Chris Sale has had his way with the Indians in the past. The left-handed may be all arms and legs, but the young bullpen arm turned starter made easy work of the previously left-handed heavy Tribe. In the offseason, the Tribe not only added more speed and power, but they added several right handed hitters for a better balanced lineup. Yesterday, with Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana late scratches, the Indians threw seven right-handed bats at Sale, and their power came through in a big way. Newcomers Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher combined for two homers and 7 of the team’s 9 RBI, and the Indians got their second set of back-to-back quality starts on the young season as Zach McAllister allowed just one earned run and the Tribe clinched the series win with a 9-4 victory.
Zach McAllister did exactly what the Indians asked of him: he threw strikes and kept his team in the game. Things didn’t start out so great as the White Sox struck for a pair of runs in the first, aided by a Mark Reynolds throwing error at first base as he failed to lead McAllister to the bag properly. Alex Rios reached on the error as Jeff Keppinger scored after his one-out double, and Tribe killer Paul Konerko singled in Rios. Much like the home opener, however, the Indians struck back in the first inning to tie the game. With two outs, number three hitter Ryan Raburn fell behind 0-2 in the count before drawing a critical walk to get Nick Swisher to the plate. Swisher didn’t squander the opportunity given since he crushed a 1-1 changeup that stayed out over the plate for a two-run blast over the 19-foot wall in left. It was Swisher’s first homer as an Indian, and the DH gave an “O-H” to celebrate as he headed to the dugout.
To me, one of the most important things in this game was McAllister coming right back out in the second inning and putting up a zero. It wasn’t a routine inning with Gillaspie and Ramirez reaching with singles to lead off the inning, but back-to-back punchouts of Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza followed by a solid play by Raburn at second on a deep groundout to second by Keppinger made it happen. In fact, McAllister shut down the White Sox until the seventh inning when he departed with one out after hitting Alexei Ramirez. McAllister pounded the strike zone (74% strikes), and much like Masterson, he got ahead in the count as well (19-of-26 first pitches strikes). Zac Mac stayed around the zone the entire count, relying primarily on his fastballs. With his two-seam at around 88-90 and his four-seam around 91-93, it’s all about locating rather than blowing people away. McAllister mixes in his changeup, slider, and curveball, but at least 80% of his pitches were a mix of the heaters. McAllister retired 11 straight at one point during the game, and he scattered just five hits over 6 1/3 innings. Zach also didn’t walk a single batter, and it’s one of the main reasons why I think he’s in for a big year. He hasn’t walked a batter yet this season, and if he can continue that command of the strike zone, he’s going to make people hit their way on. In that way, he almost reminds me of Jake Westbrook, who was prone to getting nickle and dimed with singles for a big inning. That’s what Zac Mac must avoid as well.
The Indians took the lead in the third inning with Swisher and Reynolds playing a starring role again. Swisher’s two-out double high off the wall brought Reynolds to the plate, who lined a single into center to score Swish. The big inning came in the fifth, however, with the Indians loading the bases on a Cabrera single, Raburn double (high off the wall as well), and a Swisher hit by pitch. Reynolds took a 1-1 pitch and deposited nearly the same speed and location changeup that Swisher got in the first halfway up the bleachers. Reynolds’s 2nd career grand slam gave the Tribe a commanding 7-2 lead.
What happened next got really interesting. On the very next pitch, Sale reached back for something extra and drilled Michael Brantley. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox warned both benches immediately, yet he did not eject Sale. I can’t begins to tell you how insanely incorrect and idiotic that is. If you think he’s throwing intentionally to the point that you need to warn both benches, then Sale should have ABSOLUTELY been ejected. Don’t take away the Indians’ recourse in returning fire. These pre-emptive warnings (before the other team can retaliate to protect their player) are just garbage. Of course, the Tribe and ChiSox play 19 times this year, so there will be some blowout this season one way or another where the Indians will return fire. Sale insists, however, that he didn’t mean to hit Brantley. Riiiiiight, and Carlos Carrasco just slipped too. Sale would retire Aviles on a flyout before being chased from the game. Reliever Deunte Heath came in and served up a two-run blast off the bat of catcher Yan Gomes, his first hit as an Indian.
The Tribe pen did get some action in this one, with Bryan Shaw serving up a two-run homer to Alejandro De Aza to allow McAllister’s only earned run of the game to score, but Nick Hagadone and Joe Smith worked scoreless innings to close it out.
This afternoon, Brett Myers goes to the bump for the Tribe against Jake Peavy. For Myers, this is a critical start (only his second, but his third appearance). If he can’t stay out of the middle of the plate and stop serving up taters, how long can the Indians deal with that before at least sending him to the bullpen and making him the most expensive setup man in the league for a while?