What the Shuck, Tito?
Bottom of the ninth down by two, your playoff life is on the line, in a must win game against your division rival, the team directly in front of you in the division and Wild Card race, and you pinch hit J.B. Shuck? J.B. Shuck?!!! To say the least, I was less than impressed by Indians’ Manager Terry Francona’s lineup and moves Monday night in the second game of the doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, which the Indians lost 2-0 (first game was the conclusion of the suspended game from August 31).
To realistically have a chance at making the playoffs the Indians needed to win every game this final week of the season. Well, fellow baseball fans, when you send a lineup to the plate featuring heavy hitters like Chris Jimenez and Tyler Holt, that’s not too likely to happen – and it didn’t. I’m not asking for the 1927 Yankees here - hell, I’ll take the 1986 Indians! I know Jason Kipnis has been struggling, but come on, he needs to be in the lineup - and how about the “Great Giambino?” Tito, say it ain’t so, there’s no way you can have more faith in Jimenez making an impact then Jason Giambi, a guy who has nearly 500 career home runs and saved your season last year by hitting one of the most memorable home runs in Progressive Field history.
I realize Indians’ General Manager Chris Antonetti has done Francona no favors during the year when it comes to bolstering the lineup. Plus, I also know it’s hard to put a strong lineup on the field when you have underachievers like Kipnis taking up valuable roster spots (I didn’t forget Swisher – he’s on the disabled list), but you still have to make better game decisions.
So let’s turn our attention back to the ninth inning, due up for the Indians were Chisenhall, Jimenez and Holt. I’ll agree Chisenhall gives us a chance but instead of taking a few pitches he swings at the first thing he sees and grounds out. Not Francona’s fault but still horrible baseball. (Similar to Carlos Santana’s ill-timed swing with the bases loaded and no outs in the first.)
Now here’s where Tito really strikes out! Not that it wasn’t bad enough he had Jimenez in the lineup to start, he compounded this decision by sending Shuck to the plate in his place. What about Perez, Aguilar, someone who has a chance to drive the ball, get on base, do something? As an Indians fan I was ashamed at how overmatched Shuck was by the Royals’ closer, Greg Holland. With every lame swing he took, I saw my dreams of October baseball plummeting like Swisher’s power numbers over the past two years. David Murphy pinch hitting for Holt next didn’t look much better but at least he has given us some big hits during the year.
So yes Tito, what the Shuck? There had to be someone else, some magic you could have created with the lineup other than subjecting us to a pinch hitter who swung like a rusty gate. Please give me hope! And to the front office, beyond hope, give Francona some offensive players so we don’t waste playoff chances like this in the years to come. Let’s be honest, with this team’s history we’ll only have this strong pitching until it’s time for them to get paid.