Tribe Weekend Recap: Baseball Is a Strange Game

Justin MatsersonWe’ve waited a long time for the much anticipated 2013 Cleveland Indians season to begin. The complete makeover of the team, a culture change if you will, has been universally lauded across our fair city. It starts with manager Terry Francona. I think it was a good thing that the Indians started on a tough six-game road trip to AL East beasts Toronto and Tampa Bay. Because of how things would shake out, they would see arguably the two best starting rotations in the American League right from the jump. The question was how would the new, deeper lineup respond.

After taking two of three in Toronto where they scored 15 runs in three games, the Wahoo attack looked extremely sleepy Friday night, where they were completely befuddled by hard-throwing lefty Matt Moore. They only managed two hits – both by Michael Bourn – in a 4-0 loss. The Indians didn’t get into the Tampa are until 4 AM Friday morning, that certainly didn’t help matters. But they figured to get back on track a night later against second year righty Alex Cobb. Instead, the bats extended their slumber a second game, as Cobb and two relievers blanked the Tribe 6-0. They could only muster six singles in this one. The Tribe faced a sweep yesterday as the Rays sent Cy Young Award winner David Price to the mound. It looked like quite the daunting task. But days like Sunday are what makes baseball such a great game.

Just when you think you have things figured out, everything goes the other way. The Wahoo attack exploded on Price for eight runs on 10 hits in five innings, this against a pitcher who had never lost to the Indians inside of Tropicana Field and has owned them over the past three seasons. In total, the offense put up a 13 spot on 17 hits against the Rays, blasting out five homers. Somewhere in Bristol, Connecticut, Manny Acta was shaking his head.

So as we have done over the past four seasons here at WFNY, let us take this Monday morning to look back at the good and the bad of the weekend that was in Wahooland.

The Trevor Bauer Experience Was Just That….An Experience. 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Tribe phenom Trevor Bauer was supposed to start the season heading up the AAA Columbus rotation, take his time, and continue to develop. Instead because of the injury to Scott Kazmir and the suspension of Carlos Carrasco, Francona and GM Chris Antonetti were given a choice – give Bauer the spot start and see what he can do, or go with Corey Kluber, who they know is essentially just back of the rotation depth. Previous regimes would have gone with Kluber and not thought twice about it. But the Francona-led Indians want to win NOW. So the kid with the sky high ceiling got the call.

I think we learned a few things watching Bauer Saturday night. The kid has electric stuff. No question about it. But he still has plenty of learning to do. He started off the game walking the first four Rays he faced. The last time a Tribe pitcher did so in his debut was Rick Vaughn. “I don’t know how these guys can lay off pitches that close!” In all fairness to Bauer (and Cobb for that matter), home plate umpire Dale Scott umpire had a strike zone for my six year old son, not for Major League hitters. Both guys were getting squeezed both high and low.

The Rays made Bauer work, but things could have been much worse. Despite walking the first four batters, Trevor got out of the first without allowing any more damage thanks to an outfield assist from Ryan Raburn, making his first start of the season. In the third inning, the wildness returned as he walked three more, but the Rays never were able to push a run across.

Bauer ended up laboring through five innings, throwing 105 pitches. He gave up just two hits, but he walked seven.

“I was missing by feet, not inches,” Bauer said. “Sometimes I have outings like that, where I just can’t find it and then I find it, and it’s kind of what happened tonight. I had a rough first and third and then, after that, kind of found it and was able to locate again.”

The 22-year old will be returned to Columbus Tuesday with Carrasco taking his spot in the rotation. Brett Myers, the originally scheduled starter Tuesday, will be pushed back to Thursday.

Lou Marson is a Man

In the fourth inning of Saturday night’s game, Tampa’s Matt Joyce banged a chopper to Mike Aviles at third. Desmond Jennings was running on contact from third and absolutely crushed Tribe catcher Lou Marson. Laser Lou’s head snapped back off the ground, but he managed to hang onto the ball for the out. It was as hard of a collision as you will see. Marson stayed in the game for another inning before coming out with a neck-strain.

“It was clean,” Marson said. “He got me pretty good. He had nowhere to go. I had the plate blocked pretty good, but it’s just my neck is a little sore.”

One thing is for sure. You don’t mess with Laser Lou.

Mark Reynolds Will Destroy Baseballs From Time to Time

Many people were iffy about the signing of Reynolds this offseason. He actually was the first guy to come here. As I said many times on this site over the winter, Reynolds has that kind of power from the right side that the team sorely lacked in 2012. Yes, he is a boom or bust guy who strikes out a lot, but when he gets going, look out. You could see it this weekend. Thursday night in Toronto, Reynolds was 2-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Friday night in Tampa, he was 0-4 with three K’s. Then yesterday, he exploded again.

Its not just the value of his home run power, its the sheer force in which he hits them with. Reynolds crushed two more jacks (a three-run homer off of Price) and added a double to boot. With Michael Brantley given a day off, big Mark moved up to the five hole and responded about as well as Francona could have asked. His four homers and seven RBIs now lead the team. He is also hitting .300 with a 1.134 OPS.

“It was important for me personally to come out and get off to a good start. To be able to do it this year, especially against the pitchers we’ve faced, is a huge confidence booster, and hopefully this will get some kind of rollover for me and I can kind of put it together a little bit,” said the Tribe DH.

As Good As Reynolds Has Been, How About Carlos Santana?

2012 was a disappointing season for the Tribe’s catcher. With a lineup full of holes, guys like Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis could not go through long slumps or else the offense couldn’t sustain itself. In 2013, its a different story.

Francona has smartly put Santana in the sixth spot in the lineup. It has taken the pressure off him and added depth to the middle of the order. From game one, Carlos has been raking. This was the kid we had seen tear up the minors at every level. He is doing it from both sides of the plate, spraying the ball all over the diamond. The capper was yesterday’s 5-5 day. On the week, Santana went 12-24 (.500) with a .538 OBP/1.455 OPS. He just looks much more relaxed at the plate.

One thing is for sure, if Santana turns into the All Star catcher we all hoped he would be, this offense will be extremely tough to deal with.

Can This Be The Real Justin Masterson? Please?

Like his battery-mate yesterday (Santana), Masterson is coming off of a forgettable 2012 campaign. However, also like his catcher, Justin has opened 2013 on fire. After defeating NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey on Tuesday, Masterson turned the trick again and outdueled AL Cy Young Winner David Price yesterday. It is believed to be the first time in modern baseball history that a pitcher has defeated both reigning Cy Young winners in the same week.

Masterson was dominant in Tampa, going seven innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two hits while striking out seven. “Masty really showed his colors today,” said Francona. “We needed that today and I think he felt that responsibility. From the get-go he had a two-seamer, four-seamer and the best breaking ball I’ve ever seen him throw.”

On Tuesday he retired the final 11 Blue Jays he faced. He one-upped himself yesterday, setting down the last 13 Rays before turning things over to Joe Smith. In his first tw0 starts, Masterson has given up just one earned run in 13 innings.

This is exactly what you want from your number one starter.

Up Next: The New York Yankees

Rick will have much more on Opening Day this afternoon. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the ball from Francona, looking to build off his solid first start last Wednesday in Toronto. He will face Yankees righty Hiroki Kuroda.

  • MSkog

    I’ve got a few questions on that Marson play & I’m hoping the WFNY crew & commenters can help with them.

    Is there anything in the rules that allow Marson to block the plate like that? Obviously it happens all the time but why is that allowed? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you cannot block 2nd like that can you? If you can’t block second, why can you do the same for home? If you CAN block second, why was there a problem with the old Albert Belle/Fernando Vina play? If I remember correctly Eddie Murray was called out at 1st because of runner interference. So if Belle wasn’t allowed to level Vina (and yes, I know getting to 2nd wasn’t why Belle did it) why was Jennings allowed to destroy Marson?

    I hope these questions make sense. It’s always something that bugged me, the apparent inconsistencies between these plays. Thanks!

  • Harv 21

    Re Reynolds, it’s real important that they signed a guy like that while he’s on the young side and has all his bat speed. Fans will really like him so long as they can chuckle at the inevitable 3-week periods where he makes zero contact and can’t even get a runner in from third with a weak ground ball. If the team as a whole is struggling he might lose a lot of his current charm.

    This is Santana’s year to become a genuine MLB stick. He might be a little ahead of everyone after playing all the way though the world baseball classic, and catching regularly will cool his hitting down soon enough. But what I want to see in a few months is consistent plate discipline up there, and him not going for weeks trying to pull everything or jack everything out. He’s been in the majors long enough now to stop talking about potential, he has lineup protection and there’s no excuse for him lose focus.

  • Specifically regarding the Vina play – they weren’t at the bag, they were between 1st and 2nd when Belle laid the smacketh down.


    Also, though this has no bearing on the rules, the catcher is wearing a mask, shin guards, and a chest protector, whereas when Vina came to Chris Tucker was standing over him noting that “YOU GOT KNOCKED THE [BLEEP] OUT MAN!!”

  • Harv 21

    I think Belle was running toward second and Vina ran into his path with the ball for an attempted tag-throw double play. Belle was not ejected or deemed in violation of a base-running rule. Can’t remember if he was later fined by the NFL commissioner for unnecessary roughness.

  • MSkog

    So if they were closer to 2nd that play would be ok? I doubt that.

  • Garry_Owen

    Chris Tucker? Aaarrrggghhh.

    I’ll give it to you, but only because both events (the Belle KO and Chris Tucker’s relevance) happened in the ’90s.

    Otherwise, I’d be saying, “the 90’s called, and they want their analogy back.”

    But then I guess someone could always say to me, “the 00’s called and they want their insult back.”
    Which is why I won’t say it.

  • MSkog

    No, they called Eddie Murray out for Belle’s interference. Why wouldn’t that same issue come into play on a play at home?

  • mgbode

    yes, you are correct, they did. Belle intentionally interferred with the positional player without regard to trying to be “safe” at the bag. Jennings was only trying to get to the plate safely (and Marson was in the way). if it had been a closer play to 2B where it was merely Belle trying to get to the bag, then it would not have been deemed illegal (see all the slides into the 2B/SS to prevent double plays).

  • mgbode

    I liked this start from Masterson much better. Both his pitching and that we needed to win a game, turned the ball to our “ace” and he delivered (regardless of the offensive fireworks).

    Now, if Ubaldo can also deliver today, then we can all start feeling a little better about the top of our rotation at least (for now).

  • Harv 21

    thanks for correction. I saw that play on tv when it happened and only remember pride and joy in Cleveland and harsh rhetoric about Belle nationwide, not that it was a double play.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The series finale thrashing of the Rays was a very nice victory. Not only did Justin MasterNCommander pitch filthy but the Indians offense awoke from a two game catatonic state to rough up the defending AL Cy Young Award winner David Price.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    It must have felt great for those players to break out of the 2-game hitting slump they were in… I kept checking my phone throughout the day and it was like watching Google’s stock after they IPA’d (ok if you want to get technical, then let’s say a little before the IPA because insider trading always starts the party early).

  • MrCleaveland

    It’s great to see Masterson getting some run support. Last year our bats went dead when he was out there, and he had many great outings wasted.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    When he pitches like yesterday I shall refer to him as MasterNCommander! But don’t sleep on the offense either not after the previous two games. Was a nice win all around!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    C’mon Harv enjoy the positives .500 on the road is perfectly acceptable and lay off my man Hacksaw Mark Reynolds. Chicks dig the long ball baby! As for Santana he’s playing a sweet tune with that big stick these days. I agree it’s a long season but perhaps the bell finally went off that he doesn’t have to hit a homerun every game. Maybe the fact that he’s now surrounded in the lineup by other MLB talent as opposed to the Kotchmans and Duncans doesn’t hurt too!

  • mgbode

    yes, a nice win all-around. It is just that our biggest questions continue to be around the rotation, so it was nice to see our SP1 put a stamp on the game to end the mini-skid.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Masterson did what a staff ace needs to do and that is pitch great to help end a losing streak. The fact he did it in a place where he has been owned was nice to see as well. The questions about the rotation won’t go away even if they enjoy success. It’ll be the question of when will they blow up but that’s the nature of the beast when you have a rotation like the Indians. Perhaps if they can stay in playoff contention something at the trade deadline can be done to not only infuse some excitement (by then the marathon season will be just about to the 2/3 pole) as well as strength to the rotation. Looooooooooooooong ways to go though.

  • Harv 21

    I do dig the positives, just can’t help but look from a wider angle. That trait keeps me calm when Myers gets shelled, Bauer walks 4 in the first and the tribe gets shut out consecutive games. It’s April. In August we’ll remember opening day from April and that’s about it, not Santana’s 5 for 5 or Reynolds’s two-homer game. If in August Santana has become the consistent, bona fide stick predicted three years ago I’ll be the happiest guy on this site. Promise.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Dude born and bred Clevelander don’t worry I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid it’s just nice to have something positive to talk about for once even if the Indians record is just 3-3. Myers was horrible!

  • Not what I said at all. My point was that the Vina play is a poor example of “blocking 2nd base” because it was in the basepath. I’m sure there are rules about blocking the bases (but maybe not home?) or else why wouldn’t you jam your leg in front of the bag on a steal attempt?

  • Patrick J

    Not to get nitpick historical fact, but in Rick Vaughn’s Tribe debut he walked the first 3 batters he faced before giving up a grand slam to vaunted Yankees slugger Clue Haywood. So Bauer in fact made history by himself on Saturday.

  • mgbode

    stealing is a special category:

    Each runner, other than the batter, may without liability to be put
    out, advance one base when —
    (d) While he is attempting to steal a base, the batter is interfered with
    by the catcher or any other fielder.

    by the technical rule, sliding off the bag at 2B should be an automatic double-play:

    It is interference by a batter or a runner when —
    (e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and
    deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of
    fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double
    play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for
    interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the
    action of his teammate.

    and, the Albert Belle scenario:

    (f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and
    deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of
    fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double
    play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out
    for interference and shall also call out the runner who had
    advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double
    play might have been possible.

  • mgbode

    obstruction gets it’s own post as it’s completely against how it is actually played. Technically, Santana and Posey were in direct violation of this rule when they had their season-ending injuries (note the part where the catcher has no right to that space unless he physically is holding the ball):

    When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.”

    If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner
    is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead
    and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the
    bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there
    had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded
    at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched
    before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance
    by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall
    advance without liability to be put out.

    Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner,
    the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with
    both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however,
    should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire,
    the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been
    awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped
    between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third
    base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the
    dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on
    base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally
    touched before obstruction was called.

    (b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall
    proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then
    call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment
    will nullify the act of obstruction.

    Rule 7.06(b) Comment: Under 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction
    and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire’s judgment,
    he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his
    own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call.

    NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the
    pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and
    the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has
    the ball in his hand.

  • Steve

    I saw a comment regarding this elsewhere on WFNY, but calling up Bauer isn’t as unprecedented for this team as you’re suggesting. They brought up Alex White in April 2011 when they needed to fill a hole, and the Wedge teams were generally lucky enough not to need a spot start so early. Sabathia skipped AAA to make an Opening Day roster despite not being completely polished. If anything, it’s the complete opposite, this team has proven it will push that talented-but-not-quite-finished pitcher. If you want to argue that they made the Sowers, Huffs, and Laffeys put it all together in AAA before being called up, well, now we know why they did that.

  • Garry_Owen

    India or Imperial?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Yes please!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Come on Big Perm!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’ve gotta come clean, Gary… I wanted to be that cool guy who enjoys the intricacies of all beer. It’s just not true… I despise IPAs and other overtly hoppy beers. I enjoy my beers the way the Europeans intended… Belgian Whites, Heffs, Marzens, Pilsners, Koelsch, and other such deliciousness.

  • Garry_Owen

    Hey, to each his own! (That guilt must have really been eating at you. 20 minutes of pure, living Hell. You are absolved.)

    Point of order, though: England is technically in Europe, so the IPAs count under “original European intent.”

    And since you brought it up . . . I had the most amazing beer last week. Spring House Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout. It’s not the light European styles that you prefer, but it was not hoppy and was not overly done. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate stouts or most attempts to infuse flavors in beer, but I was shocked and impressed by this one. Delicious. And at 8.0 ABV, what’s not to like? Check it out if you can find it.

  • mgbode

    England scoffs at that accusation. They are an island unto themselves.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I am going to take that tip and run with it. I’m good with stouts and porters and such… they’re usually not my first pick, but I enjoy them.

    I originally had written “Central European” in that earlier comment and censored myself… I wasn’t sure if I could put Belgium into that category since you can throw a stone from Belgium and hit England, but I should have gone with my gut.