8:01 PM – I just learned that today is Terry Francona’s birthday. Hours before, I heard that it’s also Jack Nicholson’s birthday. What a small world! I can only imagine the fun those two might have at a birthday party together, what with all of the chewing tobacco and nubile feminine attention. Sounds like a good time. You know what else sounds like a good time? Live blog recap! That’s what.
8:45 PM – Speaking of young ladies, my four month old daughter has occupied the last 44 minutes of this recap, giving me a look of suspicion that I can only interpret as: I know that you have no milk, Dad. And I’m going to hold that against you until I’m thirty-seven.
In the midst of my insufficient parenting/lactating, the Indians managed to scratch across a run in the top of the second on a flare off Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat that scored Jason Giambi from second. The White Sox followed suit in the bottom of the second with a leadoff HR from Conor Gillaspie, who is not, as I assumed, a fictional pub owner from James Joyce’s Dubliners, but a real-live Chicago White Sock with a uniform and everything.
After 2 innings, it’s 1-1 and I’m still getting back in the saddle.
9:05 PM – Michael Brantley just hit a ball about as hard as he can, but it was to straightaway center and died on the warning track. You will never be able to prove that I maybe possibly yelled, “JUST TAKE STEROIDS ALREADY.”
Anyway, I wanted to touch briefly on Brantley here, which sounds much worse than I mean it. There seems a narrative out there that Brantley is not hitting very well right now. And I suppose that’s not entirely without regard for the truth: entering the night he was batting .246 with only two extra base hits (doubles both) on the season. That’s not great.
On the other hand, he’s starting to control the strikezone, and that’s really all I ever wanted from Brantley in the first place. Last season he swung at nearly 31% of pitches that were thrown out of the strikezone; so far this year it’s down to 20% (league average ~ 29%). His consequent pickiness has led to an increased walk-rate (above 10% for the first time in his MLB career) and a perfectly above average on-base percentage of .343. In other words, he’s not playing great, but he may be beginning to develop the discipline and control of the strikezone that made him such an attractive prospect so many years ago.
Oh yeah, the game. Nothing happened. Still 1-1 heading to the bottom of the third.
9:28 PM – Justin Masterson clearly does not have his best stuff tonight. He just let up another run on a double off the wall by something called a “Hector Jimenez”, but that’s not all that interesting—although it was the first double of Hector’s career and his first stinking hit of the season.
No, what’s interesting (or scary) is that through four innings Justin Masterson has now walked three batters. This time, it was a one-out walk to the pub owner from the Dubliners that got him, but that’s almost inconsequential. If you walk as many players as you strikeout, you will not win many games—this is what Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe learned last season. Luckily, for the 2013 season, Masterson has struck out nearly three batters for each one he’s walked—a career best, which is great. Tonight though? Not so much.
And in one paragraph, I’ve told you almost everything you need to know about Justin Masterson. Also, he’s Jamaican.
2-1 Bad guys.
9:53 PM – Ugh. Nothing is happening in this game, and what’s worse, the Indians are making White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod look good, which he’s definitely not. On top of that, they just played the Nick Swisher BROmercial between innings, which I know is supposed to make me feel good but always leaves me wanting to take a shower instead.
I know what will make me feel better.
Ah. Much better. The bros giveth and they taketh away, I guess. At least that’s what they say in the Bible.
Still 2-1 White Sox.
10:05 PM – Much has been made of the excellent start that Shin-Soo Choo has gotten off to in Cincinnati this year. If you haven’t heard, he’s leading all of baseball with a ridiculous .523 OBP, which means…well…I was going to explain what not making outs means but you prolly get it so I’ll skip that part.
Anyway, he’s doing very well, and I’m very happy for him. But it’s funny, Carlos Santana is currently sixth in MLB in OBP with a .466 rate. Can you guess who’s been a more valuable hitter though? It’s Santana, actually. Because Santana been getting on base and hitting for power (.760 slugging) he’s been even better than Choo, as evidenced by their respective wOBAs: .496 for Choo and .513 for Santana.
What’s that? You don’t know what wOBA is? Well you should read about it here, because it’s the very first thing I ever wrote for this site!!
Also, still 2-1. And still rather boring.
10:10 PM – Justin Masterson just got his revenge against Hector Salamanca Jimenez: with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh, Masterson pumped a slider into Jimenez’ back leg. The ensuing debate between Matt and Al as to whether the ball hit Jimenez’ “shinbone” or his “lower leg bone” was as enthralling as you might imagine.
10:13 PM – Oh. So this is how this game is going to go. After Jimenez is lifted for a pinch runner, Masterson walks Jordan Danks to put men on first and second with nobody out.
10:15 PM – Welp. I didn’t see that coming. Santana picked off the pinch runner who was straying too far off second, followed by an immediate GIDP to end the inning. Perhaps I should write more foreboding entries just to test this theory a bit.
10:16 PM – THE INDIANS WILL NOT SCORE IN THE TOP OF THE EIGHTH.
10:31 PM – You’re not going to believe this, but the Indians just scored two runs in the top of the eighth to take the lead.
After a Chisenhall groundout, Stubbs singled and stole second. Brantley followed with a walk (BUT HIS BATTING AVERAGE STINKS!!). Both runners moved up a base on an ill-advised pickoff throw that got away from Matt Thornton.
At this point, the wind seemed to come right out of the sails as Jason Kipnis struck out on a high and tight slider for the second out. But in the first pitch of the next at bat, the struggling Asdrubal Cabrera drilled a liner to center that just got down to score both Stubbs and Brantley.
3-2 Bros, heading to the bottom of the eighth. Pestano coming on. Not for nothing, but I think we should at least note here that Masterson gutted through seven innings, which, given how much he was struggling with his command, is really pretty admirable.
10:36 PM – The first two batters to face Vinnie are Jeff Keppinger and Alex Rios—both right handed and therefore fairly impotent against the wiles of one V. Pestano.
But the third guy up is Adam Dunn. I will always worry when Vinnie faces lefties. I wrote about that in some detail buried in this piece, but to be brief, he’s not so good against left handed batters, or at least not nearly as good as he is against righties. And before he can even think about stepping into a closing role, he’s going to have to get a lot better.
Lucky for us, everything that I think will happen doesn’t, so Vinnie strikes out Dunn on three pitches. Wheeeee!
10:48 PM – Since 2010, Drew Stubbs has been in the top 5 in strikeout-rate every year, which is not surprising considering that for his career he’s struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. That’s a rate so ungodly high that it would be unimaginable to think that it might go up.
So far this season, Drew Stubbs has struck out in 33% of his plate appearances, including the one that ended the top of the ninth.
Rage, rage against the crying of the white (sox).
10:55 PM – I admit that I am not unbiased when it comes to Chris Perez, but he makes me incredibly nervous. I suppose that, given my track record in this recap, my apprehension bodes well for the Indians, but jeez. After giving up a hit to the pub owner from the Dubliners (who, by the way, is single-handedly keeping Chicago in this game), Perez lets up a 500 ft foul ball to Alexei Ramirez which would’ve won the game had it been fair. Yikes.
10:58 PM – Ah, but as Nick Swisher reminds us, “No worries, Broseph!! Have some tequila!!” After that scary foul ball, Perez gets a weak foul out from Ramirez and a groundout from Tyler Flowers to end the game. The Indians take it 3-2.
This seemed the kind of game this team typically hasn’t won in years past. I’m hesitant, of course, to suggest that they’ve turned a corner; but it is always nice to see a team win a well-pitched game by piecing together timely hitting, smart base-running and good defense along the way. If you didn’t realize that this game had all three of those qualities, that’s probably because I was busy finding that GIF of the douchey Yankees fan instead of thinking about the actual game I was watching.
My bad. We’ll do better next time. Until then, we’ll have to live with the imperfections of a hard-fought effort.