The Cleveland Indians have a comfortable 6-1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division, yet last night’s contest was one of the most frustrating in recent weeks.
The Tribe had a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning against the Twins when some curious decisions were made, albeit some of them by the constraints of the roster.
Trevor Bauer wasn’t sharp in the six innings he worked and gave up a run on back-to-back two out hits in the last frame he worked. He was also over 100 pitches for the night.
But Terry Francona sent him back out for the seventh, even though the Tribe is coming off the All Star break and the bullpen is rested.
Based on what happened in the inning, it looks like Tito and Mickey Callaway wanted Bauer to pitch to Joe Mauer, because as we all know, Cleveland doesn’t have a lefty in the bullpen right now.
Bauer gave up a deflected single to the leadoff hitter, Edwardo Nunez, and then walked Mauer to put the tying run on base with no one out.
Our question would be why not have Jeff Manship or Dan Otero come in and start the inning clean. As it was, Manship was victimized by a error by Carlos Santana, and gave up a single to Brian Dozier to tie up the game.
Otero came in and got out of the two on, nobody out situation without any more runs scoring.
Our point is since Bauer wasn’t sharp, he should’ve called it a night after six innings of work. And this isn’t a second guess, we are stunned he came out for the seventh.
Not that T.J. House was setting the world on fire (he allowed six hits in 2-1/3 innings), but you need a southpaw in the bullpen. Francona got burned in the Yankee series bringing in Otero to face Brett Gardner with a 5-3 lead, only to see the slap hitter bang a three run triple to give New York a lead.
And that the Twins tied the game made Francona use Bryan Shaw for two innings on the second night of back-to- back appearances, meaning he likely cannot be used today.
The next odd decision came in the bottom of the 7th, with a man on first and two outs, when Francona sent Erik Gonzalez to the plate in his first major league at bat in a tie game and a runner on first, over Tyler Naquin, who had two hits on the night, and if 5 for 20 in his limited at bats vs. lefties.
Yes, Fernando Abad, the Twins’ reliever is tough on left handed hitters, but why take the bat out of Naquin’s hands in favor of a rookie in his first career at bat in the bigs?
If Tito would have had Juan Uribe on the bench and used him in that situation, there is no question. We would have had less of a quizzical expression had he used Abraham Almonte there. But Gonzalez?
Again, this is why the Indians need bullpen help.
They don’t have a reliable lefty to get tough left-handed hitters out. They also need more people that Francona trusts, because he clearly doesn’t want to use anyone but Allen, Shaw, Otero, and Manship in high leverage situations.
It is incumbent for Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to do something quick. The Indians don’t want to give the Tigers or Royals any hope of getting back into the race for the division title.