If you were one of those people back in June who thought the Cleveland Indians’ franchise-record 14-game winning streak was somehow launched or motivated by the good karma of the Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship, then you better hope the Tribe (83-60) doesn’t take similar inspiration from the other team in town. It certainly looked that way on Monday, as Carlos Carrasco and Co. put forth a downright Brownsian effort in an embarrassing 11-4 loss to the South Siders.
It’s not every day a team scores runs in every single inning of a ballgame, but Chicago (69-74) was merciless all night against a combination of Carrasco, six Triple-A relievers, and Lonnie Chisenhall—who showed us all what Charlie Brown would look like playing right field instead of trying to kick footballs.
With news of Danny Salazar missing the remainder of the regular season (and probably the postseason, if we’re being realistic), a strong showing from Carrasco certainly would have eased some nerves among the faithful in the short term. Instead, the Roberto Clemente Award candidate misdirected his giving spirit toward the ChiSox, giving up four earned runs on eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings.
Carlos has nothing he needs to prove, really. The No. 2 spot is firmly his and he’s had a fantastic season. Unfortunately, like every other Cleveland starter not named Kluber, he’s been a tad inconsistent down the stretch. Since the beginning of August, Carrasco is now 4-4 with a 4.77 ERA, and opponents are hitting .286 off him over those 55 innings. Now, those look like 1968 Luis Tiant numbers compared to Salazar and Tomlin’s efforts over the same period, but nonetheless, it’s hard not to bemoan the “what might have been” scenario of a healthy Cleveland rotation entering the playoffs at full power—as they were during that aforementioned win streak in June. Unfortunately, baseball isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon . . . that you have to sprint. The stumbles were always going to be unavoidable. The Sox have always given Carrasco a little trouble, as well. It happens.
In any case, an early 3-1 Indians lead quickly became a 5-3 deficit after four innings, and Tito turned to the Columbus Crew to keep it there, which they did not. Perci Garner, Kyle Crockett, Zach McAllister, Shawn Armstrong, Ryan Merritt (welcome back!), and Austin Adams combined to give up another six runs (five ER) on eight hits and a pair of homers. I guess Zach McAllister is on the postseason roster, right? But, maybe purely as the junkman in a blowout? The dream of converting Zach into our own little Wade Davis was abandoned long, long ago. He just looks like a guy who’s going to give up a critical three-run homer in the ALDS if given the chance. (I used to think he looks like the lead singer of the band Spoon, too. But the beard kinda wrecked that.)
Offensively, Cleveland did essentially all its damage in the second inning, battering around the former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez for three runs on four hits. J-Ram led the charge as usual with a leadoff double, and Lonnie Baseball had one of his two hits on the day, almost making up for letting two balls inexplicably skip under his glove in right field like the socially awkward kid your fourth grade Little League coach tried to hide out there with the dandelions.
You’ll want the speakers on for this one.
Mike Napoli added a meaningless but majestic solo homer in the eighth, giving him 33 on the year along with 94 RBIs. I just like repeating those nice, solid, old school power numbers because, hell, it’s been a long time since we could.
Despite their collapse after that great April, the White Sox don’t look like a team that needs a rebuild. Their core pieces, with shortstop Tim Anderson now part of the puzzle, leave some reasons for optimism, presuming they can continue to make nice with Chris Sale and his scissors. The Central Division will be very interesting again next year. The Indians will likely be the favorites with the vast majority of the roster returning (plus that Brantley guy, maybe), but from there, it could be wide open. Will KC blow things up a bit and realize they don’t have the pitching? Will the Sox upgrade at a couple spots? Do Verlander and Miggy finally hit the wall in ’17? Hmm, I suppose it’s bit Brownsian to be talking about next year when there’s at least 16 regular season games still to play.
Scoreboard Watch: Bad news all around. Detroit won to move back to within six games, and Texas won to expand their lead to two games in the race for home field advantage.
MAGIC NUMBER: Still 14
Farewell, U.S. Cellular:
This series will mark the final time the Indians ever play in the cathedral known as U.S. Cellular Field. In case you hadn’t heard, the roughly 25 year-old ballpark will be known by a new name in 2017: Guaranteed Rate Field. Yup, not a joke. Guaranteed Rate is a mortgage company in Chicago, and this is their real logo:
Nothing like a downward arrow, a mortgage company, and a massively spammy brand name to bring pride back to the South Side. I have informed my Sox-fan friends—all of whom now suddenly find comparative charm in the terrible “The Cell” nickname—that the only way to combat the shittiness of “Guaranteed Rate Field” is to re-define what it actually means in their own minds. For instance, maybe the term comes NOT from a shady lending business, but from a bad-ass, mind-bending quantum physics theory or something. “At this velocity, the projectile, now existing simultaneously in two separate dimensions of reality, enters what physicists refer to as a ‘guaranteed rate field.’ This means that any external influence from a second object passing within the same interdimensional plane will result in the first object’s instant un-creation.”
The Most Unorthodox Fourth Starter Plan I Can Think Of
If Danny Salazar is indeed done for good—which often happens when a guy misses time for separate injuries of the shoulder, elbow, and forearm all in the span of two months—we’re left with a rather bleak new version of the “who’s the fourth starter?” debate. This will be written about A LOT in the weeks to come, as viable options like Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin make their cases. In the meantime, I will throw out a ridiculous alternative that keeps the ball completely out of the hands of gopherball pitchers AND long-haired rookies with control problems.
Your game four starter should be. . . well, if we’re down 2-1, it should be Corey Kluber on short rest. But otherwise, it should be. . . Dan Otero! Yup I’m talking about a real genuine “bullpen game”: Two innings for Otero, two for Bryan Shaw, two for Cody Allen, and three for Andrew Miller. If your gut reaction is something negative about Otero feeling weird starting, or Allen feeling weird in a non-save role, or Miller feeling weird throwing a third inning (even if his pitch count is very low, as it often is), then I can only say, it’s the postseason; it’s supposed to feel weird. If your argument is something more like, “we can’t wear out the entire pen in one game when Trevor Bauer is also starting a game,” I’d say, “Hmm, yeah, that does make some sense. Oh well, I tried.”