Things were looking bleak for the Indians last night as early as the 4th inning. Justin Masterson lost command of everything, the Mariners capitalized, and the next thing you know the Tribe was down 8-1. Masterson, the ace of the staff who has looked anything but his past two outings, wouldn’t survive the inning. It was looking grim.
And then something funny happened…
Jack Hannahan doubled to lead off the top of the fifth and Jason Donald followed up with a single to right. With two on and none out Michael Brantley hit was should have been an easy 6-4-3 double play to Brendan Ryan. Instead, Ryan booted the grounder, Hannahan scored, and the Indians were off and rolling.
Jason Kipnis… single.
Shin-Soo Choo… 2 RBI single.
Carlos Santana… 3 run home run.
Shelly Duncan… walk.
Casey Kotchman… double.
Donald… sac fly.
8-8… game on.
The Indians knocked Kevin Millwood out of the game and it was 8-7 before he could even record an out in the 5th inning. By the time the Mariners could get the 3rd out and be booed off the field the game was tied. To say that this was a dramatic and unexpected turn of events would be an understatement. I almost turned the game off after Masterson was pulled, but thanks to the lack of other options I left it on. Best. Decision. Ever.
The Indians would eventually take the lead for good in the top of the 7th on an RBI single by Jason Donald that put them up 9-8.
With everything that happened during the game, the unquestioned hero of the day had to be the bullpen. They finally looked like the bullpen we came to know and love last season, throwing 5 innings of shutout baseball. Nick Hagadone, called up before the game to take Asdrubal Cabrera’s spot on the roster (Cabrera was placed on bereavement leave), pitched a near flawless 1.1 innings, and Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez each threw one inning apiece.
Of course, the Mariners wouldn’t go quietly into the night of the Pacific Northwest. Chris Perez got himself into a bit of trouble. But… before everyone jumps all over Perez… this wasn’t all his fault. After recording the first out, Kyle Seager singled to get the threat started. Then the highly touted Jesus Montero hit a ground ball to Jason Donald that should have been a game ending double play. Instead it took a wicked hop and ricocheted off of Donald’s face and out into center field.
All 14 Indians fans still watching were immediately sent into panic mode. I know this because I have a Twitter account. Thankfully, Perez was able to keep things under control. Michael Saunders flied out, Brendan Ryan walked to load the bases, and then John Jaso flied out to right. In the words of Tom Hamilton, “Ball game!”
This was a huge win. First, it showed the Indians that they can win games coming from behind. Second, the bullpen recovered from a really tough stretch to open the season and had their best night of the year thus far. Third, not only did they come from behind, but instead of getting down in the dumps after their ace imploded, they came right back the following inning and tied things up. That was huge.
The win put the Indians in a fantastic spot. It was a huge momentum boost and puts them over .500 (5-4) for the first time this season. They’ll also have the opportunity to take hold of the series tonight before facing off against Felix Hernandez on Thursday, a game that should favor the Mariners on paper.
And now a few quick observations on Jesus Montero behind the plate…
I understand that he’s a great hitter and is going to be the centerpiece of the Mariners lineup for years to come. However, the Mariners need to seriously consider a position change because he might be one of the worst defensive catchers I’ve ever seen. Yes, he’s 22 years old and as a young catcher there is plenty of time for him to grow and further develop into the position, but from what I watched last night I was left unimpressed. As someone who’s caught a lot of games, here’s what I saw.
First off, at times he looked uncomfortable receiving the ball, regularly having balls deflect off of his glove. Second, he struggled getting his body in front of balls in the dirt. At time Carlos Santana can get lazy behind the plate, but Montero regularly “olé’d” balls in the dirt, almost as if he refused to get hit. Third, and most importantly as displayed on Michael Brantley’s first inning steal, Montero’s footwork getting out of his crouch is too slow and his throwing motion too long. Yes, he has an impressive throwing arm, but it’s going to do him absolutely no good if he waste’s time getting into a proper throwing position and rearing back to throw.
Are these problems that can be corrected? Absolutely, but at what expense? How much time and effort do the Mariners want to spend on turning Montero into a legitimate catcher? Afterall, given the projections of Montero’s hitting ability why waste time on a position he’ll probably end up abandoning for longevity’s sake? It’s an interesting debate. One I’m sure the Mariners are probably already having internally and the same one the Indians are having concerning Santana.