The red hot Cleveland Indians seem to be doing no wrong these days. Every decision Manager Manny Acta has made seems to be the right one. The right strings are being pulled. However last night, after the Indians used a little Progressive Field magic eighth inning comeback, Acta made a decision that was scrutinzed after the White Sox took the game 5-3 in 10 innings.
The Tribe offense was completely shut down against another lefty John Danks, who they have had good success against during his career (4-8 with an ERA over five in 15 starts coming in). For seven innings, Danks was working on a three-hit shutout. On the other side was Justin Masterson who didn’t have his slider working, but managed to weave his way through six innings allowing just two earned runs on six hits.
The walks are still a serious problem for J Mast. In this start, he walked five White Sox. Over his last five starts, Masterson has given free passes 23 times in 29 innings pitched. That just isn’t going to cut it.
“When you know that stuff is kind of going here, there and everywhere,” Masterson said, “you’re close to the zone, but not close enough, you’ve got to be able to work through it and really keep it close. They [scored] two there in the first, so my goal the rest of the way was that I was going to be out there to just try to not give up any more.”
The two runs he gave up came in the first inning where he was really not helped out by his outfield defense. After a one-out Gordon Beckham single, Adam Dunn crushed a pitch deep to center field. Just as he did a night before against Dunn, Michael Brantley seemed to have this one tracked, but he overshot his jump and the ball bounced off of his glove. The official scorer ruled it a double. It was a play that should have been made.
Paul Konerko drove in Beckham with an RBI ground out to third to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. With two outs and Dunn still on second, AJ Pierzynski stepped to the plate. He ripped a sharp single to left, where Johnny Damon was roaming. Dunn is not exactly Kenny Lofton on the base paths, but unfortunately for the Indians, Damon isn’t exactly Shin-Soo Choo with his arm. To say Damon’s throw was weak would be an understatement. He barely reached cutoff man Jack Hannahan on the fly. But again, we all knew this when the Indians signed Damon – everyone will run on him any chance they can. He’s here for his bat, not his glove.
The Brantley and Damon plays that weren’t made changed the dynamic of the game.
The Sox would add a third run in the seventh against Dan Wheeler, who loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. With the way Danks was pitching, it seemed like a three-run deficit would be too tough to overcome. But the offense finally came alive in the eighth, with a little help from some shotty Sox defense.
Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan led off the inning with back to back singles which brought Robin Ventura out to get Danks. He called for one of his four lefties in the pen, Chris Sale, his new closer, for what would be a two-inning save chance. Damon hiy a slow grounder to short, which Alexei Ramirez booted, loading the bases with nobody out for the big part of the Tribe order. Jason Kipnis hit a hard grounder to first, which scored Kotchman and moved Hannahan and Damon into scoring position. Sale then walked Asdrubal Cabrera on a very close 3-2 pitch to re-load the bases for Carlos Santana.
The Tribe’s catcher blistered a single up the middle scoring two and tying the game. The Magic reappeared and it seemed like the momentum in this one had completely shifted. The lead run was at second with one out and the Wahoos had two chances to get him in. But Sale came back to K Shelley Duncan and got Shin-Soo Choo on a fly ball to left.
On to the ninth we went, where Acta called for left-handed rookie Nick Hagadone. I think we call see that we have a real up and coming power arm on our hands here. A day after recording his first career save, Hagadone struck out the side in the ninth, looking dominant while doing so. In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians failed to score, despite a pair of two-out singles.
With Hagadone blowing away the Sox, Acta certainly could have (I will say should have) sent his rookie out for a second inning of work. Instead, he went to his closer Chris Perez in a non-save situation.
For whatever reason, and it is not just with Perez, closers seem to struggle in these instances. Perez gave up a leadoff single to Konerko, who was replaced with pinch runner Brent Lillibridge. Alex Rios, the man who had the words with the Tribe’s closer last week, exacted his revenge when he laced an RBI triple to the right-center field gap. He would later score an insurance run on a Ramirez fielder’s choice. The Sox took this one 5-3 thanks to rookie Addison Reed’s second save.
After the game, Acta was questioned on his decision to pull Hagadone for Perez.
“You can’t let the other team beat you with your seventh guy out of the pen instead of your best arm,” said Acta. “It gets noticed when he doesn’t get it done, but you have to do it. Come September or playoff time, I’m not going to be putting the seventh guy out of the pen in that situation.”
I see where Acta is coming from. Perez has been very good since the opening day debacle and he was fresh after not working in either game of Monday’s doubleheader. However, I take him to task for the quote. He watches this team every single day. Can he honestly say that Hagadone is his “seventh guy out of the pen?” He’s made eight appearances and has allowed just one run on three hits (0.96 ERA) with nine K’s. He’s obviously better than Wheeler. The same goes for Jairo Ascencio. I trust him more than I trust Tony Sipp right now as well.
As always, Perez was a stand-up guy after taking the loss in discussing the Rios incident.
“What happened in Chicago was just part of the game,” said Perez. “This is totally different. We didn’t say any words tonight. I just made a bad pitch and left it out over the plate and he did what he was supposed to do — hit it in the gap.”
The series comes to an end tonight at Progressive Field with the Indians sending Jeanmar Gomez (2-1, 2.82 ERA) to face the White Sox tough right-hander Jake Peavy (3-1, 1.99 ERA) who is having a renaissance season thus far.
photo via David Richard/US Presswire