"W": Perez (2-2) L: Jim Johnson (2-4) S: J. Lewis (2)
I'm tellin' ya, it's inconceivable that these teams have better records than we do. Toronto can't hit worth a tinker's dam, and Bal'mer pitches and plays defense like intoxicated monkeys. Put ‘em together, you might have a pretty good team, but individually ... this is the A.L. East?
1) Comments of little interest
I find Jeremy Sowers to be the least interesting player on the Cleveland roster. I may resent Juan Rincon more, I may disparage David Dellucci more, I may ignore Andy Gonzalez more, but of all the interesting things there are to say about baseball, Sowers engenders exactly none of them. He throws the ball. It's mostly pretty good. Occasionally it sucks. Life goes on.
The one thing that stuck out to me was that Baltimore simply didn't believe in Jeremy Sowers' ability to get ahead in the count, or weren't worried about falling behind: an astonishing 19 of the first 21 hitters spanning the first five complete innings took the first pitch. Ramon Hernandez flew out on a first pitch, and Juan Castro fouled off a first pitch (before singling on an 0-2 count). Hernandez was the first player to swing at the first pitch: he led off the FOURTH inning.
Now, plate discipline is a fine thing, but it's not like the Orioles are the mid-90s Yankees or Wade Boggs or anything: they've drawn 391 walks in 4110 AB. For reference, they've walked 492 hitters, although that says more about their pitchers than their hitters. But they're middle-of-the-pack: the average AL team has drawn 394 walks. I understand that "walks" and "plate discipline" aren't the same thing, but they're correlated concepts. Yet here are the Orioles, taking the first pitch, pretty much advertising that they're not going to swing at the first offering (until the 6th, when two of three players did), and what is Sowers' response? Pretty much to flail away:
1st: 4:2 strike:ball on first pitch 2nd: 1:2 3rd: 1:3 4th: 3:0 (yay!) 5th: 2:3
So it may not have been any great conspiracy or Grand Plan, but simply that Sowers ... well ... doesn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Okay, more than half (11:10), but ... they were taking all the way, and he took advantage of this (after the pattern had been established) ... ONCE.
I remember in the halcyon days of yore that were the Jason Johnson Era that I suggested that hitters would take pitches off Johnson because they simply didn't believe he was going to throw a great pitch. You fall behind? So what? You'll get something to hammer. He doesn't have a truly frightening pitch, so the count hardly matters. I don't believe in your stuff. Let me time it ... time it ... okay, I got it, WHAM. Now, this was a function of Jason Johnson being a mook. I don't think Sowers is mook-level yet. But it's interesting to see that a mediocre team approaches him as if he were.
Anyway, Sowers pitched into the 7th inning, giving up 3 of his own runs and left a man on base for Masa Kobayashi to suck in for a 4th. He struck out two and walked two, and the best thing about his six hits was that only one was for extra bases, a double. This makes one start in a row without allowing a homer, although he hasn't allowed two in a game since July 8. I should say, since that start, Sowers has allowed 2, 4, 2, 4, 4, and 4 runs, which means he's been holding his own, although not particularly impressively. He's lowered his ERA over that span from 7.81 to 5.72, which means ... nope, still not interesting. Go ahead and get back to me on that one.
There is no credible way to spin the first half of Asdrubal Cabrera's season: with a sub-Mendozan average and monthly OPS's of .575, .501, and .544, Cabrera was a sinkhole at the plate. He's still a valuable defender at multiple positions, but the days of carrying a .540 OPS in the everyday lineup pretty much died with Mark Belanger.
Since returning from a brief stint in Beefalo, though, Cabrera has been able to raise himself above the "adequate" mark into being "actual asset:" in June, his .282/.404/.410 line isn't spectacular, but is a great boost to a bottom of the lineup that has been just wretched this season. In August, in a few fewer plate appearances, Cabrera rode his third straight multi-hit game into a .324/.378/.588 month: granted, this is a 37-PA sample set which can't be taken seriously in terms of anything truly meaningful, but it's a whole lot better than a .501 OPS.
Cabrera made an out to end the 4-run first, but followed that with a double (and a run), a bunt single (and thrown out at the plate), and an RBI single (and a run). He is still not an instinctive basestealer (2 SB, 2 CS) and probably not the best baserunner on the squad, but it bears remembering that Cabrera is now 22 and won't be 23 until after the season ends. His rebound as an offensive force would solve multiple problems for the Indians.
3) Human after all
Death, taxes, and Raffy Perez: it seemed axiomatic that Perez would simply saw through a lineup if presented an opportunity to do so. The more men on base, the more quickly he would kill the rally. However, Perez gave up a single on his first pitch to Nick Markakis, a ball that looked like it might be grabbed first by Perez himself and then by a lunging Asdrubal Cabrera on its way to center field to tie the game.
Mind you, he got the next hitter to ground into a double play, then recorded two 5-pitch swinging strikeouts in the 8th, inducing a total of 5 swings and misses. He did allow a single, but the runner advanced no further. Although he stole Sowers' second win of the season, I expect that his teammates are still pretty glad he's in the ‘pen.
4) In direct contrast
Masa Kobayashi allowed pinch-hitter Luke Scott to double with a man on first, then gave up an RBI single to Brian Roberts. He recorded zero outs.
Kobayashi has now faced five hitters in August, allowing four hits and a walk. This results in the amusing assertion from ESPN's "Splits" page that Kobayashi has pitched negative one innings in August. I understand this. It's not true, but it does feel that way.
Look, Kobayashi is done. He hovered around 50 innings in his recent Japanese career, and he's at 49.2 now. It's really a little more than that, given that he's techincally pitched 0 innings in August. His monthly ERAs tell most of the tale: 1.46, 3.86, 3.95, 5.59, ∞. I think he's gassed. Enough already. Let's see Jeff Stevens or something.
5) Is it time to take Jensen Lewis seriously?
6) Good eye!
Asked to pinch-hit for the right fielder, Shin-Soo Choo put his astonishing plate discipline to work and bravely did not swing at the pitch that hit him. Choo then scored the go-ahead run after being sacrificed to first and Cabrera singling to center.
7) Hey, we had one of those!
Ferd Cabrera retired the last Cleveland batter, Kelly Shoppach, in classic Ferd Fashion: after getting ahead 0-2 and getting a foul ball, he threw two balls before finally getting a fly out. Ferd's pitching decently this season with an ERA of 3.79. More power to him. I remember thinking he was Cleveland's Closer of the Future once upon a time.
8) The Closer of the Future?
Yes, yes, Jensen Lewis pitched a perfect ninth with a pair of swinging Ks. I'm not getting sucked into that vortex again. He went from 1-2 to 3-2 before getting Jay Payton to fly out, and he gave up more foul balls (3) than swings-and-misses (2). Is this great? I don't know. Is it mediocre? I don't know that either. I don't know, dammit. Jensen Lewis hatches eggs. Jensen Lewis plays the accordian. Jensen Lewis braids his armpit hair. I have no bloody idea what Jensen Lewis does. But I'm not tagging him. You can't make me.
9) Can't anybody here play this game?
After a one-out single to the game's second batter, the Orioles put together this stretch:
Wild pitch RBI single, runner advances on throw Four-pitch walk Single, egregious throwing error, run scores "Infield Single" that is really Mel Mora bollixing a ball hit right to him in two different ways
Later in the game, Mora would make a throwing error that allowed Jamey Carroll to reach base, and starter Garrett Olson tried to pick Grady Sizemore off first with a pickoff move cribbed from "Ernest Plays Baseball," allowing Sizemore to advance to third.
But beyond this, the sheer number of extra bases taken on ill-advised throws has two perspectives: on the one hand, you have to applaud and encourage the aggressive baserunning by the Indians, even if Ryan Garko is one of the men involved. On the other hand, you have to ask if Baltimore would consider employing a coaching staff, or if this would cut into Peter Angelos' profit margin.
This (Baltimore) is not a good team.
10) Everybody hits!
Okay, actually Kelly Shoppach took a collar, but he did draw a walk and score a run. Ben Francisco and the right fielder each had two hits, unless Mora's error counts as an error (I've tried to count this from the game log and can't find a 4th error unless that "infield single" is charged back to Mora), and Cabrera had three.
Of the seven runs Cleveland scored, one wasn't "driven in" (because of the throwing error by the left fielder, Mumble Mumble), and five of the six remaining were driven in with two outs. Sure, we left 8 guys in scoring position and 10 on base overall, but these things don't stick in my craw as much when we win.
11) Completely False Statement for the Google Search Engine
Eric Wedge is singlehandedly responsible for high gas prices. Do not play David Dellucci.