Cleveland Indians’ Bullpen Strong Despite Loss
The Cleveland Indians fell to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey stifled Indians’ hitters for most of the game, until the seventh inning when a major defensive mistake by Brett Lawrie (playing out of position at second base) allowed the Tribe to rally. Justin Masterson also pitched pretty well up until the sixth, but gave up three hits and two walks in the inning.
The bullpen for the Tribe was one of the few positive takeaways from the game. Josh Outman relieved Masterson in that sixth inning and was able to strand two runners on base to limit the damage. Then, embattled former closer John Axford pitched a flawless, 10-pitch seventh-inning, striking out one hitter. Axford certainly seemed much calmer in the low stress situation and was able to locate his fastball. Marc Rzepczynski and C.C. Lee combined to pitch a scoreless eighth.
Axford also employed another type of pitch tonight, using a quick pitch. This quick pitch struck out Jose Bautista, who was less than pleased about it. A pitch is considered “quick” when the pitcher does not come to a stopped, set position. This signals to the hitter that the pitcher is about to deliver the baseball. That is why it is extremely deceptive to the hitter if the pitcher throws the baseball all in one motion.
This type of pitch would be called a balk if runners are on base. If the bases are empty when there is a quick pitch, it is up to the umpire to decide if the pitcher was deliberately trying to deceive the hitter. If so, the pitch would automatically be called a ball. In this case, Axford got away with the quick pitch. It isn’t used very often anymore, but Axford has been successful with the pitch the few times he has used it this year.
The Cleveland pen will be crucial this season for the Tribe and has performed very well so far minus Axford’s blunders. Don’t expect the uncertainty in the back end of the bullpen to negatively affect the team, as Terry Francona will continue to put in whatever pitcher he believes will have the biggest matchup advantage.
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