CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – In 2017, the Cleveland Indians swing at the fewest pitches out of the strike zone (26.1%) than any team in baseball.
That was not the case over the weekend against the Yankees.
The Indians managed just two runs in as many games against the Bronx Bombers, largely in part to their abandonment of the patience that had led to an exception run of offense of late.
Manager Terry Francona noted his team’s expansion of the strike zone in Saturday’s loss, only for it to continue again on Sunday against Yankees starter Luis Severino.
One of the team’s two hits off of Severino came on the fastball up to Encarnacion, but for the most part, the Indians did not make a ton of contact when swinging at balls outside the strike zone. That can be either a good or bad thing, but it started a night earlier with starter Jordan Montgomery.
The two pitchers could not be more opposite, Severino a hard thrower that sits at 98 mph with his fastball, and Montgomery a junk-baller who throw a total of 18 fastballs.
Carlos Carrasco tossed a terrific five innings on Sunday before things began to unravel in the 6th. After back to back hits by Brett Gardner at Clint Frazier, Carrasco induced a pop up from Didi Gregorius before falling behind and subsequently intentionally walking Aaron Judge.
The right-hander was able to work around Chase Headley and Todd Frazier, allowing a sacrifice fly and a walk, respectively.
With the bases loaded, things came unraveled as lefty Jacoby Ellsbury rocked a ball to right. As right fielder Abraham Almonte ran after the ball, he misjudged the distance to the wall, jumping early and missing both the wall and the ball. All three runs scored with Ellsbury coasting into third.
Both Almonte and Francona noted that the sun was a factor in the play, but the manager noted that his right fielder’s approach was suited for more of a routine fly.
“When he went back, instead of maybe trying to kind of put your head down and get behind the ball, he stayed with it the whole time,” Francona said. “His steps were shorter and choppier than if you put your head down and go to the spot, maybe try to get behind it. Then as he closed in on the warning track, you could see he didn’t quite know where he was. I’m not sure he knew where the ball was, either.”
Almonte made no excuses while still acknowledging the hurdles in front of him.
“I think this is a ball that should be caught and I was not able to make the play,” he said. “It was hard. Every time we go out to that field, we just want to win. No matter how, we just want to do it and I was not able to make a play that changes the game, it was hard.”
According to statcast, the ball was technically describable as “an easy fly,” as Almonte referred to it, with an 11% hit probability.
While Almonte may get the lion’s share of blame for what opened up the floodgates for the Yankees, Francona and Carrasco admitted that the pitcher put the defense in a tough position.
Carrasco had Todd Frazier down 0-2 with a chance to escape the inning before letting him off the hook with a 2-out walk.
“That’s when you get in trouble,” Carrasco said. “Sometimes I get to two strikes and then walk. You’re going to pay for it. That’s what happened. A walk, then an intentional walk to Judge and then the triple right there.”