A lineup looking like a horror movie and pickoff attempts leading to a home run: Walk-Off Thoughts

Ryan Lewis
rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com
Cleveland Indians' Franmil Reyes bats against the Chicago White Sox in the fifth inning in a baseball game, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Cleveland.

Here are six Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians' 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night, dropping their record to 5-6.

1. Reading the stat lines of most of the Indians' lineup resembles the gruesome trail of the masked killer in a horror film, laden with destruction and difficult to watch. After the top three (Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor) the remainder of the lineup (outside of Bradley Zimmer, who wasn't in the lineup Monday night) has fallen into slump. It’s as if they're trying to run through quick sand.

The averages of the Nos. 4-through-9 hitters at the conclusion of Monday night's game: .200, .171, .083, .107, .133 and, fittingly, .000. Try to look at those numbers without twitching. It’s as if the bad-decision-making people at the campground decide to split up to search for their lost friend in the woods despite the recent uptick in missing people. It makes for movie magic, but a productive lineup, not so much.

2. Sandy Alomar Jr., the acting manager with Terry Francona getting checked out for a gastrointestinal condition, said after Sunday's loss that he thought the Indians were collectively not taking the best approach to the plate, that they weren't trusting themselves with two strikes. The Indians did find some deeper counts against Reds starter Sonny Gray early in the game, but it didn't translate to much outside of Lindor's home run in the first inning.

Carlos Santana flipped his bat in frustration just before taking the final pitch in Sunday's loss in Minnesota. On Monday in Cincinnati, he flipped a bloop single into right field in the first inning and raised his hands in the air in relief. But for the most part, the Indians haven't yet been able to outrun their offensive issues. It gets worse after Santana's spot in the lineup.

3. Franmil Reyes is now hitting .171 and struck out three times Monday night. Oscar Mercado is at .107, although he did collect a hit against the Reds. Sandy Leon, pushed into more playing time due to Roberto Perez's sore shoulder, is hitting .113. Greg Allen is now 0-for-8 to start the year. Reyes launched a few moonshot home runs in summer camp off this Indians pitching staff that has been baseball's best so far, but none of it has translated yet.

"I think it’s a matter of confidence," Alomar said on a Zoom call. "Right now he just probably needs a blooper or something like that to get out of it. He’s pulling off the ball. I’m not sure if he feels like his bat’s not quick enough right now. Pretty much he looks like he’s second-guessing himself at the plate. Seems to me like a hitter in-between. You’ve got to focus on swinging at strikes. He’s chasing balls out of the zone. Right now, the big part of why he’s struggling is because he’s chasing balls."

4. It certainly isn't isolated to one hitter. And it does remain true that 11 games is not indicative of what to expect over the course of a season but it is amplified in a 60-game season. It is the equivalent of about 30 games in a traditional 162-game season. But with only 49 games remaining, a collective slump becomes only more severe with each passing day. Major League's Baseball’s decision to expand the field of the postseason from five teams to eight in each league, especially now, looks to be offering the Indians a little extra room for error. It might be needed, depending on how long it takes the Indians to break free from their slow start at the plate.

5. Zach Plesac has one of the better pickoff moves in the game, particularly for a right-hander. It can be a rally-killing weapon but it backfired on Monday night. With the Indians holding a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning and the tying run on first, Plesac threw over to keep Shogo Akiyama from getting too big of a lead. Over and over. The game within the game ended with Plesac trying to pick Akiyama off. All the while, Plesac was pitching to Joey Votto, who eventually worked the count full. Plesac threw a fastball with a 3-2 pitch, and didn't elevate it as much as he wanted. It caught too much of the middle of the plate, and Votto belted it for the go-ahead, two-run home run that ended up being the difference in the game. Plesac has a tremendous move, but not if it comes at the expense of what he's trying to do with the hitter. In that sense, it was a learning experience.

"Plesac did a pretty good job again,“ Alomar said. ”If we would have scored runs, the outing would have been perfect. He kinda tended to lose a little concentration and got a little pickoff happy with Joey Votto at the plate,. He was a little bit preoccupied with the runner. Sometimes that’s happened to him, that’s part of maturation. That was a little hiccup in the game that I thought he could have just focused more on the hitter."

6. That's part of the value of having a runner with speed. Even without stealing a base, if he affects the pitcher's focus, that might be enough to get the job done. Plesac put together another terrific outing outside of that at-bat. But that one pitch, the 3-2 fastball, doomed the Indians with their offense still treading water.

"I mean, in that situation you’ve got a good hitter at the plate. The focus should be more on him," Plesac said. "You know, a learning experience for me. I saw a guy get a big lead over there. He was kind of playing with my feet, so I was gonna play with him back and see if I could get an out. ... But I worked back from behind and made a pitch and I tip my cap to [Votto] because he was ready for it."

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.