September 19, 2013
Matt Carson strikes again? Matt Carson strikes again.
We'll get back to him though. First, a few words about the American League's best pitcher since the All-Star break (I'm not kidding).
Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 9 in 7 innings, while allowing just 1 run, which came in the 2nd inning on a sacrifice fly after the BABIP gods were unkind and allowed Houston to load the bases on three pretty weakly hit balls. As of one month ago, Jimenez had struck out 9+ for the Indians just three times in two years with the club. He's now done it four times in his last six starts. He also didn't walk a soul. He managed that just once his his first 67 starts with the Tribe, and has now done it in three of his last five outings. He lowered his ERA for the second half to 1.77 tonight, which is not only the best in the AL this year, it's the best by any Indian with 70+ innings since Stav Coveleski posted a 1.69 way back in 1917. His FIP (2.40) is also a league best since the break, and his K% is second only to Yu Darvish. If you're not willing to buy into Jimenez as a good pitcher at this point, I don't know what you're waiting for.
It's a good thing I don't care about pitcher wins, because Jimenez deserved one tonight.
Instead though, he took a no decision, as the offense continues to struggle. Tonight the opposing starter was Dallas Keuchel, who brought a 5.17 ERA into the game (good for an ERA+ of 79, among tenth worst in baseball for pitchers with 140+ innings). The Tribe allowed him to throw his best game of the season; he lasted 7 innings and allowed just one run while striking out 7.
That one run came in the 1st inning, when Nick Swisher doubled, and then Jason Kipnis drove him in with a single to center. For the next six innings, the Indians never managed to get more than one man on base at a time, and only once pushed that man farther than first base. Kipnis hitting into two double plays and Michael Bourn striking out twice were among the highlights of those innings.
In the 8th inning, the Tribe finally got their first crack at Houston's bullpen, which might be the worst in MLB history (I'm not kidding. The Astros entered tonight's game with -5.8 WAR per FanGraphs. That's the worst mark by any relief corps ever). After Bourn struck out for the third time to lead off the frame, the Indians mounted the closest thing to a rally they'd had in two hours, as Swisher and Kipnis each singled, putting the go ahead run in scoring position with one out. Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes both went down swinging though, keeping the game knotted at 1 heading into the 9th.
Enter Chris Perez. As Jurassic Park's chief engineer Ray Arnold would say, "Hold onto your butts..."
Perez began by striking out good old LGFT Trevor Crowe, who's been transformed into a #3 hitter by Houston. Then he gave up a long double, before hitting Matt Dominguez with a pitch (or possibly hitting his bat), and then walking Chris Carter to load the bases with one out. You'd be forgiven for expecting the worst. I know I did. Instead, Perez struck out the next batter. And the next one. CLEAR! (Never a doubt, never a doubt.)
The Indians couldn't score in their half of the 9th, so we headed to extra innings. The biggest moment of the 10th inning came when pinch runner Jake Elmore strayed too far from second base, and Yan Gomes fired a bullet across the field to catch him. Elmore will find himself in kangaroo court tomorrow.
In the 11th, Gomes singled, and Cabrera tapped on slowly down the third base line for an infield hit, the second time of the game that happened for him (Cabrera entered the game with an MLB-worst .132 BABIP, so he was due for some good luck). a Mike Aviles walk loaded the bases with two outs, bringing Matt Carson to the plate. The 32-year-old has appeared in just 84 MLB games in his career, but he's been making the most of them this month, going 6 for 7 so far in September, including 2 singles and a home run in Sunday's win against Chicago.
Make it 7 for 8. Carson hit a grounder just hard enough to sneak by the diving Jose Altuve, giving the Indians a 2-1 win, putting them just half a game back of both the Rangers and Rays, who currently hold the American League Wild Card spots. I wouldn't have minded a nice, easy blowout win, but I'll take 'em any way they come right now.
AL Wild Card Standings
|8||Mr. Bad Example||36|
|11||Denver Tribe Fan||23|
|15||Daniel Van Meter||13|
|29||new zealand tribe fan||5|