The Cleveland Indians have already dropped the first two games of the ALDS and not all of the blame is on the players. Even Terry Francona needs to change.
I’ll just say it. Terry Francona has a problem: He’s a tinkerer. He over thinks pitching matchups and just can’t help himself.
Starting pitcher rolling? He’s retired this guy twice before? No, take him out and play matchup ball.
It rarely ever works (although to be fair there’s no way to know if the outcomes would be different) and it showed up in Game 2.
Carrasco was dealing, just 77 pitches mid-way through the sixth when he was pulled. He did let Altuve and Bregman on to start the inning but he retired Gurriel and looked to be able to get back on track.
Too bad. Ring ring, call to the bullpen. Look, Gonzalez had Carrasco’s number on the day. He was already 2-2 with two singles coming into that at bat. So the move wasn’t a totally crazy one.
Except that in 2018 with this Cleveland Indians team it certainly was. With the way the bullpen has been pitching this year it certainly was.
2016 Andrew Miller would have come in and locked things down until the ninth inning. But again, not this year, not this version.
Hit to right field, Melky misplays it and the Astros have all they need to win.
There were many other reasons why the Indians lost. They haven’t been hitting or even been putting the ball in play. But that just further highlights how important these pitching moves are by Francona.
This isn’t a new occurrence either.
Back at the beginning of August the Indians started a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. If you don’t quite remember the game, what you should remember is how Shohei Ohtani absolutely lit it up with his first career two home run game and a career high four hits and nobody stopped talking about it for days.
But what was lost from that game was how the Indians essentially lost it. Similar situation to Saturday’s game actually.
Clevinger pitched a solid six innings, giving up three runs but had been perfect the last three innings. The game was tied at three going into the seventh, which meant it was time for Tinker Terry to go to work.
Back from rehab, Miller takes the seventh, survives it. Okay, everything good.
To the eighth.
Oliver Perez enters to face Ohtani. Single. Leave him in? Why would you when you can run out another pitcher as if they’re a batter in a lineup.
Adam Cimber comes in and totally blows the roof off the place. Four runs and the Angels run away with it, winning 7-4.
The bullpen is bad and there’s no way around that, I get it. But in what world do you not just roll with the guy who comes out and gets a strikeout? Why do you need three different pitchers against three different batters? Plus, if everybody knows the bullpen is terrible, why would you try to pull as many guys from it as you possibly can?
My own theory is that this all traces back to Game 7 in 2016. Francona chooses to stick with Bryan Shaw after the rain delay, it backfires, they lose out on the title. Since then Francona has had to consistently hear about making a mistake with that and I think it’s molded him into an over-thinker.
Francona is a wonderful manager. He’s clearly had a huge impact on this team’s success and there’s nobody out there right now who could possibly be better for the Indians. Calling for his firing is totally absurd and out of the question.
But just like the entire team does, he has to take a hard look in the mirror and get his act together. Because there is no more messing around no more screwing up.
It’s win, or go home.