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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 7/30 - 8/1
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

In a flurry of activity, the Indians stripped themselves of three more crucial players … except that the rookie pitched fine and won the game Jake Westbrook would have pitched … and Shelley Duncan got a pair of hits and had a much better July than Austin Kearns … and Chris Perez saved a pair of one-run games at least as well as Kerry Wood would have … on second thought, the Indians jettisoned a bunch of ballast and took the series in Toronto. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians (42-61) 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 0
Blue Jays (54-49) 0 0 1 6 0 1 0 0 X 8 14 1

W: Marcum (10-4) L: Masterson (3-10) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians (43-61) 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 7 2
Blue Jays (54-50) 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 0

W: J. Lewis (3-2) L: Tallet (1-4) S: C. Perez (11) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians (44-61) 2 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 5 7 0
Blue Jays (54-51) 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 4 9 1

perez1W: J. Gomez (2-0) L: Litsch (1-5) S: C. Perez(12) 

So help me, I like this team better. 

1) Taking one for the team 

I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to spend a lot of time dissecting Justin Masterson’s tenth loss of the season: the man gave up 13 hits in 5 1/3 innings.  He gave up 8 runs, all earned, primarily on the strength of two homers (one a solo shot, the other a grand slam).  He gave up 6 runs in the 4th inning alone, continuing to pitch long after it was obvious that he didn’t have the stuff required to shut down Toronto’s rather one-dimensional offense.  The fact that he threw 75 strikes in 114 pitches is encouraging: he never shied away from the task.  The fact that those 114 pitches got him through 5 1/3 innings is not very encouraging at all. 

But here’s the thing that struck me about Masterson’s outing more than anything else: he kept going back out there. 

I don’t mean this to be some saccharine celebration of “Justin Masterson, True Warrior!” or “Justin Masterson, the Man Who Would Not Quit!” or any such nonsense.  No, this is nothing so maudlin.  Masterson barely got more outs than hits allowed: I think that pretty much defines a “bad start” no matter how you slice it.  And giving up a bases-loaded homer to Jose Bautista, having one of the great gork seasons of the 21st century, is pretty crummy. 

No, what I mean is, after the World’s Worst Game on Thursday, in a week after Fausto Carmona got bombed out in the 3rd inning of his start and Mitch Talbot got hurt in the second inning of his, there was just no way Manny Acta could afford to have Masterson get pulled before the sixth inning.  So he didn’t: Masterson got to hork his way through a 6-run horror, and then pitch some more.  To his credit, he then tossed a scoreless frame before giving up a meaning 8th run in the 6th and ceding the floor to Justin Germano, who could essentially start pelting me with blueberries in my cubicle and I still wouldn’t know who he was.  (To Germano’s credit, he finished the game, so no further relievers were harmed in the production of this baseball game.) 

Masterson is now at 123 1/3 innings: last season, he pitched 129 1/3 while making 16 starts and a bunch of relief appearances.  Masterson is no spindly wimp, being listed at 6’6” and 250 lb.  He may indeed be a workhorse in the Sabathia/Westbrook mold.  On the other hand, I also wouldn’t be wholly surprised if Masterson does not make 5 starts in September. 

By the way: 3 strikeouts. 

2) Why are you old guys making it look so hard? 

This major-league pitching thing is easy!  Just ask Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez, each of whom has never lost, never given up more than 2 runs, and have done this despite each pitching on short rest in one of their two starts. 

I was wary about having Tomlin start on short rest, but having BOTH Tomlin AND Gomez do so seemed foolhardy.  Is there no one else who could step up and make a spot start?  Wasn’t that what Germano was supposed to be for? 

As it turned out, my fears were unfounded, as each young man tossed a fine game.  This time, I’d have to give the significant nod to Tomlin, who struck out 5 men in his 5 1/3 innings, including the side in the 2nd (two swinging).  The “deep fly ball” quotient was reduced as well: after two of the first three hitters flew out to center, only three more men hit outs caught by outfielders, and two of those weren’t elevated (listed as “line outs,” so they were over anyone’s head).  And if any team is going to take advantage of an extreme flyball pitcher, it would be Toronto: while the Jays did score their run off Tomlin on a solo shot, it was by Jose Molina instead of one of the big power guys, and it came without anyone on base.  (This having been said, it was a BOMB.)  Still, I was concerned that Tomlin got inordinately fortunate in his first start: in this one, he didn’t get anything I would have called really “good luck” happen to him, and he ended up yielding the 1 run on 4 hits and a pair of walks against the 5 Ks.  As a bonus, Tomlin held Toronto hitters to 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and shook off an error by Matt LaPorta that loaded the bases with one out to calmly get the next two hitters. 

Gomez wasn’t quite as scintillating as he was last time, giving up a pair of runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings.  Both he and Tomlin were on short leashes, being rookies on short rest, so both men tossed only 80 (Gomez) and 83 (Tomlin) pitches on the days.  Gomez got a few more ground balls, but only 2 Ks, and did manage to cough up a pair of doubles to Vern Wells to go with a solo shot by Aaron Hill, who is hitting .206 on the season. 

If I were to bet, I would say that Tomlin could survive a long stint in the majors which Gomez would eventually be carved up, just based on poise, command, location, and stuff.  I could certainly be wrong on both men.  I’ll say this: thrown into a pretty deep pool, neither man looks like he’s particularly concerned about drowning.  

3) Out of their systems 

With the exception of Raffy Perez and the ersatz Andy Marte, the bullpen could hardly have had a more pitiful display than they had on Thursday.  As a result, the whole crew got Friday off in the Masterson/Germano Sacrifice Game. 

But on Saturday, middle men Jensen Lewis and Joe Smiff combined to allow one baserunner (on a walk by Lewis) in 2 2/3 innings.  And on Sunday, picking up for a second straight necessarily-short outing, Tony Sipp, Frank Herrmann, Raffy Perez, and Joe Smiff combined to strike out 4 hitters and walk no one (huzzah!) in 3 innings of work.  True, each of Sipp and Herrmann allowed solo shots to turn a 5-2 game into a 5-4 nailbiter, but generally speaking, everyone did a much better job. 

4) A rich tradition 

For years, Really Big Bob would save games by balancing his sizable girth squarely in the middle of the tightrope, consistently getting saves after putting runners on base.  One of the more amusing sights in recent years would be Wickman’s “intentional balk” with a runner on second, because he hated having to worry about a new set of signs being stolen. 

Joe Borowski picked up where Wickman left off, even going so far as to allow runs to score before getting his save.  Kerry Wood … well, let’s be frank, does anyone remember what Kerry Wood has done over the past year and a half?  I’m pretty sure Kerry Wood doesn’t. 

Anyway, Chris Perez came into a 2-1 game, a game in which offense was at an extreme premium, and promptly gave up a single and hit a batter.  After a sacrifice, Perez loaded the bases with an intentional walk.  I mean, that runner is completely meaningless, might as well set up the force. 

On the other hand, the force was completely unnecessary, because Perez then hammered out two Ks (both swinging), including one by lefty pitch-hitter Travis Snider on a tailing fastball. 

Given the opportunity to perhaps be a little cleaner, Perez again allowed a leadoff single (to Snider, oddly enough), took the sacrifice, then retired the next two hitters.  The last one was a swinging K by Home Run Jose Bautista, on that nice little slider that I like more than Perez’ fastball. 

After this, I believe he shouted “Freedom!”, painted himself blue, and roared down the hill with only a sharpened stick.  Perhaps this is an exaggeration.  But Perez does get fired up about saving a tight game, I’ll say that. 

5) Tales of the Unlikely 

Jeanmar Gomez was staked to a quick 2-0 lead when, after a leadoff walk by Trevor Crowe, Jesse Litsch gave up a two-run shot to … Asdrubal Cabrera?  Are you kidding me? 

No one reached base more frequently on Saturday than ersatz left fielder Shelley Duncan (single, double, walk). 

Carlos Santana saw a total of 9 pitches in 4 trips to the plate Saturday, including THREE first-pitch outs.  Who are you, Jayson Nix? 

The Indians got a hit with a runner in scoring position on Sunday.  (Over the three-game set, the Indians got one hit with a runner in scoring position.)  The hit was by … Asdrubal Cabrera?! 

6) Welcome to the club! 

With Austin Kearns being shipped out, Jordan Brown made his major-league debut in left field Sunday.  Although he took a Size Four Collar with a pair of whiffs, he … um … okay, well, there is no actual “although” in the statement.  But welcome anyway! 

7) Managerial Head Scratchers 

Today’s Head Scratcher doesn’t come from Manny Acta, but rather from Toronto’s Cito Gaston, who chose to sacrifice with runners on first and second with no outs in the 9th inning of a one-run game. 

Now, I am not so anti-bunt as to claim that it’s never useful.  In fact, this is exactly one of the situations in which it is MOST useful: you put the tying run in position to score on an out, and the winning run in scoring position.  You also take away the chance at a double play and essentially force the defending team to walk the next hitter. 

But another part of this is to know exactly who is coming up after the sacrifice: in this case, Lyle Overbay, a left-handed hitter hitting .260/.351/.434 against right-handers.  After this, the right-handed Edwin Encarnacion, hitting .240/.303/.442 (.291 OBP against righties), and eventually pinch-hitter Travis Snider, hitting .220/.304/.470 against RHP. 

Now, this points out something about Toronto’s offense: this is a bad offense.  From 5 through 9, here are the OBPs of the hitters: 

Lind: .279 (Wise .294) 
Hill: .280 
Overbay: .330 
Encarnacion: .303 
Molina: .351 (Snider .321) 

Molina’s probably not “really” a .351 OBP guy.  Four of these guys have OBPs near .300 (or even worse).  That’s crummy. 

Anyway, what Cito did was take the bat out of the .351 OBP guy and put it in the hands of consecutive .303 and .304 OBP guys.  (I am using OBP here because with the bases loaded, that’s all you need to score, and that doesn’t even count the sac fly potential.) 

Now, admittedly, Aaron Hill was the guy who sacrificed, and Hill is have just an uber-atrocious season at the plate.  Very, very poor.  .202 AVG poor.  So maybe using him to advance the runners was the best use of resources.  But of the three guys Overbay, Encarnacion, and Snider, the only one I would be concerned about hitting Chris Perez would have been Overbay, and Gaston all but hung a sign on him saying, “Avoid pitching to me with no repercussions.” 

8) General Managerial Head Scratchers 

When we acquired Jayson Nix, I opined that we did so to replace Jhonny Peralta if he ever got traded.  Sure enough, Nix has been anointed the third baseman for the time being. 

Here’s the thing: in the same piece, I pointed out that I thought that the REASON Nix was performing better in CLEVELAND than CHICAGO is that he was playing SECOND base.  He didn’t play third well, and playing third seemed to bleed into his offensive game. 

The sample size is really small, but Nix has struck out 6 times in his last 11 ABs since Peralta was traded, hitting 2-for-11.  I’m just concerned, okay? 

(I wouldn’t mind seeing Jared Goedert at some point, either.)

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