Ball Played: Blue Jays deliver knuckle(ball) sandwich to Indians

Chris Young, The Canadian Press via AP

Wednesday was why Tuesday’s game hurt so bad. The margin for error with the Cleveland Indians postseason chances is too thin to allow potential wins to slip away as there will still be some games that just do not go well from the beginning. Wednesday was just such a day as the Toronto Blue Jays jumped to a big early lead and held onto it throughout in a 5-1 victory over the Indians.

Now, the Indians (64-68, six games back of Texas Rangers in AL Wild Card race) must wait until Friday in Detroit to get the awful taste out of their mouths of a game in which they were thoroughly dominated. Nine Blue Jays reached base safely in the first two innings plating five runs. From there, the Indians could not even pretend to mount a comeback against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey who breezed through game only facing two more batters than the minimum en route to a complete game.

Keys of the Game

Early deficit: Some games, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The Indians had been extremely good with pitching and defense in this series, yet it was pitching and defense that did them in early. Trevor Bauer gave up hits to the first two batters and the Indians were playing from behind before they had recorded an out. After a walk and another hit, it was 2-0 Blue Jays in the first.

In fact, even when Jason Kipnis made a nice throw to begin a potential double play, the Indians were just a half step off, and it would merely be a fielder’s choice. It was just that kind of night.

In the second, it was more of the same. Bauer gave up a couple of hits and Josh Donaldson came up to the plate. He drove a deep fly ball to left field that Michael Brantley attempted to track down. Really, it was a play that he needs to make. It was a tough play, but if the Indians are going to go anywhere this season, Brantley needs to find a way to make this catch. Instead, two more runs scored.

Then, after a couple of walks, Troy Tulowitzki hit a shallow fly ball to right-center field. Jason Kipnis unwittingly gave the Blue Jays a run by refusing to allow Lonnie Chisenhall to call him off. Kipnis, with all of his momentum carrying him backwards, made the best throw he could to Yan Gomes, but it was slightly offline, which was all that Josh Donaldson needed to sneak in under the tag. If he gave way to Chisenhall, the throw would have been more natural and likely have ended the inning. Alas, the Blue Jays scored their fifth (and final) run.

Even in the fourth inning the Indians were being lax on defense. Michael Brantley lazily scooped up a single, which allowed Josh Donaldson to hustle into second base.

Knuckle(ball) Sandwich: R.A. Dickey has been really good in the second half of this season. He has a 2.78 ERA that is largely the construct of two factors: walking less batters (4.9 percent BB% compared to 8.9 percent in the first half) and allowing less home runs (0.66 HR/9 compared to 1.33 HR/9 in the first half). He continued his trend on Wednesday as he did not allow either a home run or a walk in the contest.

Really, the Indians did not even muster a fight with their bats. Dickey went perfect through the first three innings. Then, he retired the Indians 1-2-3 in the fifth through ninth innings. (Only in the ninth did the Indians obtain a hit when Kipnis singled. Lindor followed that up by grounding into a game-ending double play.)

The fourth inning was the Indians only measure of offense on the night when three of the first four batters in the inning grabbed singles. Unfortunately, the fourth batter was Michael Brantley who grounded into a double play. Kipnis did wind up scoring the Indians only run during the inning.

The Numbers

There are some good things and some bad things that came out of this game, here they are in numerical format.

Season Milestone Watch

  • Francisco Lindor can hit a few round numbers if he has a good month of September. He needs 14 hits, 5 doubles, and three home runs to finish with 100 hits / 20 doubles / 10 home runs for his rookie year. Hitting those numbers would just help him in his battle with Carlos Correa for the AL Rookie of the Year race.
  • The next home run that Carlos Santana hits will finally push Brandon Moss out of the team lead. Both players currently sit at 15. Brantley has 12 and Gomes has 11 for the only other players with double-digit home runs thus far.
  • Carlos Santana is also a mere 17 walks away from gaining 100 free passes on the season. Brantley is second on the team with 56.
  • It does not appear that Michael Brantley will be able to get to 50 doubles (sitting at 40) unless he has a huge month.
  • The team lead in hits has been a continual seesaw battle as Brantley currently holds it over Kipnis 148-147 (in seven less plate appearances too).

All .300 OBP lineup

With Lonnie Chisenhall having a strong month of August hitting to help his numbers somewhat recover after his horrific hitting start to the 2015 campaign, the Indians could actually field a team of all .300+ OBP batters.

C: Roberto Perez (.342 OBP)
1B: Carlos Santana (.353)
2B: Jason Kipnis (.389)
SS: Francisco Lindor (.347)
3B: Chris Johnson (.360)
LF: Michael Brantley (.393)
CF: Abraham Almonte (.326)
RF: Lonnie Chisenhall (.303)
DH: Ryan Raburn (.374)

Of course, it would be more impressive for the team to field a lineup with all OPS+ hitters at 100 or better (a much, much more complete measure of offensive success). Perez and Chisenhall will need to continue to hit well in order to make that a possibility.