Second Thoughts: Game #79 - Angels 3, Indians 0
|W: J. Weaver (9-1) L: U. Jimenez (7-7) S: Downs (7)|
Weaver stymies Tribe hitters, outduels Jimenez: The lead story from Monday night’s shutout loss to the Los Angeles Angeles is Jered Weaver’s dominance over Tribe hitters. Ubaldo Jimenez did his best to keep the game close, and did so admirably, but Weaver’s impeccable location was simply too much for Cleveland’s lineup. In spite of velocity that tops out in the very low-90s, Weaver was able to throw his curveball for a strike anytime in the count. He was also able to use a high fastball to keep Tribe batters from sitting on his off-speed pitches. The fact that he’s able to trust a high fastball underscores the confidence he has in his pinpoint control.
Earning a berth on the American League All-Star team— his third straight— Weaver pitched to his potential in spinning seven-plus innings of shutout ball, with a mere five hits conceded to the Indians. After scoring eight runs a game in the four-game series in Baltimore, Cleveland’s offense garnered very few opportunities, and the chances they did have were painfully wasted.
Weaver yielded a mere three base runners through the first six innings, while throwing just 73 pitches. Maintaining a low pitch count throughout the first two-thirds of the game allowed Weaver to battle through the 7th inning, in which he escaped a bases loaded, none out jam. The 29 year old righty was able to work both lower corners of the plate, while avoiding making mistakes over the heart of the plate. Simply put, Weaver spun a gem.
Bases loaded futility continues: The most glaring example of a squandered opportunity came in the 7th inning for the Tribe offense. With the first three hitters reaching base, Cleveland had the bases loaded and no one out. The underwhelming trio of Damon-Kotchman-Duncan demonstrated three different ways to blow the opportunity: a weak grounder, a pop out behind the plate, and a strikeout swinging, respectively. It’s these kinds of innings that draw the ire of Tribe fans, who didn’t even wait for the third out of the inning to start dishing out the boos. Loading the bases with no one out and failing to score is flat out inexcusable, regardless of the pitcher.
In addition to this weak showing, Tribe hitters also went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and wasted a chance at redemption in the 8th inning, when Hannahan and Choo ledoff with singles, followed by a Cabrera double play and Kipnis fly out. It’s one thing for the bottom of the lineup to waste a must-score opportunity, but when the muscle of the lineup falls flat, it compounds the sting.
The Indians are now hitting .203 with the bases loaded this season, tied for second-to-last in the American League.
Ubaldo keeps it quality, evades danger: In spite of falling short against a superior performance, Ubaldo Jimenez did well to continue his string of positive starts. Monday the Tribe hurler went 7.2 innings, with eight hits and three earned runs allowed. He allowed six of eight leadoff runners to reach base, but was able to tip-toe through trouble the vast majority of the night. Although it seemed like he was pitching behind a lot of hitters, recording a 62% first pitch strike mark, Jimenez was able to pitch into the 8th inning.
Over his last six starts, Jimenez has an ERA under three. Sure, it’s a small streak after a rather dismal opening two months of the season, but he’s finally starting to consistently pitch like he’s worthy of taking the ball every fifth day. Monday’s game was his 4th quality start in his last six outings, in addition to it being his longest outing of the season.
Santana’s defensive showing: Carlos Santana, who has been the subject of much scrutiny, especially on offense, did well limiting the Angels’ aggressive nature on the base paths. He gunned down 2-of-4 base stealers, in spite of some significantly large jumps that Los Angeles runners were getting off Jimenez. His first caught stealing throw was less than spectacular, but the other three throws were spot on, especially the second base runner he threw out, exhibiting a perfect rope to second. It was encouraging to see something go right for Santana, as he’s battled ineffectiveness and injuries. His sparkling caught-stealing rate (36%) belies the notion that he should spend more time at first base.
Rare two-inning save for Downs: In an era where closers come into the game to work one inning with no one on, it was interesting to watch Angels closer Scott Downs come into the 8th inning with runners on 1st and 2nd and none out. He stranded both runners and then went on to record a 1-2-3 9th inning for his 7th save of the year. He needed only 17 pitches to throw two scoreless, hitless innings, as he recorded an old-school save.
1st pitch strikes & leadoff runners allowed: These two often overlooked stats were part of the difference between Jimenez and Weaver last night. Jimenez threw first pitch strikes to 18 of the 29 hitters he faced (62%), while Weaver registered a 20-for-28 mark (71%). Weaver pitched ahead of most Tribe hitters, while Jimenez had to fight back in most counts.
Angels leadoff hitters reached in six of the eight innings they faced Jimenez, while scoring all three of their runs in innings where the leadoff runner reached base. Meanwhile, only three of Cleveland’s eight leadoff hitters were able to reach base against Weaver.
3 Most Wanted
Better plate approach: In his postgame interview, Manny Acta referenced his displeasure over his hitters’ approach at the plate. He was particularly unnerved by the first six innings, which he said Tribe hitters swung at bad pitches, while not taking enough pitches. The magnitude of the botched 7th and 8th innings is amplified when it comes after six feeble innings at the plate. Add in the fact that they went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and it’s easy to see how Cleveland got shutout.
Jimenez holding base runners better: The Angels ran like crazy on the base paths in this game, ratcheting up the pressure on the Indians defense, chiefly Carlos Santana, who did the best he could with opposing base runners taking off early and often. As a top-half starter in the rotation, it’s imperative that Jimenez makes the adjustment to hold base runners more effectively. Whatever the adjustment might be, it needs made to keep a free-for-all from occurring against speedy teams.
Reshuffling the lineup: Travis Hafner’s impending return to the lineup will help stabilize the ever-revolving batting order. With Pronk back in the cleanup role, it should spark some more shuffling, including Santana seeing regular at-bats in the sixth spot of the lineup, which requires some pop that the Tribe catcher has. This should push Brantley back to his productive fifth-spot. I’d also like to see Hannahan bumped ahead of Damon and Kotchman.
Tony has always said he is capable of becoming an above average defensive catcher, but I am more interested in learning about his progress in calling games behind the plate. Our SP has been inconsistent, and I'm curious if it has anything to do with the games being called by our catchers. If anyone can give more information I would be very grateful.
They definitely "walk without a purpose," IE...this club does get a bunch of walks, but always swing early and often when it counts...makes no sense. They have the look of a free-swinging team with RISP, and the complete opposite the rest of the game...frustrating, to say the least...
But in the 8th the Indians had him on the ropes again, but this time the heart of the order was up. Asdrubal needed to be patient and swing at a good pitch. He took ball one, but then lunged at a breaking ball that was both low and outside, hooking a ground ball to short for an easy double play. He was clearly overanxious and Weaver got him to chase a bad pitch and ended the rally.
This is what Acta means when he talks about getting better at-bats. Tribe hitters need to be more patient, especially when hitting with RISP. There's a reason this team is hitting .203 with the bases loaded.