completely off the board.
Today the offense got ahead early, and put the Mariners away in the middle innings, putting the Indians well beyond the margin of errors (fielding, base running, etc). They jumped on Joe Saunders early, with Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher reaching to start the game, and after a Jason Kipnis sacrifice bunt, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana hit consecutive doubles to give the Tribe an early 3-0 lead. They tacked on another run in the fourth on a second Santana double, but even though they had Saunders on the ropes early, they hadn't landed a knockout blow.
For a time it looked as if that knockout blow would never come after loading the bases in the fourth without scoring, but when they loaded the bases in the fifth, they finally broke through, with the blow coming from an unlikely source. After the left-handed Saunders was removed with two on and two out, the Mariners brought in right-handed Hector Noesi to face the right-handed Drew Stubbs, which usually is a distinct advantage to the pitcher, but Noesi walked Stubbs to load the bases. That brought up Michael Bourn, who had just two home runs on the year, but when Noesi grooved a 3-2 fastball, Bourn turned on it, hitting his first career grand slam, emphatically putting the game out of reach.
After the fifth, Kazmir continued to cruise. He gave up his first hit of the game in the bottom of the fifth, but pitched around it by getting an inning-ending double play. He walked a batter in the sixth and had to deal with yet another error in the eighth, but those base runners didn't phase him one bit. He finished his eight innings having thrown 103 pitches. By this time the Indians were ahead 9-1, and Terry Francona didn't hesitate pulling him after the eighth inning. With an offday tomorrow, there was no reason to push Kazmir, and besides, Vinnie Pestano needed an inning of work. Vinnie struggled to finish the game, throwing almost 30 pitches to finish the ninth, but left them loaded to preserve the nine-run margin of victory.
So the road trip ended on an upbeat note. The Indians will likely come home still down 3.5 games in the Central, but it wasn't because of the starting pitching. And those performances, with Kazmir's being the brightest, gives you some hope that this team can stay in the race.
Roll Call (33 Commenters)
|5||Mr. Bad Example||27|
|25||Daniel Van Meter||3|
|28||VA tribe fan||1|
|31||Manhattan Tribe Fan||1|
|33||JK in CBus||1|