I don’t get it. I’ve always said Terry Francona is good at managing a lineup. He seems to have a knack for knowing when a player needs a day off. But I have been critical of his in-game decisions forever. Last night’s game against the White Sox just added more fuel my fire.
In a scoreless game in the top of the 7th inning Indians First Baseman Yonder Alonso hits a lead-off single. Catcher Yan Gomes is next up. In my head I’m thinking you bunt up Alonso to get him into scoring position. Heck, this late in the game, you may even consider running for Alonso, too. Greg Allen and Eric Gonzalez were both available on the bench.
Here’s the deal- Yan Gomes is not the strongest hitter on the team. THIS SITUATION SCREAMS BUNT! Instead of bunting Gomes swings away and promptly hits into a double play. Second Baseman Jason Kipnis lines out to second to end the inning. The game is still tied. It gets worse in the 9th.
With the game still scoreless Right Fielder Melky Cabrera leads the inning off with a walk. Francona does the right thing and puts Greg Allen in to run for Cabrera. Brandon Guyer is the next batter. WE HAVE TO BUNT HIM UP. But we don’t. Instead Guyer hits into a fielder’s choice. Allen is out at second. Guyer safe at first.
We could have had Allen on second, guaranteed, with one out, instead we have Guyer on first with one out. Yonder Alonso is the next batter. He promptly singles to center. So, instead of a 1-0 lead, we have runners at first and second with one out. Gomes and Kipnis strike out swinging. The game remains tied.
While we’re on the subject of second-guessing Francona, why he didn’t hit for Gomes or Kipnis (remember Gonzalez was still available) also baffled me. Kipnis has struggled all season and Gomes (like we talked about earlier) is far from our best hitter. Gomes struck swinging and Kipnis popped out. Kipnis was already 0 for 3 against Chicago’s lefty starter Carlos Rodon and he had to face another lefty in Jace Fry. I just don’t get it.
The Tribe lost the game in the bottom of the 9th on a leadoff home run by Daniel Palka. It was frustrating to watch. At worst, the homer should have tied the game.
I think Terry Francona let’s his loyalty to his players get in the way of making in-game decisions. These were two situations in a scoreless game where we could have set ourselves up to win. We should have bunted, pinch ran, and used pinch hitters in one or both of those situations, instead we did nothing, and got nothing.
If nothing else, this is a good time in the season where we could also be working on these situations for the playoffs. We’re up 11 games in the standings. We would know going in who can execute a sacrifice bunt or a pinch hit when we need it. When it really matters.