Making his Indians debut, Trevor Bauer walked the first four batters he faced and seven overall, yet left the game after five innings with the Indians only down by three runs. Unfortunately for the Tribe, the offense was unable to cash in on early chances against Rays starter Alex Cobb, who struck out six in 7.1 scoreless innings to help shut out the Indians, 6-0.
The Indians played most of the game with the pitchers forced to bat after starting catcher Lou Marson was injured in the bottom of the third inning during a collision at home plate with Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings. After walking the first four batters of the game, Bauer got some help out of the first inning when Yunel Escobar lined out to right fielder Ryan Raburn, who threw Matt Joyce out at home. Bauer settled down somewhat before he walked Jennings to lead off the inning, and Jennings stole second on a questionable call by umpire C.B. Bucknor, and then also stole third base before Joyce grounded to Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who went home on the play. Marson was able to hang on to the ball for the out, but Jennings lowered his shoulder and knocked Marson out of the game. The Indians would later announce Marson as day-to-day with a clavicle strain.
The Indians’ other catcher, Carlos Santana, was at DH, and when Marson had to leave the game due to injury, Santana went behind the plate, and the Tribe was forced to give up its DH for the remainder of the game. When Bauer feigned a bunt attempt at three pitches as he was called out on strikes in the top of the fifth, it was the first time the team has had to have a pitcher bat in a non-interleague game since July 22, 1999, when Charles Nagy had to bat against Toronto after a manager’s error.
To say this game was weird was an understatement.
Despite being down 1-0 at the time, and already issuing seven walks, Bauer actually hadn’t allowed a hit until Rays catcher Jose Molina singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. Unfortunately the next batter, Kelly Johnson, homered to right to give the Rays a 3-0 cushion. Those were the only hits he allowed in his five innings of work, striking out two.
But then things got testy after Matt Albers relieved Bauer in the bottom of the sixth. Escobar hit a ground ball to center to lead off the inning, and was incorrectly ruled safe at second base by Buckner, despite the protests of Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and manager Terry Francona. Escobar would score after the next batter, former Indian Shelley Duncan singled to right, making the score 4-0. Albers threw 28 pitches in the inning, and after he got Ben Zobrist to ground out to first to end the inning, Albers began yelling at Buckner, presumably regarding the call at second to begin the inning, and was ejected from the game.
Tempers also flared in the seventh, when Cody Allen, relieving Albers, hit Rays third baseman Evan Longoria with his second pitch of the game, and both teams were warned. Allen kept the Rays off the board in the seventh, but allowed two runs in the eighth off a double by Rays first baseman James Loney.
The Good: Tribe defense kept the team in the game despite Bauer’s wildness, especially the aforementioned double play by Raburn and Marson, and Marson’s blocking of home plate. The Indians were realistically in this game until Allen gave up his two runs in the eighth, and the team showed some fire, albeit misdirected towards Buckner’s questionable calls.
The Bad: The Indians’ offense was terrible, even before their pitchers had to bat. Cleveland left six men on base, including five in scoring position. Chisenhall grounded into two double plays.
The Huh: This entire game was weird, but the real questions for the Indians will come later, namely if the team has to place Marson on the DL (either the usual 15-day DL or the seven-day concussion DL), as Triple-A Columbus starting catcher Yan Gomes is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. Also, the Indians may have to send Allen down to the minors, if only to swap him out with a fresh arm.