The Indians have experienced issues with their relief pitching most of the season, but a bullpen communications problem played a major role in the ninth-inning collapse Tuesday night as Cleveland lost 7-4 to the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he wanted left-hander Oliver Perez to warm up in the bullpen when the Reds, who entered the ninth inning trailing 7-0, began to rally against right-hander Cody Allen. The Cleveland closer was in the game in a non-save situation.
So with three runs in and lefty-hitting Joey Votto stepping to the plate with the bases loaded, Francona went to the mound to summon Perez, or as the coaches refer to him, “OP.”
Instead, Dan Otero, or “OT,” a right-hander, emerged from the bullpen. Votto was hitless against Otero in four career at-bats and also had been hit by a pitch.
“When I saw OT coming through the gate, it was not the guy I was expecting,” Francona told reporters.
Votto and Otero went to a full count before Votto hit a long double to right field that cleared the bases and gave the Reds a 6-4 lead. Votto then scored on a single by Eugenio Suarez.
After the game, Francona and pitching coach Carl Willis both tried to take the blame.
“I made the mistake. I brought the wrong guy up,” Willis said. “Not that (Otero) can’t get the job done, just wasn’t the right matchup.”
According to Francona, “That one lands squarely on me. There’s no getting around it. I’ve got to be responsible for that.”
Francona likely wanted Perez because Votto is hitting .216 against left-handers this season vs. .332 against right-handers. But in their career matchups, Votto is hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a home run and six RBIs against Perez.
Also, Tuesday’s appearance was Otero’s fourth in the past five days.
—Field Level Media