W: Sabathia (4-0) L: A. Burnett (2-2)
Apparently, the most awesome, frightening force in sports is an NBA team down 3-1 on its home floor. Also apparent is that this power wears off in about a quarter and a half.
1) I have good news and bad news
The good news is that C.C. Sabathia was pitching last night!
The bad news is that he was facing titular ace A.J. Burnett, who looked unhittable in his last start.
The good news is that Cleveland has the type of patient lineup that can give Burnett (a notoriously inaccurate pitcher) fits.
The bad news is that Sabathia gave up three solo shots in the FIRST INNING.
The good news is that it started to rain, so maybe the game would get called.
The bad news is that it stopped raining and the Indians stranded Grady Sizemore on third when they came back up to the plate.
The good news is that we are, much like Chevy Chase, the Cleveland Indians, and the Toronto Blue Jays are, also much like Chevy Chase, not.
Seriously, in the first inning, Sabathia gave up 3 H, 3 R (3 HR), 0 K, 0 BB.
In the following five innings, he gave up 1 H, 0 BB, 9 K, 0 R. Sabathia induced two swinging strikeouts in each of the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings. He was clearly out of gas in the sixth, as he only got one looking K in a perfect inning of work. (I’m being facetious about the “out of gas” thing, although he did reach 101 pitches.) The only player Sabathia faced and never struck out was Vernon Wells, who simply went hitless. Of all the numbers that strike me from the start, the 9:0 K:BB ratio just barely trumps the 13.5 K/9. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 22 batters he faced; exactly one batter per inning saw a ball on the first pitch. All we need now is for someone to make sure that Sabathia knows that Daylight Saving Time has started and he begins pitching from the first inning.
2) Jholtin’ Jhonny!
Jhonny Peralta grounded into a double play on the first pitch in the second inning. This is almost unfathomably bad, as the one skill Burnett lacks is the ability to throw the ball where he wants it to go on a regular basis. If you’re going to swing at the first pitch, that better be one heckuva grooved pitch. Grounding into a double play suggests that it was not.
To atone for this, Peralta came up the next innings with Trot Nixon on second and Ryan Garko on first. Showing otherworldly patience, he waited until the second pitch to blast a ball over Wells’ head in center to drive in both runs.
In the fifth, the game was still 4-3, and although Sabathia was cruising, it would be nice to open up a little distance. After a walk to Victor Martinez and a single by Nixon, Peralta hit a Very Bad Curveball over the wall in left for a three-run homer that essentially ended the game. (Surely Burnett did not mean to throw to that location.)
On the night, Peralta was 2-for-4 with 5 RBI. His average is now .241, but it was .196 barely over a week ago. Peralta actually leads the team with runners in scoring position (discounting Shin-Soo Choo’s miniscule 3-AB sample), hitting a preposterous .455/.480/1.000. Victor Martinez is hitting .429 with runners in scoring position. The next-highest batting average with RISP (still discounting Choo’s .667) is … Andy Marte’s .250. The next-best after that is Jason Michaels’ .222 (.200 OBP, .333 SLG). The sample sizes are obviously ridiculously small, and you probably would have guessed that we were bad as a team, but how many of you pegged JHONNY PERALTA as the team leader at FOUR FIFTY FIVE? By the way, Peralta also leads the team with 19 RBI (admittedly tied with Martinez).
(For completeness, Travis Hafner is hitting .208, but with a .474 OBP, suggesting that opponents would rather take their chances elsewhere.)
3) Department of Efficiency Department
Through five innings, Toronto had three run-producing hits and three runs.
Cleveland had three run-producing hits and SEVEN runs.
When Trot Nixon hit his somewhat superfluous home run in the 8th inning, it immediately followed two walks by Hafner and Martinez. The Indians scored 12 runs on 11 hits, at least partially due to the EIGHT walks they drew. The only one of the Indians’ six extra-base hits not to drive in a run was David Dellucci’s double off ex-Tribesman Brian Tallet. (Dellucci did score on Vic’s double, though.)
Part of the reason the Indians were efficient on offense is that they forced the Toronto pitchers to be INefficient. A.J. Burnett was lifted after five innings, certainly partially due to the seven runs he’d given up, but also because he’d already thrown 115 pitches. In five innings! The Jays threw 203 pitches in 8 innings; in contrast, the Indians, even with the 9 Ks by Sabathia, only needed 154 to get through all 9. It wasn’t just Burnett’s inherent blunderbussitude, either: Tallet needed 37 pitches to wander through an inning, and Frasor needed 32 for his (which included 3 walks). Only Jeremy Accardo had any semblance of success, although, admittedly, striking out the side in a perfect inning is pretty damned successful. Still, this Indians squad reminds me of the grind-you-down Yankees’ offenses of years gone by: they’re not as talented top-to-bottom, but by golly, they certainly do work a pitcher.
4) Welcome to the bigs!
Ben Francisco was called up to temporarily take Fausto Carmona’s place on the roster, giving him a couple games before Cliff Lee arrives to take his place in the rotation. Speculation abounds as to whether it will be Choo or Francisco that heads back to Beefalo: my guess is that if Dellucci and Nixon (both left-handers) are well enough to play regularly, the right-handed Francisco will stay and the left-handed Choo will return to get 4 PAs a day.
Anyway, Francisco made his major-league debut, standing menacingly in right field and cleverly intimidated the Toronto offense into hitting the ball to locations other than right field.
5) Things you never expected to read
From the game report:
John McDonald hit for Troy Glaus
Seriously? Because Glaus accidentally sawed off his legs after the 8th inning? John McDonald? OUR John McDonald?
McDonald made an out to lower his average to .405. It is impossible for me to type something coherent after reading that sentence. Ibble gribnif garben orp orp orp orp boing.
Sal Fasano C
Good grief, is he still alive? Didn’t he catch for Mark Gubicza in Kansas City?
Mike Rouse hit for Casey Blake, stayed to play 3B
Well, at least we know Wedge will play him at third. (He made an out, which does not fit the heading of this list item.)
6) Bullpen Roundup
Tom Mastny had another uneventful two innings, giving up a run on a double, runner-advancing groundout, and sac fly. He struck out 1, walked no one, and the double was his only hit allowed. (Since it drew the game from 9-3 to 9-4, I got the impression that Mastny was not overly concerned about Phillips wandering around the bases.)
Jason Davis pitched a scoreless ninth to lower his (meaninglessly small sample) ERA to 1.12. He gave up both a hit and a walk, but escaped any damage and induced two ground ball outs, suggesting his sinker is working.
At some point it will be necessary to determine whether we trust Jason Davis to pitch Real Innings or not. He has ground ball stuff, so he could possibly induce an important double play with a guy on first. On the other hand, he seems a lot more comfortable starting an inning than being called in with runners on base. He can throw multiple innings and obviously has a fine ERA. On the other hand, he tends to pitch back ends of blowouts and it’s hard to evaluate someone’s performance based on the opponent’s overwhelming desire to go the @#%* home. On the other other hand, the poor guy has no consistent usage pattern to speak of.
Matt Miller is going to start a rehab assignment, and when he’s ready, will in all likelihood be added to the major-league roster. The team isn’t going to go with 13 pitchers, so pretty much one reliever will need to be moved off the roster. The front office took the Path of No Resisitance in sending Carmona down to bring Lee up: I expect them to do the same here. Mastny has an option. No one else does. QED.
Still, at some point, the team is going to have to make a decision as to whether Jason Davis is an important pitcher. As of this writing, I would rather have Mastny in my bullpen than Davis. If it comes to October, it will be interesting to see what decision is made. (Of course, all this becomes moot if Miller steadfastly remains Matt Miller and he goes SPROING! again as expected.)
7) Ho Hum Dept.
Grady Sizmore stole a base.
Travis Hafner walked twice.
Josh Barfield did not get a hit.
8) Credit Where Credit Is Due
I was on the record as not liking the Trot Nixon signing because I thought Shin-Soo Choo could provide pretty much anything Nixon could for a lot less money (and a non-trivial amount of speed as well). However, I have to admit, Nixon is hitting .300, has 2 HR, and sports an overall .300/.391/.467 line that looks pretty tasty in the two hole. Of course, he is being used in the five hole, but I can’t really complain about that, either. He’s playing well, and I admit that I could seriously be underestimating his clubhouse influence, since what I know on the subject fits neatly between the s and p shells of a carbon atom.
David Dellucci went 2-for-5: his overall stats are still inadequate for a corner outfielder (.269/.345/.423), but he was hitting .235 a little over a week ago, and he also kicks Major Ass on Jason Michaels. (This is not necessarily “credit.”)
9) Completely False Statement for the Google Search Engine
Mark Shapiro drove through the streets of Euclid last night at 3 AM and changed all the street signs to “Shapiro Rules Blvd.”, “Shapiro Is Great St.”, and “Shapiro Rocks Rd.”. Anyone in Euclid can vouch for the falseness of this statement. Fire Eric Wedge.