W: Guthrie (10-8) L: A. Reyes (1-1)
Short column today.
1) The Outlier
Of all the stats from Anthony Reyes' start, a couple struck me as odd. One was the fact that he struck out zero batters in 6 full innings of work: this is hardly unprecedented stuff or anything, but it's still kind of strange to see a major-league starter get through six innings without accidentally bumping into a K somewhere along the line. I know the sample size in 2005 during Reyes' first cuppa cawfee is tiny (13.1 IP), but his K/9 was 8.10 then. In his first season of regular work (85.1 IP), it held (sorta) at 7.59. Last season, Reyes was a mess and still had a 6.21 K/9. Even in 14.2 IP in St. Louis this season it was 6.14. With Cleveland, he has struck out 4 batters in 12 1/3 innings, a rate of 2.92. That's obviously not enough to cause real alarm, but it's pretty weird.
But not as weird as his Carmonan 14:4 GO:FO ratio: in three years in St. Louis, Reyes was kind of the National League's answer to Scott Elarton, posting ratios of 0.61, 0.74, and 0.87 (remember that the 0.61 is in just 13 innings). This year in St. Louis, he'd started as a more neutral pitcher at 1.06, and now with Cleveland, he just posted a Ground Ball Machine game.
Again, it's two games, and you can't conclude anything from two games (or you end up lamenting the loss of Paul Byrd), but as an idle musing, I wonder if the drop in strikeouts might result in a rise in ground balls. I'm not all that familiar with Reyes' "stuff" (usually described as a low-90s fastball, a good slider, and an adequate change), so I don't know whether maybe a few of his low pitches were hit on the ground instead of missed for strike three. I know I generally prefer ground balls to fly balls, though.
Part of the reason I prefer this is illustrated by the result of the fly balls Reyes allowed: of the six hits, three were for extra bases, including the Asdrubal Cabrera Commemorative Popup Home Run by Aubrey Huff. Still, he only gave up 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs in those 6 innings, including a double play in the first after a ten-pitch single by Nick Markakis. So far he looks like a worthwhile "audition addition."
2) Two flavors of relief
In Raffy Betancourt's first inning of relief in a tight 2-1 ballgame, he threw 8 strikes in 10 pitches, inducing a pair of swinging strikes and retiring the side in order. Granted, it was against the 8-9-1 hitters, but it was a solid performance.
In his second inning of work, Betancourt walked leadoff hitter Nick Markakis on four pitches, and this is only because he could not walk him on three pitches. He then allowed a single to Mel Mora (Mora and Markakis each had three hits in the game: I don't know if I've mentioned this, but Nick Markakis can hit) to put runners at 1st and 2nd with no one out.
Now, this has not been a good situation for Betancourt this season. Realistically, there's hardly been any situation that's been good for Betancourt (hitters are batting a paltry .171/.171/.341 on a 2-2 count! In 41 AB), but he's been worse with runners on base than with the bases empty (.874 OPS to .836) and truly dismal with runners in scoring position (1.019 OPS). I'd make some remark about pitching out of the stretch, but Betancourt ALWAYS pitches out of the stretch. No, he's been bad because he's been bad.
To Betancourt's credit, though, he fought off Aubrey Huff after Huff fouled off a couple pitches and got him to fly out to put runners on the corners. He then got a foulout from Millar and Luke Scott grounded out on the first pitch.
The first of the two innings is more like what you want to see from Betancourt, obviously, but it was nice to see him take no damage from a jam as well, even if he was the one putting himself in a jam in the first place. I liked the way he mixed up his speeds and locations, something I don't think he was doing well earlier in the year. He still doesn't look like 2007 to me, but 2007 Raffy Betancourt was a helluva pitcher.
3) The fine line between discetion and valor
Remember that this is a time for evaluation for the Indians: although the goal is certainly to win, there will be times when the team puts a player in a situation for the primary purpose of telling whether that player can perform in that situation, or perhaps give a young player a chance to get experience at something he normally doesn't. For example, letting Shin-Soo Choo bat against left-handed closer George Sherrill. (Actually, there weren't many options there: Dave Dellucci and Ben Francisco were manning the DH slot, so we were pretty much out of outfielders unless you want to put Andy Gonzalez out there, where he has played but isn't considered a great option. Choo struck out on three pitches.)
So it is with this eye that we look at Brendan Donnelly's outing: Donnelly isn't a young player who hasn't faced this situation, but he is a player coming off a serious injury who needs to be evaulated to make a decision about next season. Donnelly gave up two singles to his first two hitters, then buckled down a bit. Juan Castro bunted two pitches foul, then bunted successfully on the 1-2 pitch. Well, successful in that the bunt was fair: it wasn't a very good bunt and the runner was thrown out at third. The next hitter grounded out on a 1-2 pitch as well (the runner at second being the one snuffed this time).
Now, with runners on the corner and the hottest hitter for Baltimore up (Markakis), Donnelly damned the torpedoes and pitched to him. The first pitch was a strike, but the next three were balls. Then on strike two, Brian Roberts took off from first and stole second base.
So, let's reset the scene: with two outs and a full count, there are two runners in scoring position and first base open for the opponent's best hitter. If you are trying to win the game to keep pace for the Division crown, you might walk Markakis and take your chances with the right-handed Mora (Donnelly is right-handed; Markakis left). But if you want to see if Brendan Donnelly has enough raw stuff to get out of a jam and get one more strike, I can accept throwing a strike to Markakis. I would probably have tried a backdoor slider or something ugly and let him take first if he could lay off, but I'm not a professional pitcher.
Here's what I would NOT do: I would not shake of my catcher, shake off my catcher, shake off my catcher, then throw a hittable fastball. Markakis drove the pitch through the box for a two-run single, effectively ending the game.
It was as if Donnelly believed he could still blow one by a guy, when it's pretty clear he could not. This is where Kelly Shoppach needs to trot out to the mound and provide Donnelly with the Tony Pena Commemorative Headslap. Donnelly probably reminds Shoppach of his Dad, so he deferred, and the Indians paid for it.
By the way, it probably didn't matter much: Mora singled and Huff doubled, so it wasn't like Donnelly would clearly have gotten out of the jam had he walked Markakis.
4) A job well done
Juan Rincon wore pants.
5) Dept. of Perspective
Here's a fun way to look at Juan Rincon: when all is said and done with the transactions, we essentially traded Craig Breslow for Juan Rincon.
Go look up their 2008 stats. Go ahead. I'll be here. Weeping.
6) The offense
With one out in the 5th, Andy Marte drove a ball over center fielder Jay Payton for a double. After a second out, Grady Sizemore hit the wall in almost the same place to drive Marte home with a double of his own.
That was the offense.
7) That kind of night
With two outs in the 8th and left-hander Jamie Walker on the mound, David Dellucci was replaced by Ben Francisco. Orioles manager Dave Trembley then replaced Walker with the right-handed Rocky Cherry. Not only is this amusing from the standpoint of Francisco having a REVERSE platoon split, but Cherry is an execrable pitcher with a 16.20 ERA.
He walked Francisco on five pitches.
After getting to a 2-2 count, Kelly Shoppach fouled off a pair of Cherry offerings, cleverly allowed the wild pitch to go by him and Ramon Hernandez for ball three, and, with Francisco now on second, swung and missed at the next pitch to end the inning.
8) Completely False Statement for the Google Search Engine
Eric Wedge has a tattoo of Jokey Smurf on his left bicep. Wedge would never choose Jokey over Papa, and this is a false statement. Do not play David Dellucci.