6/13: Indians vs. Nationals

Let the Stephen Strasburg Show begin.

Today’s 1:05 p.m. ET game is on WTAM and WKYC Channel 3 locally and TBS nationally.

cle2.gifINDIANS (25-36):
CF Crowe, RF Choo, C Santana, DH Hafner, LF Kearns, 1B Branyan, 3B Peralta, 2B Valbuena, SS Hernandez. LHP David Huff (2-7, 5.46).




was2.gifNATIONALS (30-33):
2B Guzman, CF Morgan, DH Zimmerman, 1B Dunn, LF Willingham, C Rodriguez, RF Morse, SS Desmond, 3B Gonzalez. RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 2.57).


You know, the only thing worse than Huff’s starting performance might be Laffey’s in AAA, because we could really use him to turn it around.
But, of course, that all pales in comparison to Sipp. Anyone else follow AC’s twitter? I believe his comment was “who is this guy and what did he do with Tony Sipp?” Wouldn’t we all like to know…
It is a little sad that we let a guy walk 5 people and only managed to score 1 run (a homer at that), but these things happen when Branyan’s in the line-up, guaranteeing a certain number of K’s a game.

Branyan definitely seems to have knack for not getting hits when it matters. And what was up with Crowe bunting with a guy on and two out, as well? Strasburg seemed all discombobulated, concerned about the mound, walks Hernandez, and then Crowe bunts on the first pitch? He needed to try to work the count there and get on base for Choo, but at the least make Strasburg work a little harder. It’s the second or third time I’ve seen Crowe bunt with 2 outs. Don’t get that at all. Crowe just makes so many boneheaded plays. He got a little lost too on that hit off Herrmann, and then just seemed to forget to open his glove to catch the ball when he finally got back on it … And I know Valbuena somehow managed to get a hit, but what is wrong with the guy? He took two pitches right down the middle of the plate for a strikeout, and then seemed to think the second one was ball 4. If he’s that clueless about the strike zone he shouldn’t be out there. I thought he was turning it around at the beginning of this month but now he’s back to looking helpless at the plate, and I think they should call up Bixler or Josh Rodriguez to take his place. Of course, the problem is Phelps is at 2b down in Columbus now, so Valbuena doesn’t even have a place in the minors anymore, but whatever, he’s been so incredibly awful that I don’t think he has a future in Cleveland.

He could always play short in Columbus. I don’t know that his position is as important right now as getting him to hit is.
Here’s the thing about the Crowe bunts: isn’t someone yelling at him? It’s one thing if he does it on his own, but to keep doing it? Someone’s GOT to be yelling at him, yes? And if not, why not?
Looking forward to Masterson’s next start to see if he can keep it going. Anyone have the quotes from Olney’s blog the other day? I know he wrote about Masterson’s recent changes.

here’s a snippet from Buster Olney’s blog posting from Sunday followed by his story on Justin Masterson from Saturday:

1. Carlos Santana has had an immediate impact on the Indians, and on Saturday, Fausto Carmona won again. Odds are that the Indians are going to be moving a veteran or two before the trade deadline, but they figure to be a better team in the weeks ahead, behind the pitching of Carmona, Justin Masterson and Jake Westbrook. This would not be an easy team to face right now.

Masterson’s Special Delivery:
When a pitcher dominates former teammates the way Justin Masterson did the other day, with an 11-0 shutout, baseball etiquette requires that pitcher to remain diplomatic afterward, to not call attention to the performance. A pitcher in that situation should be like a presidential candidate who waits for the concession speech rather than announcing victory.

And in the hours after Masterson shut down the Red Sox, he did hear from some of his former teammates, through text messages and brief comments on the field.

“I told you eight innings, and then a no-decision,” Manny Delcarmen told him.

Mike Lowell walked over to him before Thursday’s game and gave him a “Masty — good job, good job.”

Masterson was absolutely overpowering, in a way he was not earlier this season, his sinker diving sharply; it was if the Red Sox hitters only saw the top half of the baseball as they tried to hit against him Wednesday. Masterson induced 17 ground-ball outs, and according to the good folks at ESPN Stats & Information, Boston hitters were 1-for-11 on pitches in the zone. In some cases, Masterson used his slider to finish off hitters: Boston was 0-for-9 swinging at the 18 sliders he threw.

Masterson had a 6.13 ERA on May 24, but he has thrown much better over his past three starts, allowing only four runs in his past 21.1 innings. The problem he was having, Masterson says, is that he was not getting on top of the ball in his pitching motion. “I was getting around the ball,” he said.

When a sinkerballer gets around the ball, the pitch moves on a more horizontal plane; when he gets on top of it, it moves downward. The difference is dramatic.

So he has made some changes to simplify his delivery. He stands a little bit taller on the mound, and separates his hands while he’s still over the rubber to give himself more time to get his throwing arm in proper position in his delivery. What the changes have enabled him to do, Masterson says, is control his fastball better. “My release point has been more consistent,” he said over the phone the other day, “and given me the ability to repeat my delivery better.”

They’re the same sort of challenges teammate Fausto Carmona has faced through his career. In fact, most of the innings thrown by the Cleveland rotation belong to sinkerballers: Masterson, Carmona and Jake Westbrook. While each of them is a little different in their stuff and style, their checkpoints are similar, as is their barometer for success: ground balls.

Going into their weekend series with the Nationals, the Indians ranked first in ground balls among rotations in the majors:

1. Indians, 51.4 percent
2. Cardinals, 51.3 percent
3. Rockies, 50.3 percent

The Indians’ individual rankings among all pitchers for ground-ball ratio: Justin Masterson is second, Fausto Carmona seventh and Jake Westbrook 11th.

The Indians beat the Nationals on Friday, as Carlos Santana made his major league debut.

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