Thursday, October 3, 2013

Indians Lose 4-0 To Rays, Exit Post-Season

A packed to the rafters Progressive Field witnessed it's first post-season game since 2007 last night. Everything was set for a historic and memorable evening. But it just wasn't to be. The Indians fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 in the Wild Card game and so the home team find their season over, eliminated from the Playoffs, as the Rays proceed to the ALDS to face Boston.

I'm not going to give you an in-depth recap of the game pitch-by-pitch. You already know how it ended so there's no need to rehash the disappointing events too much. It wouldn't make for the most exciting read anyway. But I am going to look at some talking points from the game, things I found interesting. Here we go:

Tribe Can't Capitalize On Opportunities

After a couple of innings this game looked as if we were set for a good old fashioned pitcher's duel. Danny Salazar and Alex Cobb were lights out to begin the game but after Delmon Young took Salazar's first pitch of the 3rd inning over the left field wall for a 1-0 Rays lead, the hits started to mount up on both sides. By the 4th inning, after a smashed liner down the third base line by Desmond Jennings put the Rays ahead 3-0, the Indians started to crawl back into the game.

It began with a crushed double by Carlos Santana, then Michael Brantley beat out an infield hit, followed by a Ryan Raburn walk to load the bases. Down 3-0, this was the key moment in the game to get back into the contest. The Indians were perfectly primed to score, with only 1 out in the inning. Asdrubal Cabrera, who struggled all season with runners in scoring position, had the chance to redeem himself for his sub-par 2013. Instead Cabrera swung weakly and grounded into an inning-ending double play, killing the rally and the momentum at the same time. The home crowd, previously so raucous for the first few innings, were silenced. I think this was the biggest turning point in the game. The fans inside Progressive Field were vocal all night but were never quite the same after that 4th inning. I think that effected the team to a degree, as you could feel the Rays had gotten away with a lucky escape. Cobb was on the ropes and could have been chased from the game if Cabrera had gotten a hit. It never happened.

The Tribe had another opportunity to get on the scoreboard the very next inning. To open the 5th, Yan Gomes smashed a double to start things off. Lonnie Chisenhall, selected to start over Mike Aviles at third base due to his success at hitting right-handers, lined a single to put runners at first and third. Michael Bourn struck out in his at-bat then Nick Swisher was lucky not to get caught in a double play after his weak grounder. Gomes was left standing at third and Chisenhall had moved up to second when Kipnis strode to the plate with 2 outs. Unfortunately Kipnis, perhaps trying a bit too hard on the big stage of the post-season, chopped the ball in front of the mound to Cobb to end the inning. Again the Indians couldn't capitalise against a reeling Cobb, stranding runners once more and allowing the pitcher to settle in and recalibrate. It was incredibly frustrating to see the home side squander these chances, especially against a pitcher like Cobb who looked very good all night and wasn't likely to give up many more scoring opportunities. So it proved.

The Indians had further chances to score as the game progressed but I felt like they never fully recovered from those wasted 4th and 5th innings. The Rays seemed to grow in confidence from then on and the Tribe hitters never put together another rally like those two in the 4th and 5th.

Moments Of Interest

  • Terry Francona made the bold decision to start Chisenhall over Aviles and it paid off handsomely. Aviles slumped somewhat in September and, although Chiz didn't set the world on fire himself, he was better suited to hit right-handers than Aviles. It worked a charm as Lonnie went 3-4 on the night, and saved a run in the 8th inning when he made an amazing diving grab on a Evan Longoria line-drive which had the left field corner written all over it. Chiz did have an error in the 9th inning after a sharp Delmon Young groundball hopped off his glove, but overall I was thoroughly impressed by his poise and confidence in the first post-season game of his career.
  • Danny Salazar deserves a round of applause. The rookie took the mound for the Tribe's biggest game since 2007 and didn't show an ounce of nerves early on. The first 2 innings were incredible as Salazar was simply untouchable. If the national baseball audience didn't know about him before, they do now. He looked like a 10 year veteran out there as he racked up some early strikeouts, not a guy who started the year at AA Akron. Francona pulled the young fire-baller in the 5th after Salazar walked Jose Molina to start the inning. I felt Salazar could probably have gone a bit longer but Francona probably saw something we didn't, plus the confident Tribe bullpen pitched very well as a unit in September. Salazar finished with 4 innings pitched, giving up 4 hits for 3 runs, walking 2 and striking out 4. It wasn't how Salazar pictured the night ending but he showed some glimpses of his immense talent. He has a promising future ahead of him that's for sure.

  • It was not a good night for our big free agent acquisitions. Michael Bourn had an awful game in the lead-off spot, going 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. He was fooled by Cobb's breaking ball too often. Nick Swisher also had a miserable evening, going 0-4 as well with 2 strikeouts of his own. Swish was really trying out there, taking some huge hacks and only just missing at times, but ultimately lived up to his reputation as a guy who struggles in the post-season.
  • Let's give some credit where it's due: The Indians bullpen did a brilliant job at keeping the home side in the game. Marc Rzepczynski took over in the 5th inning in relief of Salazar and did well, striking out David DeJesus before being pulled for Bryan Shaw. Shaw pitched fantastically, striking out 2 Rays, before turning the ball over to Justin Masterson in the 7th inning. Masterson pitched so well in 2 innings of relief that it made you wonder if Francona could have rolled the dice a bit and started the big right-hander instead of Salazar. Nonetheless, Masterson got the Indians to the 9th inning with the score still at 3-0, recording 2 strikeouts. Cody Allen started the 9th and was unlucky to have an unearned run charged to him, after Lonnie's error and Swisher's missed catch at first base saw Yunel Escobar score Ben Zobrist to put the Rays up 4-0. It was Joe Smith who Escobar hit off but Joe settled down after that and struck out Molina before getting DeJesus to fly out to right. Overall I was really impressed with the bullpen's efforts and they were unlucky not to have the offense pick them up.
Still A Season To Be Proud Of

So the Indians season is now over but do not despair Tribe fans. Despite the disappointing loss last night, there is still a lot of pride to be had in this 2013 season. When you lose 94 games in 2012 and then make the Playoffs with 92 wins the next year, that's something to shout about. The improvement this squad made was remarkable and there is a lot of positives to take away: the development of our starting pitchers, such a question mark before Spring Training. The amazing value and production provided by 'The Goon Squad' (Aviles, Giambi, Gomes and Raburn if you didn't know already - shame on you). That's just two examples of many and there's even more to look forward to in 2014. I can't wait to see Salazar again, as he'll be aiming to complete his first full season in the majors. Next year should see the beginning of the Francisco Lindor era in Cleveland, as we should hopefully catch our first glimpse of the shortstop prodigy at some stage in 2014. So don't wallow in sorrow for too long fellow Tribe fans. 2014 will be here before you know it. Until then, take pride in this Indians team and their superb against-the-odds season.

The game began at 1 am here in the UK last night and I didn't get to bed until 5 am. I'm shattered from it but I feel it was worth staying up for. It's not every day your team plays a high stakes Playoff game. Even though we lost I'm glad I made the extra effort to watch it.

I'll have my season review and player ratings up over the course of the next week or so. It could be rather large so it might take some time to work out. Watch this space.

Until then, thank you to everybody who has read this blog during this fabulous season. Go Tribe!

(All photos courtesy of Zimbio)


  1. Bitterly disappointing night. But you're right, a season to be proud of in reflection. Have really enjoyed your blog, its been tricky keeping up to date since ESPN America folded (ESPN's coverage is patchy), so your blog is one of the few that I've made sure to keep in regular touch with. You got a nice, easy style and a decent outlook. Keep up the good work, mate and see y'all next season. Go Tribe!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words Matt, it really means a lot. The blog here will be a bit quieter than usual until Spring Training I expect but I'll be sure to post some off-season related posts about signings and trades etc. So keep your eyes peeled, I'll try to keep it going with good stuff. Cheers mate, and of course, Go Tribe!

  2. I agree! a dissapointing end to a great season and we have so much to look forward to next year! I only hope you were wrong and we get to see Asdrubal pull on a tribe shirt some more! your blog is a brilliant way of keeping up with all things Indians! Keep it up! Go Tribe :)

    1. Well your wish may come true Greg. With Asdrubal not exactly setting the world alight with his performance this year, I don't expect many teams will come calling with trade offers, at least none that are worth what Cabrera is worth. So in that case the Indians brass may just keep him around instead of sending him away. Maybe they'll see if he can bounce back, it's happened before. For both our sakes I hope he does Greg, I'd love to see Asdrubal remain an Indian! Thank you so much for reading and commenting all season, I really appreciate everything. Thanks again, Go Tribe!