Friends, yesterday Matthias waxed poetically, rightfully, about the futility and misery of Cleveland. As usual, he is correct in every respect. We all know about the river on fire, the brutal winters and face-meltingly hot summers, despite the fact that the sun only shines there 163 days a year. Also, Cleveland is the birthplace of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, who have been lying to the American public for years as the group possesses no anthropomorphized bones and very little harmony. Then there's the Indians. First, there's their mind-blowingly insensitive mascot. Seriously, when my climate-change denying dad thinks the mascot is a problem...it's a problem. Then, there's the 1995 ALCS. Paul Assenmacher, I will loathe you until the end of my days, and I will pass this on to my nephew when he arrives in August and he will in turn loathe your progeny, an unbroken chain of resentment. Finally, there's the fact that the Mariners always seem to lose in the soulless chamber of Progressive Field. Maybe it's the inherent irony of playing in a place called Progressive Field under the ketchup-colored terrifying rictus of Chief Wahoo. Maybe it's that infernal drum. Oh, I hear you saying: But Kate, last year we won 2 of 3 there! And the year before that! But remember 2013? When we lost all four games? Three of them as walk-offs? Good times. Also, don't contradict me when I'm trying to make a point.
Anyway, all of this is to say I don't expect a win when the Mariners roll up to the concrete mausoleum the Indians call a ballpark. But Taijuan Walker was three years old in 1995. Unlike me and other fans of the era, he doesn't see the Indians logo and immediately feel a deep and creeping sense and shame. In fact, Tai has posted an ERA of just .45 in his three starts against Cleveland, insert your Betty White vehicle joke here (is that show still on, even? Bless you, Betty, you deserve better). Indeed, after today it might be Juan Uribe who feels that sense of shame:
Aww, Juan. It was a strike. Taijuan was electric today, pitching six innings and striking out six while walking no one, which is sure a nice change from yesterday, eh? Although it took him a fair amount of pitches--110 in his six innings--Tai mixed his off-speed stuff effectively with his devastating fastball to keep batters off-balance all day. Check out this dizzying pitch speed chart from Brooks:
What's impressive here is even though Walker had to throw a lot of pitches--his strike percentages by inning were 70, 72, 82, 58, 69 and 74, so he was throwing strikes, the Indians were just annoyingly fouling them off a bunch--his velocity doesn't dip unless he wants it to. He's still touching 96 when his pitch counts are in the triple digits. This is very, very fun stuff.
The less fun stuff: again, the offense looked flat. Salazar is an excellent pitcher, but he clearly didn't have his best stuff today. He issued three walks, and it probably could have been more if the Mariners had just C-d the Z a little more. My notes from the game are sloppy (what do you mean beer-stained no one said beer-stained I resent that), but from what I have marked down, no one took a full count until Iannetta in the second managed to work a walk, thanks in part to a very iffy call on a ball that looked strike-y to me. The walk sent Lind, who was on base with a first-pitch-swinging single, to second, and then Norichika Aoki, delightful baseball player, came up and did this:
A hit! With RISP! It can be done! We did it, everyone! This would prove to be all the Mariners would need, as Cleveland would manage to score once under circumstances we need not repeat here, but the bullpen came in and once again was nails, by which I mean I bit my nails down to the quick watching them. But it would turn out to be yes country for old men, as both Peralta and Benoit worked scoreless innings, bringing us to Cishek. Before the game, I listened to an interview with Cishek, and he just seems like the nicest guy. Closers are a strange breed, a rara avis, and Cishek--with his lanky frame and premature silvering hair and eyes that seem to be both full of child-like wonder and the suffering of a thousand years--is no different, but I find myself becoming oddly enamored with him. I certainly wish the best for him. So, it was nice to see him come in and absolutely shut down the Indians in the ninth, ending on this beauty:
All right! Way to go, Shrek, you Portuguese Prince. Anyway, it sort of feels like we got away with one here, but I will take it, and you will too. Here's hoping Karns can bring home a series win tomorrow, and the bats will wake up a little.
(Thanks as always to the brilliant @whoisjoserivera for the images)