Game #58 Observations: Indians Walk it Off Again, Top Pirates 4-3
Give credit where credit is due -- the Cleveland Indians have reached expert level when it comes to late-inning drama.
For the fourth time this week, the Tribe snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, pulling off a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday thanks to some clutch hitting from the bottom of the lineup.
This latest victory was an odd one, to say the least.
The Indians found themselves the benefactors of free passes all night long, finishing the game with 10 walks. For most of the night, though, they failed to capitalize. Cleveland entered the bottom of the ninth down 3-1, having scored its lone run when Carlos Santana grounded into a bases loaded double play in the first inning.
A loss seemed all but certain. Of course, if we’ve learned anything from this past week, it’s that it’s officially impossible to count the Tribe out.
Jordan Luplow opened the scoring by doubling in Tyler Naquin. A Mike Freeman flyout was quickly followed by an RBI single from Delino DeShields Jr. César Hernández, apparently not interested in heading to extras, ended the game with an RBI double, giving Cleveland its sixth-straight win.
Tribe starter Carlos Carrasco was sharp in his final appearance of the regular season. He kept the Pirates off balance for most of the night, finishing the game with a 41% whiff rate. Carrasco’s slider was particularly effective, as Pittsburgh whiffed on all but four of its 13 offerings against this pitch.
Cleveland got a solid outing from Phil Maton, who allowed just one batted ball in 1.1 innings of relief. Oliver Pérez followed with an admittedly shaky showing, giving up one earned run, two hits and a walk. Adam Plutko was tabbed with the win after pitching a shutout inning in the ninth.
Here are a few more observations from the win.
One Good Cookie
Now officially penciled in as Cleveland’s third starter come postseason, it was crucial for Carrasco to finish off the regular season on a high note. He did just that.
Carrasco gave the Tribe six strong innings, allowing just three hits, three walks and striking out eight on 94 pitches. He gave up just 12 batted balls on the night, only four of which qualified as quality contact.
Of course, one of those well-hit balls almost ended up being the difference-maker.
After getting the first two outs in the fourth inning, Carrasco allowed a single to Josh Bell. His next pitch, a changeup low and inside, was deposited well into the right field bleachers by Gregory Polanco.
Those two earned runs represented Carrasco’s only blemish Friday night. Though he ran into trouble later in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs, he was able to escape the jam with a strikeout and a double play.
Should Cleveland be taken to a third game during next week’s wild card round, it needs to know it can depend on Carrasco to get the job done. With just seven earned runs allowed over his last 38.0 innings pitched, it sure looks like he’ll be up to the task.
No Offense, But...
Words can’t describe how weird of a night it was for Cleveland’s offense.
Let’s start here -- the Tribe finished the game with just four hits, three of which came during the ninth-inning rally.
Before that, the Indians’ offense consisted of nothing but spoiled walks. In fact, they went through the first six innings without logging a single hit.
Sure, Pirates starter Mitch Keller entered the night with a 3.24 ERA. Still, thanks to his 15.2% walk rate and the amount of quality contact he’s allowed this season, Statcast listed his Expected ERA at 6.01.
Yet, despite walking 38% of the batters he faced Friday, Keller still left the game completely unscathed.
Quite surprising, really, considering he offered free passes to the first three batters he faced. Inexplicably, Santana followed this by swinging at the first pitch he saw, grounding into an RBI double play.
Entering the ninth inning, Cleveland had only tallied three well-hit balls on the night. With the bottom of the order coming up, it wasn’t crazy to assume the Indians had run out of late-inning magic.
Then again, maybe it was.
Walk-off win aside, there’s still a worrisome trend occurring in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup.
As discussed earlier this week, Franmil Reyes’ power has gone AWOL. Nothing from Friday’s game seemed to indicate he’s on the verge of finding it.
Reyes went 0-for-3, with one walk. He logged two groundouts and a lineout, none of which were well hit.
He came into Friday night with a .338 slugging percentage for September, quite concerning considering he entered the month slugging .512. Reyes’ last extra base hit occurred this past Saturday. He hasn’t hit a home run since September 1.
Cleveland has found ways to win all week despite Reyes’ disappearing power, so we’re seeing proof the team can survive without it. Still, considering a postseason run can end in the span of two games, it’d be ideal if the Indians started seeing the Reyes of old, again.
The Indians take on Pittsburgh again Saturday night, with Aaron Civale toeing the rubber against Joe Musgrove.
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