Second Thoughts Game #150: Royals 7, Indians 1
Just a half game back of either wild card spot after sweeping the White Sox, the Indians looked to continue their strong play down the stretch as they rolled into Kansas City. The series opener ended up being a forgettable showing in every facet.
Kazmir defamed by a lack of leather
Because of factors outside of his control, it is tough to be too critical of Scott Kazmir for his performance in this game. All things considered, he was quite good.
Unfortunately, this game featured the return of the Indians' snowballing defensive woes, along with a blown call in the sixth inning that led to his ultimate demise. There was also an iffy strike zone all night, but it more or less went both ways.
The Indians committed two official errors, another misplay that probably should have been one, and a debatable wild pitch that could have just as easily been a passed ball. Those four plays led to three runs alone for the Royals, which would have ultimately been enough to win them the game. As for the aforementioned blown call (a triple to lead off the sixth in which Salvador Perez was actually thrown out), it led to an additional gift run.
Strictly focusing on Kazmir, this could have very well been an excellent start for him, if not for the lack of help from teammates and umpires alike. Three of the four runs he was charged would never have happened, and the fourth was actually given up while he was already sitting in the dugout. He was by no means dominant, but he deserved a better fate.
Even if you don't discount the hit that should have been an error and the hit that should have been an out, he still only allowed six singles and a triple, while walking just one. Most importantly, he kept the ball in the park. His velocity was standard Kazmir (92-95), his slider was working and he threw a good amount of strikes (~63%), all adding up to six strikeouts through five innings, about his normal rate.
Most days, the Indians would have done well with a start like this. He just happened to catch his teammates on a bad day, on both sides of the ball.
Didn't the Indians just leave the "Windy City?"
After spending over half a week bullying the White Sox to the tune of a combined 32 runs, the Indians' offense once again hit a wall. Or, well, maybe the wall hit them, because they didn't hit much of anything.
In fact, the lineup set a season high for strikeouts, tying a team mark that hadn't been reached in seven years (in a nine-inning game). 17.
17 strike threes. Five Indians went down more than once. Three went down three times (hitters one, three and four in the order, no less). Only one, Michael Brantley, managed to not be a part of the tally.
The lone run came from Lonnie Chisenhall, who deposited a Shields offering into the right field seats to lead off the fifth inning. Chisenhall is now 8-for-23 with five extra-base hits, five runs batted in and two walks to just two strikeouts in September, by the way. Beyond that, the team managed nine baserunners, but only two ever even reached third base.
It was a disaster, but at least the Indians can look at the pitching they faced and say they got bested by a very talented group on this day, which has certainly not always been the case this season.
Examining the zone
Like many watching this game (on both sides, based on crowd reaction), I, too, was miffed by a number of called strikes (or not) decided upon by home plate umpire Brian O'Nora. Looking at the data afterwards, both starters benefitted from about the same number of wrong calls, in or out of the zone.
However, it was after Kazmir and Shields left the game that the calls began to slant in the Royals' favor. Without overloading the page with plots for the additional eight pitchers that appeared in this game, I will just tell you that either the home team's pitchers or hitters got the benefit of the doubt on a handful more called pitches than the Indians did.
It surely wasn't O'Nora's best day on the job, but again, four defensive miscues and 17 offensive strikeouts cannot be completely excused, and more or less speak for themselves.
Up next: The middle of this three-game set with the Royals. Corey Kluber will be opposed by top pitching prospect,Yordano Ventura, making his Major League debut.