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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/4
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Red Sox broke out the clown shoes to celebrate their mass finings for being injured jerks, and the Indians were able to take advantage.  Given extra outs, extra baserunners, and extra Jacoby Ellsbury, the Tribe hung 9 runs on the BoSox while giving up only 1, thanks to a second fine performance by Justin Masterson against his old team.  The bullpen chipped in, Andy Marte hit a homer, and Boston generally played defense like lobsters.  Can’t get they-ah from he-ah!

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians (46-62) 0 0 1 0 2 1 5 0 0 9 10 0
Red Sox (61-47) 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6 3

mastersonW: Masterson (4-10)  L: Lester (11-7) 

Y’know, I would have to think that dropping a series at home to the Indians kind of rules you out as a legitimate playoff contender. 

1) Revenge is a dish best served by random flinging 

In a matchup of Justin Masterson vs. Jon Lester, it was surprising without being shocking that Masterson got the upper hand.  There are any number of factors involved here: the Boston lineup is missing several of its best hitters, the Red Sox played comical defense (some by Lester himself) behind Lester, Lester was fighting a hamstring cramp, and Masterson pitched quite well.  Every source I could find about the game harped on the fact that Masterson has now thrown two good games (the first was legitimately excellent, a complete game shutout) against his former team, while being pretty bad against … well … everyone else. 

While I won’t dismiss the idea of “showing those guys” entirely, it’s probably a pretty small factor.  Masterson wasn’t dumped or run out of town, after all, but used as a valuable asset to acquire Victor Martinez.  One thing that might come into play here is that Masterson is certainly not fazed by pitching in Fenway Park, since he’s done it many times.  But in terms of “revenge” being a primary motivating factor, I’d be very surprised if that was the case. 

In a sense, Masterson might just match up better against these guys.  Jacoby Ellsbury is ice cold: he had a nice minor-league rehab stint, but the man had a LONG layoff, and is hitting .224/.240/.306 in the first place.  His left-handedness can’t really take advantage of Masterson’s weakest area.  Marcos Scutaro is right-handed and Masterson ate him up.  Dave Ortiz smacked a solo shot.  Victor drew a pair of walks off Masterson (one in the 6th to end his night) and smashed a double (left-handed).  J.D. Drew inexplicably couldn’t hit Masterson.  Adrian Beltre got a hit, and then you get to the “Who’s That Guy” section of the lineup.  In essence, having the first two hitters be terrible allowed Masterson to pitch to the Big Four in the lineup without any set tables. 

Masterson actually had a shutout through 5, and gave up the solo shot to Ortiz leading off the 6th.  It was a good performance for Masterson, giving up 4 hits in 5-plus (the plus stands for extra Fail!) innings, and only the 1 run.  In fact, Masterson gave up a couple leadoff doubles, but because he personnally held the Red Sox to 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, he was able to skate through his outing nearly unscathed.  (A 9:3 GO:FO ratio helps here.) 

If there’s one discouraging thing about the outing, it is the 4 walks.  Four more walks, in only 5 innings pitched: that’s just, as Charles Barkley would say, “turble.”  Now, it bears mentioning that Masterson has picked up something that fades away from left-handed hitters: check out the highlight of Ellsbury grounding out to short.  Whether this is an approximation of Talbot’s change or something else, having left-to-right (from the pitcher’s perspective) movement on a pitch will offset a whole lot of the arm angle problems that have plagued Masterson against left-handers.  And that pitch will jam a righty but good if he’s looking for something that’s dropping and tailing away from him.  But Masterson doesn’t seem to command that pitch very well, or any other pitch, frankly.  He threw a first-pitch strike to 9 of the 22 hitters he faced, and 51 strikes in 95 pitches overall.  That’s kinda crummy (under 54%). 

Also, he gave up a double to Kevin Cash.  This alone deserves ridicule. 

2) Attitude adjustment 

Tony Sipp came in to face J.D. Drew with a runner at first.  Since the runner was Victor Martinez, it was unlikely he had to worry about a steal.  Since the score was 4-1 at the time, though, he did have to worry about the hitter. 

Drew is a notoriously patient hitter, sometimes to the point of ridicule.  Fans of his teams (because, as far as I am aware, there are no J.D. Drew fans who aren’t his immediate relatives) usually grumble at some point that he took a strike three or took a walk with men in scoring position rather than drive them home.  Sipp threw fastballs and sliders near the knee-high outside corner.  Drew spit on them.  They were called balls. 

But down 3-1 in the count, Sipp did not succumb to the desire to throw a fatter strike just to avoid the walk.  No, he threw another pitch in the same zone and got the call.  And then with two strikes on him, Drew swung through the next pitch for the K. 

Next up was Adrian Beltre.  Beltre is having a redonkulous season, hit a home run last night, ended up going 2-for-4 on the night with a double, and bats right-handed.  Tony Sipp did not care.  He got two quick strikes on foul balls, fished for two balls, gave up a couple MORE fouls and another ball, and finally got Beltre swinging at HIS (Sipp’s) pitch. 

In short, Sipp did not try to muscle a high fastball past a guy.  He did not get frustrated deep in the count and throw one into the middle of the zone.  He didn’t sacrifice quality with three balls on the hitters.  He stuck to his plan and executed it, and was rewarded with a pair of strikeouts of two dangerous hitters with a runner on base.  That seems mature to me. 

3) Managerial Head-Scratchers 

This is a pretty minor point, but it seemed odd at the time. 

There was exactly one hitter in the Drew-Beltre-Kalish gauntlet that I was worried out: the guy hitting .337 and slugging .566.  I know Kalish is hitting .500/.529/.577, but that just shows how magical tiny samples are.  So bringing in Sipp to face Drew to put out the fire, well, that’s certainly defensible (and it certainly worked), but leaving him in to face The Most Dangerous Hitter who happens to be right-handed … well, that’s pretty bold, just to keep him in for Kalish, who is 11. 

So when Terry Francona pulled Kalish back for right-hander Bill Hall, Manny Acta brought in righty Joe Smiff: Smiff threw four straight pitches in the strike zone to Hall and was rewarded with a groundout to end the inning. 

Now, none of this is ridiculous, but I guess the question is: why is Ryan Kalish driving this process and not Adrian Beltre?  Offhand, I would probably have said I was more confident about a Smiff v. Kalish confrontation than a Sipp v. Beltre.  It worked out, but it looked a little odd, that’s all. 

4) This having been said 

Smiff came in, threw strikes (15 in 21), got outs.  He allowed one hit but got a K in 1 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Staked to a 9-1 lead, Hector Ambriz came in and realized that throwing anything out of the strike zone would be silly.  There is no reason to nibble with an 8-run lead, even in Fenway.  He threw 9 strikes in 11 pitches and completed a perfect inning for his troubles. 

5) On the other other hand 

Jensen Lewis. 

Lewis’ outing was a bit of a microcosm for his season: he struck out two guys, both swinging, which is great. 

He also walked the leadoff hitter, which is awful. 

He only gave up one hit, which isn’t bad. 

The hit was for extra bases and would have produced a run if the runner hadn’t been 1.0 David Ortizes large: this is bad. 

He got the last hitter to strike out on three pitches with two swinging strikes, which is terrific. 

The three pitches came after he’d fallen into his second straight 2-0 hole, which is less than terrific. 

I’m glad Lewis got to get back in the game after his one-pitch outing the night before, and 2 Ks in a scoreless inning is very nice.  10 strikes in 19 pitches is pretty lousy.  It’s probably hard to be real consistent when you never get to pitch for the same team for more than three weeks at a time, but … throw strikes! 

6) Bam bam! 

Ersatz DH Jayson Nix and poly 3B Andy Marte each smashed home runs down the left field line.  Marte’s blow did the most damage, as it came with two outs and two runners on base.  Nix hit his off Lester, while Marte hit his off the silver platter Scott Atchison provided with his belt-high hanging slider. 

7) Everybody hits! 

Well, everyone but Asdrubal Cabrera.  Every other Cleveland hitter had at least one hit, and seven of them scored (Trev Crowe didn’t score). 

Marte and Jason Donald were the only two players with multi-hit games. 

8) Someone has to point this out 

There’s a lot of fluidity in the second and third base positions: before the season, we knew that second base would be in flux, which can be the only explanation for signing Mark Grudzielanek.  (Note that Grood is not playing somewhere else right now.)  Third base was solid with Peralta, although he had to have a significantly better season for us to think it was in good hands, so to speak. 

However, shortstop was set: Asdrubal Cabrera had a fine rookie season, was a switch-hitter, a good fielder, and was very young.  We really got away with one there, and we’re set at short for years to come.  No problem.  All good. 

Except … 

… has anyone noticed that Asdrubal Cabrera is actually quite terrible at the plate this year? 

Sure, he lost a bunch of time to the broken arm, and that will derail even very good players.  And Cabrera was hitting .287 when he went down. 

But it was a pretty empty .287: he was leading off with a .322 OBP, which sucks, and was slugging .368, which is pretty crummy.  Since returning, Cabrera’s July was a pitiful .214/.283/.262, and his August is .176/.211/.353.  Yay, he has a homer in August.  His overall numbers are still .262/.303/.344.  That’s a very bad line, especially from a guy you’re slotting in at the top of the order. 

Look, Cabrera is 24 and this is a lost season and he broke his arm and he still plays pretty good defense and there’s lots of time to get better and the chemitry in the middle infield has been all over the place and he’s getting used to leading off for the first time and I certainly don’t want to see Jason Donald trying to play shortstop again.  I get it.  No need to panic or go out and acquire another shortstop. 

But really: his season is bad. 

9) Terror at the ballyard 

The Indians scored 9 runs last night, while the Boston pitching staff combined to give up 2 earned runs.  How is this? 

Let’s focus only on the 5-run 7th, because it is most consistently Keystone Koppish: after Donald singled, Cabrera hit a ball that Victor smacked with a hockey stick for a two-base error.  After an intentional walk of Shin-Soo Choo, Shelley Duncan hit a double-play grounder to short, which … 

… Marcos Scutaro threw so poorly that Kevin Cash was pulled off the plate and nobody was out. 

This is a play the Red Sox clearly need to practice, so Matt LaPorta obliged with the EXACT SAME GROUND BALL.  This time, Scutaro’s throw was on target for an out at the plate, but Cabrera’s slide took Cash out of the play and they only got one out. 

Then Nix hit a sac fly and Marte went “bombs away” and that was enough of that.

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