Middle of the 1st, 5-0 Indians. A dialogue:
Meche: "Man, something's not right."
Price: "C'mon Gil, don't be a pussy."
Boone: "5-0? This one's over."
Sexson: "Coach, I don't feel too good."
Price: "Don't be a pussy, Rich."
Reed: "Wait, why am I not playing again?"
Sexson: "No, I really don't feel too good."
Franklin: "WHY CAN'T YOU GUYS EVER DO THIS FOR ME???"
Olivo: "That was the worst inning I've ever caught in my life."
Boone: "Nobody likes you, Miguel."
Valdez: "Push bunt or drag bunt?"
Winn: "Hey, does anyone here actually care anymore? Hell-ooooooooo?"
Ibanez: "Ichiro cares. Ain't that right?"
Ichiro: "I hit singles in mine. All the time."
Price: "Hey Willie, come clean this up. Richie's being a pussy."
Valdez: "They won't be expecting a push bunt or a drag bunt."
Beltre: "Of course they'll be expecting a bunt. Jesus."
Franklin: "IT ISN'T #%^*@$ING FAIR!!!"
Hargrove: "Hey Richie, you're up."
Boone: "What the hell kind of at bat was that?"
Hargrove: "Time for the second inning, boys. Stay focused."
There was pretty much nothing even the least bit encouraging about this game. Gil Meche started out awful, the lineup couldn't put anything together, and the fans (all 43,207 of them) completely lost interest by the fourth. I suppose we should've known that it wouldn't be our night when we saw Dave Niehaus wearing one of Reggie Dunlop's old suits in the broadcast booth before the game, but we're nothing if not an expectant and optimistic fan base. I think.
Today's Ricoh Scouting Report on Meche:
- Keep the ball down
- Avoid the big inning
Of course, what does Gil go on to do? Leave the ball up, and get himself into a big inning. So I guess Ricoh was right, in the way that I'd be right if I said "if one of the wings falls off that passenger jet, then it could be in some trouble." The first inning might very well have been Gil at his absolute worst. He was missing everywhere, with everything, and when pitches were finding the zone the Indians' hitters were getting great swings.
The first thought: Meche's elbow is hurt. It's possible, right? He was throwing hard, but most of a pitcher's velocity comes from the trunk (legs, hips, abs) instead of the arm. I don't think that's the case here, though. More likely, he came out excited about getting the start in front of a big crowd and tried to overthrow in the early going. The big clue that a guy is overexerting himself is when he throws a pitch above his normal velocity, and it misses the zone. So it was with Meche, who threw a 97mph fastball in the first that missed up high. Gil's at his best when he throws about 93 around the knees, so that should've tipped off the coaching staff that they needed to calm him down.
If I had to make a comparison, he looked like the 2004 pre-ASB Meche. Trying to nibble at the strike zone instead of pounding it with every pitch. He was missing up high pretty often, presumably trying to induce bad swings, but it wasn't working. Gil likes to throw high fastballs to get strikeouts, but when his sharp curve isn't working, hitters have no reason to chase the pitch. So it was last night, and it's no surprise that two of Meche's three strikeouts were of the "called" variety (hitters weren't expecting his curve to actually drop in and find the zone). It wasn't until the fourth inning that Meche really started to pitch better, adding command at the expense of a little velocity. Again, that's something to build off for the next start, but I'm really getting tired of saying that about Meche. Let me know when he pitches well for an entire game. When he tried a fake pick-off move with men on the corners in the second, I got the feeling like he just wasn't very focused on the guy at the plate. If Meche ever wants to become a successful pitcher, that needs to change.
But then, what could Gil do? Save for Winn, Ibanez, and Boone, nobody seems much for hitting right now. Nearly everyone in the starting lineup has a pretty good track record of producing at the plate, but damned if they look like it. Case in point: After Adrian Beltre took a four-pitch walk in the first, Richie Sexson swung at all three pitches he faced, getting a piece of one and missing the others. That's just not a sound approach. I'm getting pretty concerned that, someday, Richie's going to blow out his shoulder again swinging as hard as possible at a changeup. Sabathia made him look silly on a couple occasions last night, and it makes you wonder why anyone ever throws the guy fastballs.
Our new $114m bats are hitting a combined .223/.277/.397. RBI be damned; that's just awful. It's like having two Joe Credes anchoring the lineup. It's still too early to be concerned, but needless to say, I was expecting more, especially after Sexson's big Opening Day.
Willie Bloomquist hit the crap out of two balls last night, one an RBI sac fly to the track and the other a ground-rule double. Unfortunately, what I remember most is his gaffe on a short pop-up in the second, in pursuit of which he got a bad jump and which he later overran, allowing Sizemore to take an extra base. Best center fielder on the team, eh, Dave?
Wilson Valdez doesn't do anything at the plate, but he's an acrobatic defensive shortstop. In the top of the third, Olivo uncorked a wild throw to second trying to get Casey Blake stealing, but Valdez leapt to make a good catch and swung his glove around to apply the tag in one smooth motion. Later, he dove to catch a bad throw from Richie Sexson, and although the ump called the runner safe at second, it looked to me like Valdez kept his foot on the bag. Not that it really mattered.
The Aflac trivia question was to name the last Indians pitcher to win 20 games in a season. Ron Fairly's first guess: Steve Nagy. Ron Fairly's second guess: Steve Finley.
Something to note: Bret Boone has struck out 10 times in 70 plate appearances. Nothing remarkable, but it's an improvement on his career K rate (not to mention his '03 and '04 numbers). Again, it's early, but you wonder if his offseason laser eye surgery may be helping him see the ball better than he has in the past few years.
StroMotion is a John Madden wet dream.
Jeff Nelson is not a good pitcher. I will not be the least bit surprised if he ends the season having allowed a hit an inning with a BB/9 somewhere around 6. That said, he did provide the highlight of last night's game when he got Coco Crisp to swing - and miss - on a pitch that hit him. It was the kind of pitch that made you wonder if Jeff Nelson's been throwing a wiffleball all these years, because there's really no other way to explain it. Sliders aren't supposed to move two feet. How is it that this guy has ever managed to keep his arm healthy for a single full season, let alone several of them?
Signs that the announcers are bored: they start talking about the Sonics, Edgar Martinez's affinity for hamburgers, and Chris Bosio's no-hitter. Dave Valle took us back to 1993, when he caught the historic game. Player nicknames back then: "Bos" and "Val". Player nicknames today: "Shiggy" and "Boonie". Those Mariner marketing guys are creative geniuses.
The ball girl on the first base side last night looked like Amber Brkich.
Here's something I don't understand: There's an XM radio commercial that airs pretty often in which fans of rival teams are united by their love of listening to baseball games. Rivals shown in the ad: Red Sox/Yankees, Mets/Phillies, Giants/Dodgers, and...Angels/Orioles? What? Is Arte Moreno calling his team the Baltimore Angels of Anaheim now, or something? That one still catches me off guard.
Most Ominously-Named Pitchers of All Time:
- David Riske
- Grant Balfour
- Bob Walk