Game #72 at Seattle

Safeco Field | 10:05 | Van Benschoten vs. Felix Hernandez | Box You call yourself a Pirates fan, and you didn’t see this one coming from a mile away? The Mariners won Thursday night, 3-0. John Van Benschoten pitched a solid game, but he wasn’t able to match zeros with Felix Hernandez. A night after Jeff Weaver threw a four-hit shutout, King Felix blanked the Pirates over eight innings. J.J. Putz closed out the...

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A Victorious Afternoon for the Tribe

boxscore (Photos by NancyZ)
Trent Jewett congratulates Michael Ryan  --- photo by NancyZ
It started out like the previous two games between the Indianapolis Indians and the Pawtucket Red Sox: two teams battling, going up by one run, tying it up, going up by another run or two, tying it up again. Then the Indians broke it open with three runs in the 8th inning, and this time didn’t let the Red Sox catch up. The Indians beat the Red Sox 6-3 this afternoon at Victory Field.
Pawtucket starter Jon Lester kept the Indians scoreless for the first two innings, giving up only one walk to C Humberto Cota. The Indians first hit and first run came in the 3rd inning, as LF Michael Ryan (photo) led off the inning with a rocket shot just inside the right field foul pole for a solo home run.
“[John] Lester is a tough pitcher, so I just tried to react to the pitch as best I could”, said Ryan after the game. “I put a good swing on the ball and, luckily, it wrapped just inside the foul pole.”
Luis Matos and Hensley Meulens ---photo by NancyZ
The Red Sox came right back in the top of the 4th inning. Lead-off hitter LF Bobby Scales tripled all the way to the 418′ mark in left-center field. He scored easily when 1B Jeff Bailey grounded out.
The Indians took the lead again in the 5th inning. Michael Ryan smashed another long ball, this one to center field. At first, it looked like it was going over the wall like his first hit, and PawSox CF Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t running back very fast. Then the swirling wind came into play, and Ellsbury suddenly picked up his speed. He made a leaping catch just in front of the wall — and then the ball popped out of his glove when he crashed into the wall, allowing Ryan to reach third base safely. Einar Diaz, with the DH duties today, walked to put runners on the corners. CF Luis Matos (photo, with hitting coach “Bam Bam” Meulens) popped a gentle single into left field, to bring home Ryan and break the tie. SS Brian Bixler walked, and RF Yurendell de Caster came to the plate with the bases were loaded with no one out. De Caster grounded to shortstop to start a double play, but Diaz, who had been on third base, was still able to score, to put the Indians up by two runs. The inning ended when Brad Eldred hit a foul pop toward the Indians’ dugout.

Michael Tejera  -photo by NancyZ
Indians’ starter Michael Tejera (photo) , in his 6th and longest start of the season, took the Tribe into the 7th inning. He gave up only three hits and one walk scattered over the first 6 innings, and only one of those runners (Scales) came around to score. Tejera walked 1B Jeff Bailey to start the 7th inning, and then struck out RF Brandon Moss. At that point, he had thrown 101 pitches (59 strikes), and his afternoon’s work was done. Josh Sharpless came in to relieve Tejera. Sharpless first walked C Kevin Cash, and then got DH Michael Tucker to tap a grounder right back to him — which allowed the base runners to move to second and third bases. 3B Chad Spann lined a single into left field, scoring both Bailey and Cash, to tie the game again. A quick ground out by SS Alex Prieto ended the inning.
Reliever Mark Corey pitched the top of the 8th for the Indians. He got into some difficulty with two outs, when LF Bobby Scales singled into left-center, and the next two batters, Jeff Bailey and Brandon Moss both walked to load the bases. But Corey calmly got pinch-hitter David Murphy to hit a pop up to Tribe 2B Luis Ordaz, getting out of the jam without allowing a run to score.
Pawtucket’s Edgar Martinez entered the game in relief of starter Jon Lester in the 6th. Martinez pitched to three batters in each inning. In each inning, he allowed one batter to reach base — Luis Ordaz on a walk in the 6th, and Luis Matos by being hit on the jersey in the 7th. In each inning, though, the respective Luis was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Brad Eldred scores on a suicide squeeze  -- photo by NancyZ
In the bottom of the 8th, the Indians got tired of the see-sawing score, and took a decisive lead. The PawSox brought in reliever Bryan Corey (no relation to Tribe reliever Mark Corey), and SS Brian Bixler led off with a walk. Then RF Yurendell de Caster singled into right field, and 1B Brad Eldred loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch, also on his jersey. 3B Jose Hernandez slapped a grounder back to the mound, which bounced off Corey’s glove before bouncing over toward Joe McEwing, who had been moved from third base to shortstop. By then, the ball was moving slowly, and McEwing had to charge in to get it, so he didn’t have time to turn a double play or throw home, but could only throw to first to get Hernandez. Bixler scored on the play, and de Caster and Eldred advanced to third and second bases. C Humberto Cota lined a single into center field, to score de Caster, and move Eldred to third base. Then 2B Luis Ordaz tapped a suicide squeeze bunt that bounced high toward the first-base side. Pitcher Bryan Corey caught it, but with Eldred running on the pitch (photo), Corey only had time to tag out Ordaz as he ran past, and Eldred scored. A single by Michael Ryan advanced Cota to third base, but then Einar Diaz grounded out to end the inning, with the Indians up by three runs.
Luis Ordaz restrained by teammates -- photo by NancyZ
There was a moment of shouting and jawing, after Luis Ordaz was tagged out on the suicide squeeze bunt. Ordaz and Bryan Corey had a few words, and as Ordaz started walking away, more words came from the Pawtucket dugout and manager Ron Johnson came out of the dugout toward Ordaz. Other players intervened quickly, however, and nothing more came of it.
Brian Rogers started pitching the 9th inning for the Tribe, but his control seemed off, and he walked the first two batters, Michael Tucker and Chad Spann. One more reliever, Franquelis Osoria, who had pitched two innings yesterday, was brought in to replace Rogers.
Michael Ryan stands in front of Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson -- photo by NancyZ
George Kottaras, who had entered the game in a defensive change in the 8th inning, smashed a screaming liner toward right field –caught by Brad Eldred as he leapt into the air. Eldred quickly took three steps to touch first base and double off Spann, and then threw to second base, and almost caught Tucker off base too. Jacoby Ellsbury ended the game when he grounded out to second base.
Corey and Corey were the pitchers of record — Indians’ Mark Corey got the win, his first of the season, and Pawtucket’s Bryan Corey took the loss, his 4th of the season. Franquelis Osoria recorded his 6th save of the season.
Bixler is safe at second -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Michael Ryan, who was only a double short of hitting for the cycle. He hit a homer just inside the right field foul pole to start the scoring in the 3rd inning, a triple in the 5th inning, and a single in the 8th. Three hits, two runs scored, and one RBI. What was different today for Ryan? “I’ve been seeing pitches better and swinging the bat stronger. I’ve been putting in a lot of extra work with [hitting coach Hensley] “Bam Bam” [Meulens]. Hopefully, I will catch fire and continue to help this team win.”
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Brad Eldred’s unassisted double play in the 9th inning — which was nearly a triple play.
Who do you think has been the Indians’ MVP for the first half of the season? Go here and let me know your opinion by clicking on the ‘comments’ button.
Don’t forget to vote for the Indians to be members of the International League All-Star team! Voting ends on Friday. Go to either of these to vote:
Go Tribe!

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Three Thoughts on Our Developing Rotation

An off-topic comment a few days ago led to this post. I’ve been neglecting talk of the rotation as of late, instead writing about the plot lines surrounding the bats, bench and bullpen. This morning that changes. If you’ve read or listened to an interview of Dave Littlefield recently, you’ve likely noticed a reference to the fact that the Pirates’ rotation is entirely homegrown. Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Paul...

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Game #71 at Seattle

Safeco Field | 10:05 | Maholm vs. Jeff Weaver | Box Jeff Weaver looked great. The Pirates lost, 7-0. Keep in mind that this can only get worse. In their next four games, the Pirates face Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey. Our offense was very bad. The bats managed a mere four hits off the worst starting pitcher in baseball. I can’t wait to see what they do against guys with Cy Young-caliber stuff....

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Last Year's Trade Deadline Could've Been a Lot Worse

I don’t often write about being right … but for some reason, I feel vindicated. I’m sure Dave Littlefield does, too. A long time ago, during the off-season, I believe, I put up a post about how the Pirates’ 2006 trade deadline deals weren’t that awful. No, we didn’t maximize our returns—but the junk we traded away wasn’t worth much to begin with. I was laughed at. Consider this a...

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Einar Is the Hero in the Tenth

boxscore (Photos by NancyZ)
Einar Diaz was the hero -- photo by NancyZ
Another close game with the Pawtucket Red Sox, another see-sawing score, another walk-off win for the Indians. This time, the hero was C Einar Diaz (photo), who brought in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning, giving the Indians the 4-3 win over the Red Sox at Victory Field. It was also another disappointing outing for Red Sox reliever Travis Hughes, who allowed the Indians to score the winning run for the second night in a row.
It was Pawtucket’s turn to get on the scoreboard first in this game. CF Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game against Tribe starter Marty McLeary by grounding a single under the glove of the diving 1B Brad Eldred. Ellsbury stole second base and moved to third when Pawtucket’s 3B Joe McEwing grounded out. A double into the left-center field gap by RF David Murphy scored Ellsbury. McLeary then settled down and struck out the next two batters, DH Michael Tucker and LF Brandon Moss, to end the inning.
Brad Eldred's Home Run -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians tied it up in the bottom of the 2nd. Pawsox starter David Pauley had retired the top of the order in the 1st inning. But the Tribe’s 2nd inning started off with a solo bomb from 1B Brad Eldred (photo). He smashed a long long fly to the wall in straight-away center field, which had Pawtucket’s CF Jacoby Ellsbury climbing the wall in a vain attempt to reach it. It was Eldred’s 6th home run for the Indians this season.
The Indians picked up another run in the 3rd inning. SS Luis Ordaz led off the inning by lining a single into right field. 2B Matt Kata followed by looping another single into center field. DH Brian Bixler tried to advance them with a sacrifice bunt, but was out when his third bunt attempt went foul. RF Yurendell de Caster doubled into center field, scoring Ordaz, to break the tie. A walk to 3B Russ Johnson loaded the bases, but Humberto Cota, who started the game as catcher, grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing out Johnson to end the rally.

Marty McLeary  -- photo by NancyZ
Marty McLeary (photo) had kept the Red Sox off the board in the 2nd inning, and also in the 3rd inning despite an attempt at a rally. With two out in the 3rd, David Murphy singled and Michael Tucker walked on 4 pitches. Both runners advanced when McLeary threw a wild pitch. But McLeary ended the rally before it could really get underway, when he again struck out Brandon Moss to end the inning.
Pawtucket came back to tie the score again in the top of the 4th inning. With one out, 2B Bobby Scales singled to right and C George Kottaras blasted a double to the 405′ sign in center field. Scales motored all the way from first to cross the plate and tie the game. SS Ed Rogers grounded out, allowing Kottaras to advance to third. Jacoby Ellsbury had the crowd holding its collective breath as he hit a long fly ball deep to center. It might have been a home run in most ballparks in the league, but not in Victory Field, and not with Luis Matos patrolling center field. Matos turned his back on the infield and ran back almost to the wall, turning to look first over one shoulder then the other, and finally arriving at just the right spot at just the right time, and catching the ball with his back still to the infield. That ended the inning and kept another run off the board.
Luis Matos -- photo by NancyZ
Of course, since he’d just made that spectacular catch in the top of the inning, who else would be leading off the bottom of the 4th — Luis Matos, of course (photo). He singled into center field to get another rally started. LF Michael Ryan walked. Luis Ordaz grounded into a fielder’s choice, with PawSox shortstop Ed Rogers scooping the grounder and flipping it to 3B Joe McEwing to force out Matos at third base. Matt Kata flied out to left field, but too short to let the runners tag up and advance. Brian Bixler, playing the DH role for this game, lined a single into right field. Michael Ryan was able to score easily from second base, ahead of the throw from RF David Murphy to C George Kottaras . But as the ball came in to Kottaras, Bixler was mid-way between first and second bases. Kottaras fired to SS Rogers covering second, and it looked like Bixler was going to be tagged out. Instead, Rogers threw back to Kottaras, in time to tag Luis Ordaz, who was trying to score after rounding third, while (he hoped) attention was diverted to Bixler. The inning ended with the Indians ahead by one run.
Marty McLeary again got into a little trouble in the top of the 5th inning, but again ended the PawSox hopes before they could really get started. Joe McEwing and David Murphy hit back-to-back singles, and McEwing advanced to third when Michael Tucker lined out to right field. With runners on the corners, McLeary struck out Brandon Moss for the third straight time, and then struck out 1B Jeff Bailey to end the inning. McLeary finished the 5th inning having thrown 108 pitches, 65 of them for strikes, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits, with one walk and 6 strikeouts.
Jesse Chavez -- photo by NancyZ
Reliever Jesse Chavez (photo) took over for McLeary. Chavez knew he was going to have to pitch more than one inning, since the Indians’ bullpen has been short-staffed and over-used lately. Chavez and Franquelis Osoria were the only two relievers who were realistically going to be available in this game. Chavez rose to the occasion. He pitched two scoreless innings in the 6th and 7th, giving up only one harmless hit, and hitting one batter, both of whom were left stranded on base.
The Pawsox came back in the 8th to tie the game again. Jeff Bailey led off with a double off the center field wall. He moved to third base when Bobby Scales hit a short swinging bunt towards first base, and was safe when neither Chavez nor Matt Kata could get to first base in time to take the throw from 1B Brad Eldred. A sacrifice fly by George Kottaras brought in Bailey with the tying run.
Franquelis Osoria  -- photo by NancyZ
Franquelis Osoria (photo), as expected, relieved Chavez in the top of the 9th. He also allowed 2 hits, including David Murphy’s fourth hit of the game, but also kept the baserunners from scoring.
The Indians were not having much luck against PawSox reliever Mike Burns. He pitched three scoreless innings, and scattered three hits, but the Tribe left all three baserunners stranded. Left-hander Craig Breslow pitched the 8th and 9th for the Indians, setting the side down in order, with three strikeouts and three balls hit to the shortstop, two grounders and one fly ball. That sent the game into extra innings.
Pawtucket made things interesting in the top of the 10th. Bobby Scales led off with a single to right field, and he advanced to second base on George Kottaras’s walk. Ed Rogers sacrifice bunted to move the runners to second and third, and an intentional walk to Jacoby Ellsbury loaded the bases with one out. Joe McEwing lined the first pitch into right field, but right at Yurendell de Caster, who threw the ball back to the infield so fast that the baserunners had no time to tag up. Then David Murphy lined the first pitch he saw into left field — right at Michael Ryan, ending the inning with the bases loaded, as the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.
Einar Diaz is congratulated after the winning RBI  - photo by NancyZ
The bottom of the 10th started with PawSox reliever Craig Breslow getting Yurendell de Caster to lift an easy fly ball to right field — one out. Brad Eldred slapped what looked like a routine grounder to shortstop. But the throw from SS Ed Rogers to first base went high, and as 1B Jeff Bailey caught it and tried to tag Eldred out, the ball popped out of Bailey’s glove — Eldred safe at first. A wild pitch by Breslow allowed Eldred to move easily to second base. Russ Johnson also lifted a fly ball to right field for a routine out, but too short for Eldred to consider tagging up and advancing to third base. Next up was Einar Diaz, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Humberto Cota in the 6th inning. Diaz took the first pitch, a ball, and then smacked the second pitch into left field. Eldred was running from second with the swing, and as the crowd screamed, he motored into home as the throw from LF Brandon Moss came in a little up the line, and Eldred slid in without a tag to score the winning run. The Indians mobbed Diaz (photo) for his game-winning RBI, and the game was over.
“I was just trying to get a big lead [off second base] when we got two outs”, said Brad Eldred in the post-game interview. “As soon as [Einar] Diaz put the ball in play, I was thinking ‘score’ all the way. I didn’t really look at [manager and third-base coach] Trent [Jewett]. I knew their left fielder [Moss] was either going to catch it for the third out or I was going to score.”
And did Eldred think about the possibility of colliding with PawSox catcher George Kottaras, whose listed weight is about half of Eldred’s listed weight?
“You have to be prepared for the collision, but once I saw him [Kottaras] move up the line to catch the ball, I knew I would score. I just hopped up and ran to tackle [Einar] Diaz.”
Craig Breslow, who had allowed Eldred to reach base, was tagged with the loss and with Eldred’s run, even though the run was unearned. Pawtucket batters had 14 hits, including 4 by David Murphy, 3 by Bobby Scales, and 2 doubles by George Kottaras.
The Indians put up 11 hits, including 3 singles by Luis Matos, 2 hits by Yurendell de Caster, and 2 hits by Luis Ordaz.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Einar Diaz, of course, with the game-winning RBI single into left field in the bottom of the 10th.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Luis Matos’s back-to-the-infield running catch of Jacoby Ellsbury’s long fly ball in the 4th inning. It looked almost like he knew where the ball was going to land, and he just had to get there and stick out his glove, and the ball would plop right in.
Brian Bixler was caught stealing second base in the first inning. It was his first time caught stealing this season, giving him 15 steals in 16 attempts.
This was the Indians’ 7th extra-inning game of the season, and the third extra-inning game against the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Tribe is now 5-2 in extra innings. It was Pawtucket’s 12th extra-inning game, and their record is now 6-6 in extra innings.
Matt Kata has now played in four games for the Indians — at four different defensive positions.
Sean Burnett reported that he felt good after Monday’s start, in which he was limited to a pitch count of about 50. (He actually threw 56.) He expects to make his next start as usual.
Please let me know who you think is the Indians MVP for the first half of the 2007 season: here
Go Tribe!

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