Cleveland Indians: Today’s Game Feels Like a Big One

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Why does this feel like such a big game today?  Partly it is because for the Cleveland Indians, Danny Salazar is the starting pitcher.  When we were fantasizing all winter about the Indians’ starting pitching carrying them to glory, Salazar was part of the fantasy.  Plug in Salazar, possibly with the best raw stuff of any Indians pitcher, behind Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer, and the Indians are throwing a potentially dominant arm out there in up to 130 games this season, making them a truly elite staff. So it would be great if Salazar goes out and dominates today.   

A rotation with one suspect member, such as T.J. House, is something nearly every American League team has in common, and the Indians had enough depth in their other options to compensate if House struggled.  But substitute Zach McAllister for Salazar and you find yourself looking at math which makes the games pitched by Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer more crucial because you need to win three out of every five, more or less, to win a division.

A rotation with one suspect member, such as T.J. House, is something nearly every American League team has in common, and the Indians had enough depth in their other options to compensate if House struggled.  But substitute Zach McAllister for Salazar and you find yourself looking at math which makes the games pitched by Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer more crucial because you need to win three out of every five, more or less, to win a division.

It feels more crucial because the Indians are already 0-3 in games started by Kluber.  Stat geeks will tell you that Kluber is pitching well, but that actually makes it worse; you need to win two-thirds of his starts, and you know there will be a couple of games where he just doesn’t have it, so in a way you are eating away at the number of games that you can afford to lose with him on the mound, and you will need to make up for that by stealing a game that you don’t expect to win.

It feels crucial because we are 5.5 games behind already.  With the next eleven games in the division, continuing to play poorly is doubly harmful since it aids the teams we need to keep pace with, creating the potential to fall behind by double digits by the first of May if it continues, setting up another season of playing catch-up.

More from Away Back Gone

It feels crucial because last night was such a train wreck.  The bottom of the sixth was a nightmare of every possible bad play that could be made, with a bad throw by Brandon Moss, a bad decision by Jose Ramirez, a throw home by Kluber when the runner on third did not try to advance, and two wild pitches.  It was the kind of inning that a good team just cannot have.

Still, it may be more discouraging that the Indians still could have won if they had mustered any sort of offense.  Mike Pelfrey has not been an average major league pitcher since 2010, and he is right handed, so with Kluber on the mound this should have been over early, especially with Pelfrey walking four in five innings.  Instead, there were wasted opportunities and bad fundamentals, the type of game that needs to be erased from the memory by a strong effort today.

Next: Friday 5: Player to watch on the roadtrip

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