Somehow the Indians survived round one versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. What a matchup: Two last-place teams coming off a combined 10-straight losses (six for the Tribe, four for the Pirates). The Tribe is 30-42 with the worst bullpen in the league and the Bucs are 31-38. Did they just give tickets away to this game?
Two Indians made it interesting for Tribe fans: Grady Sizemore, who returned after three weeks on the disabled list, and David Huff, who pitched eight quality innings.
Sizemore hit a three-run triple in the third and had an amazing over-the-shoulder catch in the fourth to take away a possible triple from Robinzon Diaz. Huff, who had a 17.55 ERA in May, was excellent through eight shutout innings, making adjustments for batters, only giving up four hits.
But manager Eric Wedge took Huff out after the eighth, after throwing 112 pitches. I know you don’t want your pitchers to be overextended, but was this the right move? Huff had arm problems in the spring, but do you really want to go to the bullpen that has blown 13 saves and lost 10 games in the opposition's final at-bat. Why not keep Huff in for at least one more batter? Would he really be any worse than the bullpen?
If this were a good—or even mediocre—bullpen, Tribe fans and players (including Huff, who stood watching nervously in the dugout) would have felt more comfortable in the ninth. But this bullpen is horrible.
When Matt Herges came in, no one thought, “This should be an easy inning.” Of course the first batter Herges faced hit a home run. That was the most predictable moment of the game. Adam LaRoche, who had a single in the first, hit a 454-foot long ball to put the Pirates on the board. Of course Wedge kept Herges in the game. That was the second predictable event to happen in the ninth. And of course pinch-hitter Brandon Moss hit an RBI single off Herges.
After this non-surprising chain of events, Wedge sent out the Tribe’s $10-million closer, Kerry Wood. He hasn’t pitched since the weekend when he had back-to-back blown saves to the Cubs.
At this point I was convinced we were going to lose, and I hate to say this, but I was embarrassed for the Indians and the fans. How could Cleveland just give another game away, and to the Pirates? How could fans ever be confident in the team if this was going to be how they played?
At first, it didn’t look good. Jack Wilson hit an RBI double and Andrew McCutchen hit a single, putting the Pirates within one run of tying the game. Wood walked Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez to load the bases, giving an entire fan base a collective punch in the stomach. At this point I had to walk away. I just couldn’t take watching the bullpen blow it…again.
But the first surprise of the ninth came when Adam LaRoche came through for the Indians, striking out to end the game. Somehow the Tribe survived, despite their best efforts to lose another one.