Little Stories within the Big Picture
A Taxed Tribe Bullpen – It was around the time that Mike Clevinger’s pitch count started creeping toward 100 in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s contest that I began wondering about an overlooked potential side effect of all these close, stressful games the Indians have found themselves in lately.
Since August 7 (which includes last Wednesday’s “bullpen game” against Texas), the Indians bullpen has logged 32.1 innings. Seven pitchers, including late-game workhorses Tyler Clippard, Oliver Perez, Nick Goody, and Brad Hand, have logged three or more innings in this span.
This may seem like a trivial thing to pay attention to considering the numbers don’t sound high, but these bullpen innings have been about as high-leverage, high-stress as can be. There’s a difference between coming into a 10-3 ballgame to get some work in and repeatedly being called upon to shut the door in one-run affairs against elite offensive teams like Minnesota and Boston.
And now the Indians will send three consecutive young starting pitchers–two of them rookies–to the mound in a series against the best team in the AL on their own stomping grounds. We knew this stretch of the Indians’ schedule was going to be a gauntlet for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the biggest of them will turn out to be the high usage of almost every available reliever.
The Return of Yasiel Puig – Yasiel Puig’s suspension has come to a merciful end. Franmil Reyes performed adequately in the cleanup spot in Puig’s absence, notching a couple of homers for his trouble. But for the most part it was clear that the Tribe missed their shiny new right fielder in the heart of the lineup, especially as they failed to mount anything even closely resembling a rally against Boston’s bullpen on Wednesday.
Despite the way they’ve played over the last two months, the Indians come into this series as an underdog. That probably matters to just about everyone except the guys in the clubhouse, and you can bet all 25 of them wouldn’t have it any other way. Strap in for what figures to be yet another nail-biter of a series as the Tribe aims to keep the AL Central crown.