Felix Hernandez, Cy Young award winner and Seattle Mariners ace, took the mound on Sunday looking to do what so many former Cy Young award winners have not been able to do this season – shut down the Cleveland Indians. Like his predecessors, Hernandez would not be successful. Instead of dominating the Indians with near flawless precision, the Indians bashed arguably the game’s best pitcher to the tune of 6 runs on 8 hits over the course of 5 innings.
In what has become typical Cleveland Indians fashion in 2013, the scoring got off to an early start with the Indians drawing first blood in the bottom half of the first. Following a lead-off single to center, Michael Brantley was able to deliver with a clutch one out, RBI single to right to score Bourn. The Indians scored again when Nick Swisher hit a sharp ground ball through the legs of Mariners’ first baseman Justin Smoak. The fielding error brought Brantley around to score and put the Tribe up 2-0.
In the bottom of the second, Brantley came calling again. This time, with two on and two out, Brantley drilled a 0-1 fastball deep to right center and into the Indians’ bullpen. The three run shot put the Tribe up 5-0. However, perhaps even more impressive than Brantley connecting for the three-run shot, was the location of the pitch itself. Even though Hernandez is armed with a dominating fastball, his command of the zone is his strongest asset. On the Brantley homer, the 93 mph fastball couldn’t have been positioned any worse. He might as well have placed the ball on a tee for Brantley.
The Indians sixth and final run on the day came on a truly unusual play, but one that brought back memories from 1995. Following a lead-off double from Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs stepped to the plate and delivered a swinging bunt. Jesus Montero, who has been exposed for the truly awful catcher that he is in this series, fielded the ball and threw to first to retire Stubbs. Aviles, however, never stopped on the play. He rounded third and upon seeing Hernandez standing in front of the mound and Montero in no man’s land, took off for home. Montero attempted to get back to the plate, but to no avail. Smoak’s throw wasn’t in time and Aviles slid in safely.
The entire play, as indicated in the above screen shots was made possible thanks to Hernandez’s ambivalence on the play. He failed on two levels. First, when Montero comes out to make the play it is Hernandez’s responsibility to replace him covering home. Second, Hernandez needs to be aware of the play behind him. You can clearly see that Hernandez neglected to pay any attention to Aviles on the play. For Montero to about-face, retreat to home and make the play on Aviles would have been a minor miracle. It may also have been made easier had Smoak delivered the ball to Montero’s left side and not his right.
Of course though, credit Mike Aviles for seeing that Hernandez had failed so miserably on his defensive responsibility and had the hustle and wherewithal to take advantage on the play. With each and every passing day he is showing just how big of an acquisition he was when the Indians acquired him for Esmil Rogers in the offseason.
Lastly, Justin Masterson put forth another Cy Young caliber pitching performance of his own on Sunday. Over the course of 7 innings of work, Masterson allowed 0 runs and struck out 11 while allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks on the day. It was yet another dominant outing and continued the impressive run of quality starting pitching the Indians have had over their last 20 games or so.
The Indians will close out the series and look to bust out the brooms for the sweep this afternoon at Progressive Field. Scott Kazmir will take the hill again for the Tribe against Hisashi Iwakuma and his impressive 1.84 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05.
The Good: Michael Brantley and Justin Masterson were clearly the stars of the game. Masterson dominated the Mariners weak lineup and delivered another 7 innings of shutout baseball. Brantley, meanwhile, went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI and a home run. Not a bad day. However, the ultimate good has to go to Mike Aviles. As stated, his hustle to score from second on Stubbs’ swinging bunt is the type of play that separates a contender from a pretender.
The Bad: The Indians dominated Felix Hernandez and the Indians pitchers combined for a four hit shutout. I feel like picking out anything bad from that would be nitpicking. So, there was nothing bad yesterday,
The “Huh?”: Clearly, the “Huh?” moment of the game was Mike Aviles scoring from second on a swinging bunt by Drew Stubbs. No need to rehash it. All you need to know is that it’s not something you’re going to see everyday.