CLEVELAND, Ohio – Brad Hand wanted to put zero on the Progressive Field scoreboard. Instead put four on the spot.
After eight innings of excellence from Zach Plesac, that was not what the Indians were looking for up close.
Sometimes the closure can lose drip games by drip. It looks like they are being paid by the hour. Not so for Hand on Wednesday night a 4-0 loss to the White Sox. He started the ninth inning without a score and changed that in a hurry.
Tim Anderson hit a double advantage. Yoan Moncada’s hand walked and hit Jose Abreu with sliders in his foot to load the bases. Yasmani Grandal was next. Hand needed a strike. Instead Grandal hit a sacrifice fly to the right pitch for the only run the White Sox would need to save themselves from a three-game sweep by the Indians.
This was Hand̵7;s third appearance since the season opened on Friday and his second in as many days. He recorded savings in his first two games, but questions remain.
He didn’t have an easy, no doubt inning at all. The kind of inning that builds confidence is not just in the hands of his manager after he closes in September due to a tired left arm.
In Friday’s season opener, Hand started ninth by hitting Kansas City’s Alex Gordon with the Indians leading 2-0. He withdrew the next three batters to save.
On Tuesday, Hand entered the first doubleheader game against the White Sox with a 4-2 lead in the ninth. Anderson, again, greeted him with a double. He retired to Moncada and Abreu, but Grandal alone to make it 4-3. He ended the game by hitting Edwin Encarnacion to save.
Then on Wednesday night came the mess. She followed up eight scoreless innings from Plesac where he hit 11 career high batters.
As Hand said of Plesac, “For Zach he goes eight innings in his first outing of the year. That was not heard. Even though we started in April, we don’t see many starters going through eight innings. He only goes to show the work he has done on the redundancy to prepare. “
What happened Wednesday night in the ninth inning is part of the job they all live with. When they go wrong, they not only destroy their night, but also the night of all those colleagues who put him in a position to get three outs in the ninth inning to preserve victory or keep the game going.
“I was ready to go into Summer Camp and start the season,” Hand said. “My things are ready. Tonight I only hit one. I put myself in that jam. It’s not like I got around you. Some things happened. I put my own jam.”
After Grandal’s sacrifice flew, Encarnacion caught on to the interference of the catcher calling against Beau Taylor to reload the bases. Adam Cimber freed and Eloy Jimenez hit a sacrifice fly and Luis Robert hit a two-run single.
“He comes in, in a draw and things are magnified,” manager Terry Francona said. “Then he gives the first double pitch. Then he hits Abreu on the foot and there’s catcher interference. It’s just kind of escalated from there. We couldn’t leave it.”
The handset has saved 44 games for the Indians since it was acquired by San Diego on July 19, 2018. Last year the club’s record for saving from a lefty by 34 in 39. chance. While his speed may slow down, he gained Francona’s trust.
“On Tuesday, he pitched and was 92 mph to 93 mph,” Francona said. “The (radar gun) in the Progressive Field is tick or slow two. That part comes.
“That (speed) isn’t the whole end and it’s everything. You’re looking for life, to take a little swing and miss. There’s so much confidence in him as a competitor. Sometimes you have to be patient even when it’s not easy.”
Hand said it didn’t matter that he started the ninth after eight innings without scrutiny from the two pitching staffs. Without a protective lead, he said his job description has not changed.
“It’s no different. Whenever you go outside, you’re trying to put zero,” Hand said. “Regardless of the score of the ball game you’re pitching you, you’re still trying to put zero. I’m just trying to keep the score 0-0 and give us a chance to win at the bottom of the ninth. “
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