September 26, 2013
Well, it was a win, but the ramifications of this win will reverberate for some time to come. The Indians were on their way to a pretty easy 6-1 lead thanks to workmanlike offensive attack, and another fantastic group bullpen effort.
Then Chris Perez entered the game. The last time Perez pitched he gave up two home runs to the White Sox on Tuesday, and if it wasn't for Jason Giambi's dramatic walkoff he could have been the guy that cost the Indians the Wild Card. Well, Francona saw an opportunity to get Perez back on track, and he took it. The Twins right now are sending up a AAA offense, and are swinging at just about everything. You would expect a nice confidence-boosting outing from Perez, but instead what happened was if anything worse than Tuesday night. Against the White Sox Perez struck out the two hitters between the home runs, but he didn't strike out any of the six hitters he faced, and one of the two outs he recorded was a fly out into deep center field. After Josmil Pinto hit the two-run homer, what started as 6-1 lead was now a 6-5, and Terry Francona had no choice but to remove Perez from the game.
It was a very good thing that the Indians capitalized on a lot of their opportunities tonight. A defensive miscue in the fourth inning turned into three runs after Yan Gomes hit a tape measure two-run home run following a run-scoring bunt-error. Michael Brantley hit two-out out single to drive home a fourth run in the sixth, Carlos Santana drove home run number five in the seventh, and Brantley drove home another run in the eighth. The Indians would need each and every one of those runs.
Even though Zach McAllister was pitching with the lead in the fifth inning, Francona removed him from the game because the Twins had put two on with one out. You normally would never do that in the middle of the season, but right each game is a must-win game for the Indians, so Francona went to the bullpen in the fifth inning. Bryan Shaw, Scrabble, and Cody Allen, who have seemingly pitched every day this month, were brought in to hold the lead, and it's a good thing that none of them had any troubles. After it looked like the Indians had broken the game open, Matt Albers pitched a scoreless eighth. It looked like Joe Smith would get a day off, and Chris Perez would get a chance to work in a low-leverage situation.It didn't turn out that way.
After the game, Terry Francona didn't want to make any pronouncements about who the closer would be if the need arose tomorrow, saying that you don't want to make a decision so soon after an emotional finish. Read into that what you will. It's almost like he wanted to say "Hell no, he's not going out there again!" but prudently kept his own counsel. I think there's no way Perez enters the tomorrow if the Indians lead in the ninth inning. Not with so much on the line.
All three wild card contenders won again tonight, meaning that the standings hasn't changed since Sunday afternoon:
American League Wild Card Standings
- Tampa Bay (+1.0) 4, New York 0 - Final
- Texas (-1.0) 6, LA Angels 5 - Final
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