Red Sox (92-67)
W: Lester (15-8) L: Carrasco (0-4) S: Penisbon (38)
One more column after this one! I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the interest in a 2009 book is low.
1) Fast start
Everything that was interesting in this game happened in the first three innings (arguably four): all of Boston's scoring, and all of Cleveland's ability to make solid contact. Sure, there's an exception here and there, but if one guy watched the first three innings and another guy watched the last six, the first guy would have more to write about than the second.
Let's begin with Carlos Carrasco and his Magic Hit Machine. The first inning was actually not so bad, with the run scoring on a single, walk, fielder's choice, and a sac fly. Against a lineup whose first four hitters basically hit .300 and get on base at a .375 clip, that's not horrible work. Carrasco started four of the five hitters off with a strike, and with the exception of Pedroia, fed hitters a nice array of stuff.
Carrasco's second inning featured two hits, but one was a Cleveland Bane (to Jason Bay, of all people, who runs like his legs are wrapped in iron), and Carrasco worked around them to post a shutout frame.
Meanwhile, in the first two innings, the game log says that Jon Lester retired the first six Indians in a row en route to a "masterful" performance. Well, listen: Jon Lester is an excellent pitcher, and it was good in the abstract to see him return to the mound after being drilled with a batted ball, but the fact is, the first five Indians hit the ball quite well. In fact, the sum total of the distances between the outfielder who caught the ball and the wall in front of which he stood was probably no more than 100 feet. EVERY ONE of the fly outs were LONG fly outs: not entirely threats to turn into doubles or homers, but these were not weak popups. So it bears mentioning that while Lester ended up with a great performance, he was hardly dominating the Indians. A little luck, angle, or wind, and he'd have been considered "pounded."
Carrasco then proceeded to newtify in the third: he had started only 2 of 5 hitters with strike one in the second inning, and in the 3rd, this plummeted to 1 of 6. Victor Martinez led the charge with a double, and three singles later, Carrasco was down 3-0, saved only by Matt LaPorta's adequate play off the Monster and Jason Bay's cement pants. And in the 4th, the second "single" he allowed was actually a ball he cleverly deflected with his leg, ending his night.
Really, I'm not sure what you want to conclude from all of this: Boston is a good-hitting team, and Carrasco is a youthful schmoe. He gave up 9 hits, but 8 were singles. On the other hand, they were EIGHT singles in just over three innings (7 hits through 3 IP), which is Officially Too Many Damned Singles. Carrasco only walked 1, but ... he gave up nine hits! C'mon. Carrasco is at least seventh on my depth chart for 2010 starting pitchers. It's nice that he got some major-league time this season. He's got a lot of work to do.
Meanwhile, Lester found his stride after the second and no Cleveland batter produced an interesting plate appearance off Lester until Tofu Lou's ground rule double in the 6th, which was rendered moot by two strikeouts that followed.2) Nice Hose!
Matt LaPorta is likely to be the Indians' first baseman next season, but for now, let's simply enjoy the fact that given a tough field to read, LaPorta correctly read Bay's single off the Green Monster and produced an accurate throw to second to catch Bay trying to get a double.
Let me say this: I'm not saying that Jason Bay is slow, but Victor Martinez would likely have had a double on that hit.
3) The Worst Plate Appearance in October Thus Far
The Indians did not produce a lot of offense. They got three hits, drew a walk, and had a hit batsman, and still only left three runners on base. How is this?
With one out in the 7th, Jhonny Peralta drew a four-pitch walk to end Lester's night, and LaPorta followed with a double off the Monster to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Pinch-hitter Shin-Soo Choo shrewdly allowed an 0-2 pitch to strike him, and the bases were loaded.
Now, think about this for a moment. The Red Sox had 12 hits. They drew four walks, and went an admirable 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In contrast, the Tribe had THREE hits, five total baserunners, and struck out 10 times. And with one good swing of the bat, they could have completely stolen this game.
Up strides Andy Marte against Daniel Bard. Bard may or may not know where any particular pitch is going to go: he can hump it up close to 100 mph, but reminds me of Ferd Cabrera in terms of command. He walked 7 guys in 11 innings in August and 4 in 6 innings in September. However, right-handers hit .208/.264/.292 off Bard, while lefties hit .263/.371/.488.
Here's the problem, of course: the left-handed pinch-hitter (singular) at Eric Wedge's disposal was ... just hit by a pitch. That's it. The only other guy who can hit left-handed and wasn't in the lineup was Asdrubal Cabrera, who wasn't in the lineup because he COULD NOT PLAY. So letting Marte hit there is more of a necessity than a decision.
And Andy Marte produces Cleveland's second GIDP of the night, and the game is effectively over.
4) Professional Pride
Let's take a moment to be more serious here: the Indians' bullpen did a very good job last night in a game in which it wouldn't have been thoroughly shocking for them to just roll over. Really: Jensen Lewis came in with two guys on (without really warming up), got out of a bases-loaded jam without yielding a run, and finished a second scoreless frame, striking out 2 in the process. Then Raffy Perez gave up a pair of singles in two complete innings, but didn't give up any walks or runs and threw 18 strikes in 26 pitches. If there is one pitcher whose command is more of an issue than Fausto Carmona's, it would be Perez the Elder, and in his last 7 outings, he has allowed only 1 walk in 7 2/3 IP to go with 5 hits, 0 runs, and 4 Ks. Is Raffy "definitely all the way back?" Of course not. But a healthy, effective Raffy Perez goes a looooong way toward making this bullpen (and hence this team) a lot more dependible and watertight.
Finally, Jose Veras pitched a hitless, scoreless inning to end the bullpen's night with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Veras now has 6 straight scoreless outings of his own, although he has 5 walks in 7 1/3 IP, which is plainly terrible. But scoreless is good, and Veras has lowered his ERA by over a run in the last month. Nice work, fellas.
5) Nice Hose II!
Tofu Lou Marson gunned down ANOTHER basestealer, this time the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury has now stolen 68 bases (he got one off Lou) and been caught 11 times, meaning Marson did a good job pegging him out there.
Marson has now caught 8 of the 17 would-be basestealers as an Indian: combined with the 2-for-4 he caught in Philly this year and last year's 1-for-1, he now boasts a 50% catch rate, which is really outstanding. Marson may not have a lot of power, but as a backstop, you could do a whole lot worse than having a guy who can hold the league to the same percentage as he holds Jacoby Ellsbury ... which is a FIFTY PERCENT SUCCESS RATE.
6) Nice bat!