Player of the Game
This one goes to Shelley Duncan for his great pinch hit appearance in the 8th inning (more on that later). Duncan scored 3.73 'Player of the Game' points for his 2 run single, extra-base and run scored. Duncan has really taken advantage of Travis Hafner's injury and has won two 'Player of the Game' awards in the last three games, his only two of the season. Matt LaPorta was in the running for today's award as well until he allowed an unearned run in the 9th inning on one of the weirdest plays I've ever seen to end a game.
The Indians 4 run 8th inning was set up perfectly by two great at bats from Michael Brantley and Shelley Duncan. Brantley took an 0-2 count and fouled off pitches until he went the other way to left with a sharp single. After Asdrubal Cabrera was safe on an error and Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch, Shelley Duncan took 3 of the first 5 pitches he saw, including one ball that looked like it could have been strike three. Following that pitch, Duncan hit a ball deep to left-field that was almost a grand slam, but ended up being a single. The Indians scored 2 on that hit and 2 more later on a single by Orlando Cabrera to cement the victory.
The bullpen mafia was at it again tonight, with Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez and Chris Perez all pitching well. Pestano and Sipp each earned holds (number 6 for Pestano, 11 for Sipp) for their efforts and Chris Perez took home his 14th save of the season. So far this season, Pestano (1.42 ERA), Sipp (1.19), Rafael (1.02) and Joe Smith (1.88) all have ERAs lower than two and Chris Perez is sitting at 2.66. If there is anyone out there who doesn't think the Indians have one of the best bullpens in the majors, they aren't paying attention.
Baserunning continues to be a problem area for the Tribe as another three Indians were tagged out on the base paths today. Asdrubal was picked off third after hitting a triple in the first inning, following which, Shin-Soo Choo hit a single that would have scored him. Carlos Santana and Travis Buck were each doubled off first on air outs. Santana's was more forgiveable as it was a line drive to second that could have gotten over Ben Zobrist's head, but Buck was out on an easy fly to right. If Choo had been a little slower scoring on Santana's sacrifice fly, the run would have been negated by Buck getting out at first. Kenny Lofton was brought in during Spring Training to talk to the team about baserunning and the Indians started off really well in that aspect if the game. Maybe the Tribe should think about bringing him back as a permanent consultant or "base-running coach" if you will.
Jack Hannahan is currently in a monster slump after starting the season hot. In the last two games Hannahan is 0-7 with 4 strike outs, but his poor play goes back further than that. Using my 'Player of the Game' scoring system, Hannahan scored an average 1.84 'POG' points per game over his first 20 games (only Asdrubal Cabrera has averaged more than that so far this season). In his last 23 games he has averaged a 'POG' score of 0.38 which is worse than the season average of every Indian except Adam Everett. Jack isn't the only one slumping on the team. Orlando Cabrera has averaged onlt 0.02 'POG' points over his last 9 games and that includes today's score of 2.33. If these two guys continue slumping, it won't be long before Indians fans start calling for Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis.
Final Score: Cleveland Indians 7, Tampa Bay Rays 3