August 6, 2013
Just before the game the Indians announced that they had placed Corey Kluber on the DL because of a sprained middle finger in his throwing hand. Kluber apparently injured himself during last night's game but only noticed it today. The Indians quickly called up Matt Langwell from Columbus in case they needed an extra arm in the bullpen, but today's game wasn't the issue. The issue is whether the Indians can manage without Kluber, who has been by some measures as good as anybody in the AL on a pro rata basis.
That was the first shoe to drop. The other dropped in the fifth inning. Justin Masterson had got into and out of a big jam in the second inning, and had seemed to settle down after that. But after hitting Ramon Santiago with a pitch on a bunt attempt* to lead off the fifth, the inning completely fell apart for Masterson. Austin Jackson singled, which moved Santiago to third. After a game-tying force out by Torii Hunter (which could have been a double play), Miguel Cabrera, bad hip and all, hammered a double over Michael Bourn's head in center field. That scored another run. After Prince Fielder grounded out (which could have been out #3 had the Indians turned the double play earlier in the inning), Masterson hit Victor Martinez, bringing up Don Kelly, his personal nemesis.
Don Kelly is a career .232/.292/.348 hitter who is in the big leagues because of his defensive versatility. And perhaps because he owns Justin Masterson. Coming into tonight's game, Kelly was hitting .381/.409/.571 against Masterson, and that's with a fairly big sample size (22 PA). Earlier in the season Kelly hit what proved to be a game-winning home run off of Masterson, and while he didn't have quite as important a hit, it essentially removed all doubt in the contest. His three-run homer bumped the Detroit lead to 5-1, and with Justin Verlander looking like the 2012 version, that home run essentially ended the contest.
Masterson would pitch two more innings without incident. But the damage had been done. Justin Verlander, who in previous starts against the Indians would be throwing in the low 90s, tonight started off the contest with a fastball in the upper 90s. And the fastball stayed in the upper 90s through his 8 innings. Verlander's changeup was in the high 80s and he had good command of his curve (using it to get a crucial strikeout in the sixth inning). The result of all that was a typical pre-2013 Verlander outing.
Obviously tonight's loss makes Wednesday's and Thursday's games crucial if the Indians want to have any hopes of winning the division. But I want to stress that even getting swept doesn't mean the season is over. Because at the very worst the Indians would be 3.5 games behind the Rangers for the final Wild Card spot. That second Wild Card has changed the calculus of the pennant race, and the Indians aren't just a .500 team with a lot of luck. The Indians haven't been able to beat the Red Sox, Rays, and Tigers this season, but those records mean the same in the standings as their records against the White Sox or the Blue Jays.
*Please correct me if I'm wrong, but Santiago should not have been awarded first base, as he held the bat into the hitting zone as the ball passed through it. I believe that bunting at the ball is the same in this context as a swing at the ball, and a batter that swings at a ball that gets hit does not get to go to first.
Roll Call (42 Commenters)
|4||Mr. Bad Example||35|
|17||Joe M Fox||12|
|30||Denver Tribe Fan||3|