Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) makes a pitching change during the 7th inning in the American League wild card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball Autopsy: AL Wild Card

Last night, the 2013 season came to a bitter and disappointing end for the Cleveland Indians. After rattling off ten straight victories to clinch the top wild card spot and home field advantage in the play in game, the Tribe had no answer for the Tampa Bay Rays, or their starting pitcher, Alex Cobb. This morning we recapped the game but now it is time to tear the game apart and figure out what went right and what went oh, so terribly wrong.

What Went Right?

The crowd: After months of debating the attendance issue, the fans came out in full force last night in front of a national audience. Progressive Field was packed to the brim with a sea of red and ready to explode. In the first two innings, as Danny Salazar carved up the Rays with 98 mph heaters, the crowd was electric. As the game wore on, they tried desperately to fuel a rally. It just wasn’t meant to be.


Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana (41) hits a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in the American League wild card playoff game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Lonnie Chisenhall: Give Terry Francona credit, when he gets a hunch or gut feeling about something it typically works out. That was the case again last night with Chisenhall. Inserted into the lineup, he rewarded Francona with a 3 for 4 night at the plate and one hell of a defensive play to save the day in the eighth.

Danny Salazar’s first two innings: For the first two innings it looked like Salazar was going to dominate. Tampa couldn’t figure him out as he blew fastball after fastball by them.

The bullpen: Major kudos to Marc Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw, Justin Masterson, Cody Allen, and Joe Smith. They did what they needed to do last night, holding Tampa to one unearned run over the course of five innings of work. They kept it close and that’s all you could really ask for.

Yanlos Gotana: The Indians’ doubled headed catching platoon of Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana came to play last night. They went 4 for 8 and started a handful of potential rallies on their own. Add in the fact thay Gomes threw out another attempted base stealer (ok, it was Jose Molina) and it was another great night for the dynamic duo. It’ll be intersting to see how this shakes out next season.

Terry Francona: The fact that the Indians were even in this position last night is a testament to Francona’s brilliance. Add in the way he managed his bullpen and the insertion of Lonnie Chisenhall and it was an almost perfect performance from the Tribe’s skipper.

What Went Wrong?

Alex Cobb: The Indians ran into a buzz saw last night in the form of Alex Cobb. He was fantastic for 6-plus innings. The Tribe had him on the ropes a few times but just couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it. Speaking of which…

Oct 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throws against the Cleveland Indians during the second inning in the American League wild card playoff game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Hitting with runners in scoring position: The Indians certainly had their chances. In all, they left nine runners stranded on the basepaths. The worst example being in the bottom of the fourth when Asdrubal Cabrera hit into an inning ending 3-6-1 double play with the bases loaded.

The Top Three: Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis combined to go 0 for 12 last night. Not just that, but each faile to come through in a big spot with runners on base. If only one of them gets a hit there is a chance the outcome changes. No one took it harder than Kipnis, who was visible upset and had to be consoled by Michael Brantley at the end of the game.

Delmon Young: Only the Rays could pick a guy up off the street and have him go legend. It was Young’s home run in the top of the fourth that changed the complexion of the game and took the air out of the crowd. He used to kill us with the Tigers and now he’s doing it as a Ray. I am not a fan.

Danny Salazar’s third and fourth inning: Pedro Martinez pointed it out in the postgame show and looking back it was true. Following Young’s home run, Salazar abandoned his fastball and began throwing more breaking balls. The results were not good. The Rays stopped swinging and missing and started making solid contact. It all came to a head when Desmond Jennings doubled in the second and third runs of the game.

Tags: Alex Cobb Cleveland Indians Danny Salazar Tampa Bay Rays Terry Francona

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