Game #33 Observations: Naquin’s Clutch Double Seals Extra Innings Win for Cleveland

Casey Drottar

Fresh off scoring two touchdowns Friday night, the Cleveland Indians were looking to keep their offensive success going in a matinee rematch against the St. Louis Cardinals.

That didn’t exactly take place.

(insert “they wasted all their offense Friday” joke here)

Still, despite only scoring twice, Cleveland did just enough to pull off a 2-1 victory in extras.

It certainly seemed like the Indians were picking up where they left off, as José Ramírez opened the scoring with a first inning solo bomb. However, Cleveland’s offensive output was paused after that.

This lone run was almost enough, as starter Carlos Carrasco put forth a gem, blanking the Cardinals through six solid innings.

Unfortunately, the Indians’ lead vanished after Carrasco’s start concluded. James Karinchak, routinely elite this year, struggled to command his fastball during his relief appearance, allowing just his second earned run on the year.

The game dragged into extras, thanks partly to solid showings from each bullpen, and partly because of some jaw-droppingly bad execution displayed by both sides.

Eventually, Tyler Naquin knocked in the go-ahead run with a twelfth inning double. While the Cardinals almost countered in the following frame, they were doomed by a base-running gaffe from catcher Yadier Molina. Unfortunately for viewers, such a thing was par for the course in this one.

Here are a few observations from Cleveland’s win.

Cookie Comeback

Despite a strong start to the season, Carrasco had been enduring some on-mound struggles lately. He hadn’t made it past the fifth inning since August 6, allowing a combined ten earned over his last three starts. For reasons obvious, a bounce-back was needed against St. Louis.

Cleveland received just that.

Carrasco went six innings, allowing no earned runs and just two hits while striking out six. Only three of the batted balls he allowed qualified as quality contact.

As far as his approach, Carrasco leaned heavily on his fastball. 51% of his offerings were four-seamers, getting seven whiffs and seven called strikes against Cardinal hitters.

In upping his fastball usage, Carrasco also got more effective results from his slider, a pitch which had been giving him trouble lately. He threw 26 in this contest, inducing four whiffs on eleven swings, yet also locating it well enough to get five called strikes. Overall, St. Louis was only able to put five sliders in play, with an extremely weak average exit velocity of 67.7 mph.

Though it’s only one start, such a strong showing hopefully indicates Carrasco is ready to leave his recent funk behind him.

Naquin Saves the Day

Cleveland’s outfield lineup has been a grab bag all season. However, the unit is finally starting to get some semblance of consistent production in the form of Tyler Naquin.

The right-fielder sealed the victory with his aforementioned twelfth inning double just as the contest was threatening to drag into Sunday morning. It was yet another clutch at-bat from a player who’s been stringing plenty of these together since returning from the IL a few weeks ago.

In fact, despite not getting his first at-bat of the year until August 11, Naquin still has more extra base hits than any other Indians outfielder. He entered Saturday’s contest with the highest wOBA (.354) and wRC+ (119) of the group, with notable distance between himself and the next best player in both statistics.

Naquin made a huge step forward last season, putting forth his best campaign since his 2016 rookie debut. Though it’s still early for him, initial signs seem to indicate he’s ready to build upon last year’s success.

Spoiled Opportunities

No, Cleveland isn’t going to put up 14 runs every night. Still, the Tribe had plenty of chances to avoid extra innings, and almost every single one was bungled.

When Ramírez singled in the third with two on, Cleveland sent a runner home. Said runner was catcher Sandy León, who boasts a 2020 sprint speed lower than all but two players in the majors. Needless to say, he was out with little doubt.

In the seventh, the Indians had two on with no outs. From there, Greg Allen hit a flyout after showing bunt through most of the at-bat. This was followed by Delino DeShields Jr. making a bad jump when attempting to steal third, getting unceremoniously picked off. One forceout later, the threat was gone.

In the top of the tenth, with DeShields serving as Cleveland’s automatic runner on second, León’s attempt to bunt him over went directly to Cardinal pitcher John Gant. DeShields was easily nabbed at third.

Luckily, St. Louis attempted to one-up Cleveland in poor execution all afternoon, as the game ended when Molina thought a Matt Carpenter groundout rolled foul. Caught standing between third and home plate, he was casually tagged out to end the game.

The Indians go for the sweep Sunday, ideally during a contest which is a little easier to watch.