Indians get Smoke Signals Crossed, lose to Reds in 9th

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, July 11.

Do you remember the “telephone” game we played when we were kids?  Let’s say I would whisper something into the ear of the person sitting next to me, and by the time the message got to the last person in the game it bore no relation to what I had said?  Well, in spite of 2018 technology, a miscommunication on the Indians’ bull pen phone caused a wrong pitching change to happen and ultimately caused the Indians to lose to the Reds.  The Indians’ manager and a coach he wouldn’t throw under the bus got their wires crossed.

After 8 innings in Cleveland, the result looked predictable. Although Josh Tomlin had been put on the DL before the game, the Tribe looked poised to win without him.   The playoff-contending Indians, who were that close to making last year’s World Series had a 4-0 lead on the Reds.  Trevor Bauer couldn’t have pitched better.  His teammates had to be thinking about how good a cold beer would feel right about then. Their thoughts of beer and sandwiches were interrupted by some rustling in the Cincinnati bat rack.  The termites had awakened  and the Reds began to hit the ball. Of all times to start, they began hitting after 26 of the game’s 27 outs had been recorded.

Cody Allen, the Indians’ closer was working in a non-save situation.  With two gone, suddenly nothing worked.  He gave up 3 runs, including a 2-run double to Adam Duvall before leaving with the bases full.

This is where the “telephone game” incident happened.  I don’t know if the Tribe had an I-phone like mine but based on what happened I wouldn’t be surprised.  Realize, baseball players and their managers often have nicknames for one another.  With Joey Votto coming to the dish with the bags drunk, Indians’ manager Terry Francona got on his phone and summoned “O. P.,” which is his name for lefty Oliver Perez.  To his shock, here came Dan Otero, known as “O. T.”

Oliver Perez is a wily lefty who’s been pitching since 2002, which seems like time out of mind.  On the other hand, Otero is a righty pitcher  with just 6 years in the bigs under his belt. Perez would have been the obvious choice, since he’s a lefty pitcher facing the lefty Votto. Francona later said one of his coaches misunderstood his order on the phone.  Under the rules, Otero had no choice but to face Votto.  It didn’t take long for the Indians’ faithful to hear the savage crack of Votto’s thunder stick. He hit what used to be called a screaming liner off the right field wall.  All 3 runs scored, putting the Reds up for good.

Even before this most recent bull pen meltdown the Indians found their bull pen’s ERA was 5.13.  Only the Royals and Rockies have higher ERA’s for the men who support the starters. Bauer had struck out a dozen Reds, giving 3 singles and a walk  in the 8 innings he worked. This was his first game since being declared an All-Star this past Sunday.

More than a thousand miles west on I40, the night’s other exhibition of high drama was taking place at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. Here again, until the top of the 9th the A’s looked like they realized that resistance was useless.   Houston was up 4–0 thanks to 2 home runs by Alex Bregman and 6 stellar innings from Justin Verlander on the hill.  Their leadoff man, George Springer also singled home two runs.  As suddenly as the rally in Cleveland, the A’s came to life as if by magic.  Facing Ken Giles and the Astros’ bull pen, Oakland started to hit.  Giles was touched for 3 runs.  You almost never pull a closer unless he’s actively on fire, but Houston manager A.J. Hinch went against the book, and prayed.  Hector Rondon who replaced Giles gave up the game-tying single.   2 innings later the visitors from the East Bay took a 5-4 lead on a home run by Stephen Piscotty. However, Oakland closer Blake Treinen didn’t have it and his defense offered him little help.  On one of the stranger walk-off plays you’ll ever see, Bregman tapped one just in front of the plate.  Catcher Jonathan Lucroy air-mailed it into Bregman’s helmet as he was reaching first, handing the win to Houston. Early on, Bregman thought it was a foul ball.  He then realized two things.  A. the ball was fair and B. the catcher couldn’t pick it up cleanly, so Bregman took off toward first.  Lucroy’s throw sailed off Bregman’s hard hat and was next spotted in right field.  By then the game was gone.

With the win Houston has 6 walk-off wins.  Only the Yankees, Mariners and Blue Jays are their equals and  no team has 7 walk-off wins to date.

Wednesday provides the requisite amount of afternoon baseball. The Rays host the Tigers, closely followed by the Nationals visiting the Pirates in the day’s earliest contests. The Nats will need all their starters including today’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez.  If ever they mean to catch up with Atlanta and Philadelphia they need to start now. The Giants’ Johnny Cueto will face the Cubs’ Mike Montgomery in a day game in San Francisco.  The first two games of this series have been rare stellar pitching exhibitions with each team winning one. The Yankees have lost 2 out of 3 to the wretched Orioles.  If Sonny Gray loses to the team he got his last win against, it’s unthinkable that he can continue starting after the break. Losing 2 out of 3 to this year’s version of the 1962 Mets is bad enough.  If the Yanks were to lose 3 out of 4, George Steinbrenner might just rise out of his grave. The Reds’ Tyler Mahle (MayLee) faces the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco.  While he’s had his ups and downs, Mahle has had more success than any other national league rookie starting pitcher. He may well trumpet his stats to his younger brother Greg  who had a cup of coffee in 2016 but has labored in the minors since. The Mets send out Jacob DeGrom and his 1.79 ERA against the Phillies.  Brilliant as that ERA is, his days in Flushing may well be numbered, and the more I hear the less I believe he will be wearing pinstripes.  RATS!!  The Rangers send the Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon to the hill at Fenway, a park barely older than he is.  Colon has 245 wins, more than any pitcher from Latin America.  He barely missed 246 against the Tigers.   His chances look dim against Boston who is building their division lead while the Yankees embarrass themselves in Baltimore. Tonight Colon faces Chris Sale.  Any questions?  When the Braves and Jays meet in Atlanta, any broadcaster who wears false teeth needs to attach them as tightly as possible.  The pitching matchup features Sam Gaviglio for the Jays and Mike Foltynewicz for the Bravos. I can’t think of a matchup more likely to challenge the lingual dexterity of today’s broadcasters.  The Braves’ Don Sutton to name one is getting on in years and sounded as if he were ill the last time I heard him.  If he was, he was digging as deep as he could to keep the broadcast going. With Jerry Howarth in retirement the Blue Jays may have one of the younger broadcast booths in the game.

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