Redding for the Big Time
added 7/15/2001 by Steve Cutchen
Today Ryan and I had seats in the Crawford Boxes. So we spent our pregame time with the herd of folks chasing balls during the Indian's batting practice. Ryan brought his glove, and I brought my camera.
This was our first time for sitting in the Crawford Boxes. At least I THINK we were in the Crawford Boxes. We were so far into foul territory that I sometimes wondered. I don't understand how I can be buying tickets on the first day individual tickets go on sale and this is what I get. What am I doing wrong?
A lot like the Rangers game we saw with Elarton on the mound, I was concerned about this game because Redding was pitching against several strong hitters. Ellis Burks hits second with an OPS of .970. Then they have Roberto Alomar, Juan Gonzalez and Jim Thome at .972, 1.048 and 1.051. These guys can mash. Would Redding be able to hold them down?
And Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook, while also young, has shown better numbers than Tim. He comes in with a 2.93 ERA in mostly relief appearances. But he does have 2 starts, and we are notoriously bad against young pitchers that we see for the first time.
The only lineup surprise was Ward starting in left for Berkman. It worked out, too, with Ward going 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.
First Inning - An Early Test For Redding, An Early Exit For Spilman
Vizquel led off with a single on a 1-1 pitch for the Indians. And he scored on a triple by Gonzalez. This was just the start of a big day for Juan Gone. With two outs and Vizquel on second, Redding got ahead 0-2. But Gonzalez crushed the 1-2 pitch to center field. Thome then walked on 5 pitches, and I started to get worried. Diaz flied out to Ward, however, and the damage was limited to one run. Redding had thrown 26 pitches, an even split of 13 strikes and 13 balls. This was not characteristic of the young fireballer. He's got almost three times as many strikeouts as walks at the MLB level. Did he have his good stuff? Maybe not...
The bottom of the inning started inauspiciously for the Astros. Biggio worked Westbrook to a full count and then took ball 4 on a pitch below his knees. But Plate Umpire Randazzo began what was a pretty lousy job behind the plate by ringing up Biggio as he was trotting off the first. Batting Coach Harry Spilman evidently had a few unkind critiques of the call from the Astros dugout, and Randazzo allowed that he should continue watching the game from the clubhouse. From this point on, Randazzo was to suffer the ire of the Enron faithful on any close pitch that went against the home nine.
Then, further endearing the game's arbiters to the fans, U2 Montegue called Bagwell out on a steal where the ball was WAY off line toward first. Bags was tagged out before he was fully sliding. How the ball could have gotten there in time for the swipe tag to have made contact is beyond me. I leave it to those of you who saw the replays to say if the call was as bad as it looked live.
Second Inning - Redding Groves, Ward Moves, Ausmus Improves
For the next four innings, Tim Redding pitched great. Branyan reached on an error by Bagwell in the second. Lofton was walked (on 4 pitches) in the fourth. Other than that it was 12 up 12 down. Juan Gone was still crushing the ball, hitting a deep fly ball to Hidalgo in center in the third. But Tim looked great.
In the bottom of the second Astros fans were treated to several hopeful signs. Ward, getting a fresh at-bat after Bagwell was lost on the bases in the first sent the first pitch he saw hard into right for a single. When Alou and Hidalgo went down, though, the home folks figured the opportunity was lost. Not so fast, my cousin; Vinny came through! Not known for patience at the plate (perhaps because he's got Ausmus and a pitcher hitting behind him) Castilla drew the walk. Ausmus then hit a 2-2 pitch to center, scoring Ward from second, and we were even again after 2 innings.
Third Inning - Biggio's Bop Wasted
Biggio was looking bad at the plate all day. He seemed to be swinging at every slider like it was a fastball. A lot of check swing strikes. Way out in front... But he still did his damage. He was 2 for 3 with a walk and a HBP. In the third, he lead off with a double. But he was stranded as Lugo, Bagwell and Ward went down. Ward looked good, with a HARD hit ball that was stopped by a diving Jim Thome at first for the 3-1 putout. Still, a leadoff double wasted.
Fifth Inning - Breaking it Open
By the bottom of the fifth, Westbrook had thrown 72 pitches. After Redding started the inning with a strikeout, the Astros were seeing him for the third time. Could this be our inning?
Yeah, Baybee! Whether it was pitch count or not, Westbrook seemed to be lost. Biggio was hit by a 1-1 pitch. Lugo, showing wonderful (and non-characteristic) patience, worked Westbrook to a full count and then fouled off the next pitch before eventually taking the walk. A wild pitch on a 2-1 count to Bagwell sent Lugo and Biggio to second and third, and resulted in the intentional ball four to Bags, loading the bases. Then Ward came through again, with a single on a 1-0 pitch, scoring Bidge. Bases loaded and one run in on one hit! Westbrook was done.
The Indians brought in Danys Baez. Alou worked him from 3-0 to a full count before sending a long fly to right for a sac fly, scoring Lugo. Then Baez hit Hidalgo to load the bases again. Castilla had the chance to really blow the game open, and got the hit with a single to left. Bagwell scored, but Ward was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. The good guys are now up 4-1 and Redding is cruising!
Sixth Inning - Redding's Turn to Self-Destruct
Up 4-1 and with Redding retiring 12 of the last 14 Indians, Astros fans were psyched. But the Indians had other ideas. They were starting in the meat of their order, with Alomar, Gonzalez and Thome due up. Alomar worked Redding to a full count before drawing the walk. Gonzalez then crushed a 2-2 ball for a single. And Thome followed suit, hitting a 1-0 pitch to score Alomar from second with no outs. It looked like the Astros would have a shot at Alomar, but for some reason Ausmus backed up to take Alou's throw and had no play at the plate.
Unlike last night when Dierker left Miller out to try to get the last out in this situation, Larry pulled the plug on Redding. I'm sure having no outs was a part of the reason. But I like to think that he was also thinking about his decision last night, which I hope he questioned.
Nelson Cruz was selected to put out the fire. With runners on the corners and none out he struck out Diaz. Then he got the ground ball he was looking for to get out of the inning. But Kenny Lofton's still got wheels and he beat the relay to first, allowing Gonzalez to score from third. With the count full on Russell Branyan, Lofton stole second. Cruz then put on Branyan intentionally. He struck out pinch hitter Cordero to end the inning.
Cruz was great. If the double play is turned, he's out of the inning with no damage.
The Astros had a chance to answer in the bottom of the sixth. Ausmus sent his batting average above .200 with another hit, infield singling to lead off the frame. Vizcaino fanned on three pitches pinch hitting for Cruz. Biggio then also singled. But the rally was snuffed by Vizquel as he stabbed a liner up the middle by Lugo. I have no idea why Vizquel was playing up the middle. If he was in the normal shortstop position, Lugo's shot is a single, scoring Ausmus.
The Rest of the Story - Moises makes Noises
With only a one run lead, the pressure was on the Astro's bullpen. Dotel took care of the seventh. And in the bottom of the seventh, Alou came up with probably his last chance to continue his hitting streak.
Alou had had a productive day. His first at-bat was not good, grounding out on the infield. But he had a walk in the fourth and a run-scoring sac fly in the fifth. His at-bat in the seventh was epic. The pitcher for the Indians was Steve Woodard. He jumped out on top of Moises 0-2, and the chances for continuing the streak were not looking good. But Woodard missed with the next two to go even at 2-2. The next pitch was grounded down the third base line by Alou, but was foul. The next pitch was hit even harder hit down the line, a possible double. But it landed JUST foul. As I was bumming over this, Woodard tossed his next offering to Moises.
He Gat It.
Alou hit a shot off the facade over the Crawford boxes, maybe 30 feet to our right. Not only did this dinger continue Moises' hitting streak, it gave the Astro's pitchers a run to play with for the eighth and ninth, bumping the lead to 5-3. VERY clutch.
Jackson and Wagner finished the game in style. Six up, six down, three strike outs.
Redding had excuses today. The Indians are a strong club with good hitters. He started slowly in the first inning and could have easily gotten rattled. But he got better, not worse. This was a beautiful case out using the strength of our bullpen. Redding worked five. Then we brought in 4 closers... Cruz, Dotel, Jackson and Wagner. These guys only threw a few pitches; 17, 13, 10 and 11. If we are to win with our young starting staff, we are going to need to do it like this.