Deciding to take a short break from the NBA playoffs I tuned into ESPN last night and took in the Yankees/Indians game. Hoping to see a strong performance from a longtime favorite of mine, Mike Mussina, I was instead treated to a great performance from a young Indians lefty named Aaron Laffey. One of those recently recalled to fill the void left by Jake Westbrook’s DL stint, Laffey, a guy just eight months and one day older than me, pitched admirably through his 5.2 innings of work. His end line of 5.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER really did not do him any justice as the runs scored primarily as a result of bad luck and a lack of aggressive defense.
For five innings, Laffey had a no-hitter going, throwing just 63 pitches. He mixed his fastball, slider, and changeup well, in turn keeping many of the Yankee hitters off-balance; he also induced four popups/foulouts. Nobody hit the ball hard off of him all night except for Bobby Abreu, who flied out to deep centerfield in his first at-bat, and roped a single to leftfield in the sixth inning. All but two of the balls put on the ground by the Yankee bats were weakly hit. Through the fifth inning these were easy outs, but during the sixth inning they proved to be a major factor in bad luck joining him on the mound.
The sixth inning started off with a weak grounder in between shortstop and third base from Melky Cabrera. Jhonny Peralta got his glove on it but the weakly hit ball, combined with the speed of Melky, ultimately resulted in an infield single. Derek Jeter followed with an even weaker groundball to third base. Casey Blake charged but stumbled while attempting to get the ball of his glove. With first and second, Abreu hit the aforementioned single, loading the bases in the process. Laffey then hit Alex Rodriguez in the ribs causing Cabrera to score. In terms of WPA (-.130) and Leverage Index (3.45), this was the biggest play of the game. Check out the big spike in the game graph below:
Still holding onto a 2-1 lead, Laffey went right after Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui, inducing two more weak groundballs; this time they went to first baseman Ryan Garko. Garko’s lack of aggressiveness in charging these grounders led to Jeter and Abreu scoring. A fourth charged run to Laffey’s line scored when Morgan Ensberg singled Rodriguez home off of reliever Jensen Lewis.
Overall, Laffey looked extremely sharp and his pitch usage made the Yankees look a bit foolish at the plate. Though his numbers did not necessarily paint a descriptive picture of his performance last night, Indians fans should be very encouraged at what this kid may be capable of.