Second Thoughts Game #71: Indians 6, Royals 3
The Indians entered this game trying to win a series in which they blew the first game late and came back late in the second game to steal the win. At 35-35 a win would get them back over the .500 mark and mark their third straight series win. Pitching for the Indians is Justin Masterson, coming off a 10 strikeout performance against the Nationals, so we couldn’t ask for anyone better on the hill in this one.
The Whole Nine
1. It was frustrating watching this team through the first four innings. While Masterson was bobbing and weaving through trouble in the early innings, Luis Mendoza was making minced meat of the Indians lineup. However, for a second day in a row the Indians were able to battle back and eventually chased Mendoza from the game after just five innings (four earned runs).
2. I was going to write about Michael Brantley’s lack of power (.069 ISO entering the game) this year, even by his standards. Of course, then he went and hit his third AND fourth home runs of the season. Those are only his fourteenth extra base hits on the season. His ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) was .118 in 2011 and .114 in 2012. That difference is the main reason his numbers are down at this point in the season and his OPS is a pedestrian .700.
3. With the score 2-1 in the sixth and Mendoza having given up only one hit on the Brantley home run, Drew Stubbs led off the inning with a single. Michael Bourn followed with a walk before Mike Aviles hit the longest single of the year, a flyball that landed just out of the reach of Alex Gordon in left and rolled to the wall. However, the ball forced Stubbs and Bourn to hold at their respective bases to make sure Gordon didn’t make the catch and only Stubbs was able to score. After that Jason Kipnis executed a perfect bunt single that loaded the bases. Carlos Santana walked in a run, ending Mendoza’s night, but from there the Indians received only a sacrifice fly from Brantley, followed by a strikeout by Ryan Raburn and a weak groundout by Lonnie Chisenhall.
4. Speaking of Chisenhall, he’s still lost at the plate. The groundout referenced above was him swinging early in the count at a ball outside the zone and rolling it weakly to first base. The patience just isn’t there. Regardless, I’m glad he’s on the roster. His presence at third base allows the Indians to utilize Mark Reynolds a lot better. Reynolds was great defensively at first base today, and as has been discussed often, perhaps not having to play third base in the field will help him at the plate.
5. How many times have we seen these types of starts from Masterson this year? He wasn’t as sharp as he can be, but he battled and gave his team a chance to win. He was sent back out for the seventh inning at 105 pitches simply because even with that workload and scattering nine hits in the game, Francona trusts him more than his middle relievers. Masterson finished with 6.1 innings, giving up only two runs, and striking out eight and earning his ninth win of the season.
6. Don’t look now, but after a few years of underwhelming K rates, Masterson is tied for fourth in all of baseball with 110 strikeouts. Of course, he’s also third in MLB in innings pitched and second in walks allowed (43). That’s really the last piece of the puzzle. If Masterson could improve his control, even incrementally, he’d be one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball.
7. His appearance in this game was as good as I’ve seen Bryan Shaw look in a few weeks. He had a tough month of May and some uneven performances in June after an excellent start to the season, but with the struggles the Indians have had in middle relief they need Shaw to be more consistent moving forward and have the type of outings he had here.
8. The Royals scored only seven runs in this series, and one of the big reasons why is the Indians held Gordon completely in check. Gordon, mostly considered the Royals' best hitter, has more hits against the Tribe than any other team in the last three years but went 0-for-12 in this series.
9. I just have to say this, watching Stubbs try to hit against a right-handed pitcher that throws 100 MPH was pretty much comical. Just…no chance.
The Kansas City Royals entered this series streaking, winning 10 of their last 12 and catching the Indians in the standings. The series win helped the Indians keep the Royals at bay and keep their own steak going as they continue to try to rebound after their rough stretch. Up next for the Tribe is Minnesota on Friday. This is only the second series of the year against the Twins and it’ll kick off with Scott Kazmir taking on Samuel Deduno.