CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians’ four-game win streak was snapped, as the Chicago White Sox routed the Tribe on Saturday night, 8-1.
This column presents my takeaways from Saturday’s game at Progressive Field. For more baseball analysis and insight, follow me on Twitter (@TJZuppe).
1. MISSED CONNECTIONS
The theme of Saturday night’s game at Progressive Field was wasted opportunities. And the Indians’ biggest whiff was on the possibility to control their own destiny on a potential division clinch on Sunday afternoon.
As it stands now, Cleveland will need a win over the Chicago White Sox and some help from the Kansas City Royals if the Tribe is to clinch their first division title since 2007 at Progressive Field in the series finale.
A Detroit loss to Kansas City on Saturday afternoon reduced Cleveland’s magic number to clinch the AL Central to two, which could have ensured a clinch at home with a pair of Tribe victories over the White Sox, but Saturday’s game featured some uncharacteristic mistakes on the bases and in the field by the Indians, and in the end, some early missed chances against lefty Jose Quintana left things in the hands of the inexperienced portion of Cleveland’s pen for far too long.
The Indians loaded the bases in each of the first two frames, however, the first inning came to an end on a 6-4-3 double play, and Cleveland picked up their only run of the evening in the second, but came away with nothing else — a baserunning mistake by Coco Crisp helped shorten the rally — after the first three batters in the inning reached base.
Overall, the Indians went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded a total of nine runners in the loss to Chicago.
“We had some really good chances early and didn’t do much with it and with a good pitcher like Quintana, he found himself,” Francona said. “We had his pitch count up a lot early, but we managed one. With the double play and then Coco running, a base running mistake, and once we let him off the hook he kind of found himself.”
2. GET IN THERE
The expanded September rosters, the pair of recent injuries to the Indians’ starting pitching staff which led to a pseudo bullpen game and a game that turned into a blowout late came together to form one hell of a perfect storm. Perfect, if you consider odd pieces of history worthy of being memorable, that is.
Cleveland set a franchise record for players used in a nine-inning game (according to the notes provided by the team following the game) using 24 players for the first time since the New York Mets used the same amount on Sept. 20, 2015 vs. the New York Yankees.
By the end of Saturday’s blowout, Cleveland batting order looked like this:
- Adam Moore C
- Michael Martinez 2B
- Erik Gonzalez SS
- Jesus Aguilar 1B
- Adam Plutko P
- Chris Gimenez 3B
- Brandon Guyer RF
- Abraham Almonte LF
- Tyler Naquin CF
The Indians also used the following pitchers on Saturday night: Cody Anderson, Jeff Manship, Kyle Crockett, Perci Garner, Shawn Armstrong, Joe Colon, Austin Adams and Adam Plutko (MLB debut).
The game also marked the seventh time this season Cleveland has used eight or more pitchers in a game and fourth time in the final month of the season.
“That’s kind of what September baseball’s all about,” Gimenez said, who entered the game at third base in the final inning. “You get a lot of the younger guys an opportunity to come in and play a little bit, even if it’s for an inning or two, or an at-bat. You can never take something like that for granted, because you never know when your last day in the big leagues is going to be. I’ve heard of people coming up and only having one at-bat in a game like that, and that’s the only experience they ever have in the big leagues.
“Every day you get up here is special. It’s a good opportunity. It’s a good to get those jitters out for a lot of those younger guys. And guys who haven’t played third base in a while.”
3. PIECING IT TOGETHER
The final month of the season has featured a few games like Saturday’s of the bullpen variety. It’s certainly less than ideal for any team fighting for home field advantage in the MLB playoffs to be using anything resembling a bullpen day every five games. But injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have forced them to extend outside of normal comfort zones to be a little unconventional.
“I think we have enough guys to do that,” Francona said. “It might not be the way you would draw it up necessarily, but I don’t think that’s going to get in the way of us winning or losing. The parts can reach. They didn’t tonight, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.”
Out of design, Cleveland has used bullpen anchored days three times in the month of September. The fourth game of eight or more pitchers occurred when Carlos Carrasco suffered the broken hand on Sept. 17.
The results have been mixed, with Mike Clevinger getting the nod in a pair of the outings and Cody Anderson starting Saturday’s game for Cleveland. But the one saving grace? The Indians won’t need a fifth starter in the postseason. And if things line up properly, the Tribe should only need to use a bullpen day scenario one more time before the end of the regular season.
“It’s nice knowing that we’re kind of winding this thing down,” Gimenez said. “We know we still have a few wins to get, but I think the excitement and the anticipation is all there. For a lot of these guys, I think this will be their first playoff experience, and that’s something to cherish.
“That’s one of those things that’s on a lot of people’s’ mind, just finishing up strong, doing what we can do, and letting the rest play where it plays.”