Bullpens are fickle. They have their good days and they have their bad days. Last night was one of the bad days for the Indians bullpen as they allowed three runs in the top of the ninth and fell to the Blue Jays by a score of 5-4.
Justin Masterson took the mound for the Indians last night looking to rebound after a tough start his last time out against the Tigers. He did just that by throwing 6.2 quality innings. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out six. Unfortunately, Masterson also issued five walks causing him to continually work his way out of jams while also pushing his pitch count up into the 120’s. Thankfully his sinker was working as the Blue Jays hit into two costly double plays.
The Blue Jays countered with former Indians reliever Esmil Rogers. Rogers became a full-time starter back in June and has pitched well in his new role. Last night was no exception as Rogers allowed one run over six innings on four hits and three walks. He also struck out 7 Indians, proving once again just how much talent is contained in that lightning rod of a right arm he possesses. As it turns out, the offseason trade between the Blue Jays and Indians for Rogers and Mike Aviles was a win-win.
The Indians got out to an early lead on Wednesday night. Jason Giambi singled in the second inning to score Michael Brantley and put the Indians up 1-0. That would be the only run they would get during the rally, however. Despite having runners on the corners and no one out, Lonnie Chisenhall, Drew Stubbs, and Michael Bourn were unable to deliver a clutch hit.
Things remained relatively quiet until the seventh inning. In that inning, the Blue Jays were finally able to get to Masterson. They loaded the bases and with two outs, Emilio Bonifacio singled to score both Adam Lind and Maicer Izturis and give the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. The single chased Masterson from the ballgame as Terry Francona turned things over to his bullpen.
For the first 1.1 innings, the bullpen was magnificent. They held the Blue Jays in check and kept it a one run game. Thatnks to that effort, the Indians were in position to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Michael Brantley came through with a huge two out single to score Michael Bourn. With the score now 2-2, it was the bullpen’s job to hold down the fort. It wasn’t meant to be.
Rich Hill entered the game in the top of the ninth to protect a one run lead. After getting the first two outs of the inning but also putting the lead run on base, Hill was replaced by Joe Smith. It was at this point where things spiraled out of control. Smith loaded the bases and then promptly allowed a bases clearing single to Munenori Kawasaki. All three runs were able to score when Michael Bourn decided to kick the ball around out in center field. Bryan Shaw ended up relieving Smith and ending the inning.
The Indians, to their credit, put up a valiant effort in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 5-3, they were able to pull themselves within one run when Asdrubal Cabrera singled to center and Nick Swisher reached on an error to score Bourn and Jason Kipnis respectively. Unfortunately, the rally came to an end when Michael Brantley flew out to center field for the final out of the game.
The Good: The effort and never say die attitude was a positive from last night’s game. Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians could have mailed it in. They didn’t. Instead, they were able to push two runs across the plate and came within one more clutch hit of tying things up.
The Bad: The bullpen implosion was a total buzz kill. We have seen more and more of this lately from the Indians bullpen and it’s becoming a bit more alarming. They have been over worked thanks to the Starting rotation’s inability to pitch deep into games. If the Indians are thinking about making any moves prior to the trade deadline, they should seriously consider making moves to bring in bullpen help. They could use it.