With Casey Kotchman penciled in over Matt LaPorta at first base, the Indians are now looking at the following lineup against right-handed pitching:
CF Grady Sizemore – L
SS Asdrubal Cabrera – S
RF Shin-Soo Choo – L
C Carlos Santana – S
DH Travis Hafner – L
2B Jason Kipnis – L
1B Casey Kotchman – L
3B Lonnie Chisenhall – L
LF Michael Brantley – L
That’s going to look pretty good 70 percent of the time. What about the other 30?
If the Indians opt to carry Chisenhall out of spring training, then they’ll probably have a bench of backup catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jack Hannahan (another left-handed hitter), first baseman-outfielder Shelley Duncan and outfielder Aaron Cunningham. Unfortunately, none of those guys figure to be all that productive against lefties. Lefty-killing is Duncan’s sole reason for being, but he actually had a .679 OPS in 102 at-bats against lefties last year, compared to .918 in 121 at-bats against righties. In his career, he has a .769 OPS against lefties and a .743 mark versus righties.
I think the Kotchman signing makes it a bit more likely that Chisenhall will get some extra Triple-A seasoning. Sending down Chisenhall would allow the Indians to go with a Hannahan/Jason Donald platoon at third base, giving them a little more pop against lefties. They’ll also badly need Cunningham to contribute against left-handers. He has a .741 OPS in 129 at-bats against them lifetime. A lot of those were at Petco, so maybe he’ll be better for the Indians.
Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.
It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.
The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.
In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.
Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.