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Indians Indians Archive Morning Rundown: Baseball Games Aren't Played on Paper
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke


Now that that’s out of the way, on with the Rundown. You know, I think most of us would have been thrilled with winning two out of three. We gutted out a win with Ubaldo on the mound. Zach McAllister went pitch-for-pitch with Doug Fister and the bullpen nailed it down. As a reward for taking the first two games, we got to face Justin Verlander.

May 24, 2012

Detroit Tigers 1

Cleveland Indians 2

W: Justin Masterson (2-3); L: Justin Verlander (5-2); SV: Chris Perez (16)


Justin Verlander was coming off a near-no-hitter in his last start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, losing it on a flare single by Josh Harrison with one out in the ninth. Part of me was rooting for Verlander to throw the third no-hitter of his career. Look, whether we like it or not, the guy is a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher and, in my humble opinion, the best pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. You don’t have to like the guy, but you have to respect his talent. His makeup, his team-first mentality, and his stuff are off-the-charts impressive. Plus, if he throws a no-hitter in his start prior to facing the Indians, unless he throws a perfect game, he can’t really do better against us.

Take one look at Verlander’s eighth inning against the Indians today and you’ll see what I mean about his stuff. It took Verlander just 11 pitches to strike out the side in an inning where his fastball ranged from 96-102 mph and he dropped in two unfair curve balls to Asdrubal Cabrera, both called strikes. Oh, by the way, he started the inning with 106 pitches. It was his 116th pitch of the afternoon that checked in at 102.

This guy is damn good. The Indians had beaten him one time in the last three seasons, a game on September 29, 2010 in Game Two of a doubleheader which featured household names like Jordan Brown, Jayson Nix, Trevor Crowe, Drew Sutton, and Luis Valbuena. Shelley Duncan hit cleanup. The Indians scored a run on a wild pitch and another on a squeeze bunt.

All of the pressure in this game was squarely on the shoulders of Justin Verlander and the Tiger hitters. The Tigers left 20 men on base in the first two games of the series. The Indians battled to win the first two, which they had to do with Verlander on the hill in the series finale. For the Tigers, this was a must-win game. In fact, every time Verlander starts is a must-win game because the Tigers pitching staff, outside of Verlander and Fister, has been pretty horrible.

chootrotAfter Masterson navigated his way through a first inning jam, Shin-Soo Choo opened the game with a thunderous home run to the deck formerly known as Pronkville on a hanging changeup. Amazingly, it was just Choo’s third home run in 140 AB. Since moving to the leadoff spot, Choo has posted a .350/.446/.649/1.095 slash line. Brilliant move by Manny Acta, although, I don’t think he saw this kind of production coming.

Masterson’s lone run came on a perfectly-placed double to left center by Quintin Berry, a productive ground out from Andy Dirks, and another ground out by Miguel Cabrera on an excellent play by Asdrubal Cabrera deep in the hole at short.

Not a whole lot has been said lately about the Indians propensity for scoring two-out runs. They did it a ton in April and not much has been said about it since. Michael Brantley flared a single into short right center field with two outs and nobody thought much of it. Except for Manny Acta. He gave Brantley the steal sign and the Indians had a runner in scoring position. Jose Lopez promptly singled to right field plating the eventual winning run. The Indians have scored 190 runs this season. Seventy-six of them have scored with two outs (40%).

The Indians went 5-for-6 stealing bases off Alex Avila in the series, after Avila threw out 32% of baserunners last year. The only Indian caught stealing in the series was Shelley Duncan. This year, Avilaleads the league in stolen bases allowed. What a difference a year makes for Avila. Last year, he batted .295 with 19 HR and 82 RBI. This season, through 36 games, he’s batting .225 with 5 HR and 17 RBI.

Fast forward to the seventh inning where Manny Acta earned a lot of respect from me and Justin Masterson made him look like a genius. The Tigers had been searching for a clutch hit in the first two games of the series and Lewis and Clark, with the help of Christopher Columbus, may not have even helped them find one. They got yet another opportunity in the seventh.

After walking the #9 hitter Danny Worth, one of my biggest pet peeves ever, Masterson failed to record an out on a sac bunt attempt from QuintinBerry. Andy Dirks, a guy who entered the series hitting .340, was asked to put down a bunt. At this point, it’s perfectly reasonable to question the rationale in the Tiger dugout. For one thing, left handed hitters own Justin Masterson. For another thing, in 109 Major League games, Andy Dirks has successfully sacrificed twice. Dirks responded with a “Worst At Bat of the Year” candidate first by not getting the bunt down, and second, by striking out looking.

With Joe Smith ready and waiting in the bullpen, Manny Acta headed for the mound. The conventional move would be to go to your righty setup guy with Masterson nearing 100 pitches and a tight game hanging in the balance. Masterson’s 2012 struggles make it a very justifiable move. Smith came jogging out of the bullpen gate without Acta signaling him in. He was forced to do a 180 and dart back into the 'pen.

Acta gave the ace of his pitching staff a vote of confidence. He left Masterson in to face Cabrera who immediately popped up to center field. Prince Overpaid Baseball Player hit a comebacker to the mound which Masterson ran halfway to first before under-handing to Casey Kotchman. Kudos to Acta for having the stones to leave Masterson in there. If Masterson gives up a game-tying, or worse, hit, the second guessing would have begun immediately in the Twitter-verse and carried over all day long. It worked out for all parties and possibly gave Masterson the confidence he needs to turn his season around.

Vinnie Pestano worked a clean eighth for his 12th hold of the season, although his consecutive appearances with a strikeout streak ended at 23. Chris Perez gave up a hit to Ramon “Kryptonite”Santiago (Santiago is a career .247 hitter, but is 1-for-3 with six walks lifetime against Perez) but got Andy Dirks to end the game, leaving Miguel Cabrera in the on deck circle.

The Tigers were consistent in this series offensively, leaving ten more men on base to make a nice, symmetrical 30 for the series.

Now, for the Buzz Killington part of the Rundown. As we all know, the Indians did this last year. In their first meeting with the Tigers, they swept them at home to go to 19-8 en route to a 30-15 start and a seven-game lead in the AL Central on May 23. The Indians went 50-67 the rest of the way and finished 15 games behind the Tigers. There’s a ton of baseball left to be played.

However, that being said, this just felt different. The Indians, as I mentioned on TheClevelandFan forums on Tuesday, navigated through the brutal 21 games in 20 days stretch to start May by going 12-9. They enjoyed a day off and then swept the Tigers, giving up just six runs and executing the little things that smaller payroll teams need to do in order to beat the big spenders. And their two best pitchers this season, Derek Lowe and Jeanmar Gomez, didn’t even appear in the series.

So, revel in the joy of this one, Tribe fans. A sweep of our hated rivals from Southwest Ontario, Canada and one where we beat Justin Verlander to complete it. Hopefully the Indians avoid a hangover and take care of business on the south side inChicagobefore coming back home to host the Royals.


Random details...

Justin Masterson, despite battling through his start on Thursday, is still a major concern for the Indians. Thursday marked his fourth start with more walks than strikeouts and his seventh start out of ten with three walks or more. Masterson walked three or more just seven times in 33 starts last season.

Furthermore, with all the talk about Ubaldo Jimenez’s velocity drop, many have overlooked Masterson’s. While his isn’t as drastic as Jimenez’s, Masterson has lost miles per hour on his fastball and sinker. In 2011, his average fastball velocity was 94.18 mph, with an average of 92.7 mph on his sinker. In Thursday’s start, his average fastball velo was 92.39 mph, with an average of 90.55 on the sinker. For the season, he’s sitting at 91.96 with the fastball and 90.31 with the sinker. It appears to be coming back, but very slowly. All data can be found here at Justin Masterson’s Pitch F/X page.

The drop in velocity has caused his pitches to have more movement and Masterson has been unable to adjust to the added tilt on his pitches, hence the higher number of walks.

Concerns about Masterson aside, he had the quote of the day. Masterson is a very funny guy, with a knack for subtle, deadpanned humor. This is the guy who refers to the Pitcher Formerly Known as Fausto Carmona as, simply, "Rob". Today, when asked about Joe Smith coming out of the bullpen before being called and having to turn around, Masterson asked, "Did he forget his ID?", referencing the Joe Smith Put-In-Bay story that came out on Tuesday. Brilliant. IMO, that quote was better than his start today.

While Vinnie Pestano’s appearances with a K streak ended, one did continue today. Justin Verlander has now gone six or more innings in 52 consecutive starts. His last start with less than six innings was August 17, 2010 against the New York Yankees where Verlander lasted just five frames, throwing 114 pitches.

Chris Perez tied a career-high by notching his 16th consecutive save opportunity, a record that he set from 8/12/10-4/20/11 and then tied again from 5/1/11-7/15/11.

kipturntwoI just have to throw this in there. Wasn’t it incredibly gratifying to watch Jhonny Peralta completely blow in this series? He came up in a huge spot with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth on Wednesday and struck out on a slider in the other batter’s box. Today, he came up with two on, one out, and rolled into a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play.

Some wonder why there is a large collection of Indians fans who hate Peralta. I point to his apathetic nature, penchant for showing up to camp out of shape, being lazy, and never laying off the breaking ball in the other batter’s box or the fastball at eye level. His vision is still, however, better than 20/20.



Lou Marson upped his average to .100 (!!) with a terrific at bat in the 5th culminating in his first hit off a right handed pitcher this season. Marson celebrated by stealing second. After Choo walked, Jason Kipnis hit into a double play.

You won’t find many games where the 2-3-4 hitters in the lineup go 0-for-11 with 5 K’s and their team still wins. It happened today.

In one of the stranger coincidences you'll find this season, Justin Masterson's home win was his first since July 5, 2011...which is the last time Justin Verlander lost a regular season road start. Masterson beat the Yankees 5-3 at home while Verlander lost 1-0 in Anaheim. It was a span of 14 home starts for Masterson and 14 road starts for Verlander.



AAA: Columbus got blasted last night bySyracuse 13-4 as Eric Berger and his legendary mustache got lit up for 10 runs in just two innings. Jason Donald collected a couple of hits, upping his average to .313. Matt LaPorta reached base three times.

AA: Akron dropped a close one to the Trenton Thunder 4-3 in walk-off fashion. Giovanni Soto, acquired for Jhonny Peralta, pitched seven solid innings striking out nine. All three runs he allowed came via the home run.

High-A: The Carolina Mudcats had the night off.

Low-A: LakeCounty rolled to a 10-4 victory over Western Michigan (Hey, it was Jim Tressel day forOhio baseball teams as we owned the state ofMichigan!) thanks to 13 hits and four errors. The Captains needed a day like that with the bats as nobody in Thursday’s starting lineup entered the game hitting above .290.



The Indians played the role of Siegfried & Roy, pre-tiger attack, sweeping a three-game set and sending them to Minnesota with a nice, big sh*tburger to eat on the flight. Ah, Lou Brown, how we love you.


I’m pinch hitting for Nino this week, but you can find my weekly Saturday column, View from the Porch, right here at

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