Covering the Bases: Game 98
Tigers 5, Indians 3
FIRST: Derek Lowe is trying to find what worked for him early on this season, when he went 6-2 out of the gates with a 2.15 ERA. Just don’t ask him if he’s searching.
“I’ve played this game too long to be searching,” Lowe said. “I’ve struggled numerous times in my career. I guess it affects you because you’re not pitching the way you’d like, but by no means do you go out there and think you’re not going to get the job done.
“I’ve been fortunate to play 16 years, and I’ve struggled at times. I’m in a little funk, and you just keep pitching and keep plugging away.”
Lowe had a decent bounceback effort on Wednesday night, but Detroit had a 3-0 lead after two innings (it certainly didn’t help that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was charged with two errors in the second), and the sinkerballer ended with five runs allowed (four earned) over six innings.
He had given up nine in three innings in his previous start.
There remains, however, this reality: Lowe is 2-7 with an 8.07 ERA over his past 11 starts. Over that stretch, he’s allowed 52 earned runs on 83 hits over 58 innings, in which he had as many strikeouts (25) as walks.
The Indians need Lowe to improve in order to realistically improve and make a push for the division. Or, the Indians need to replace Lowe with someone who can get the job done. The Trade Deadline is less than a week away, and Roberto Hernandez will be eligible for activation on Aug. 11.
So, might help be coming soon?
“We’re working on it,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “But we have to get better in here, within our clubhouse. We can’t expect that one guy is going to come from the outside — whether it’s on the offensive end or pitching — and everything is going to be OK.
“We need more than one guy and they’re in here in this clubhouse.”
SECOND: Right-handed bat! Right-handed bat! Right-handed bat!
That’s the favorite cry of the Tribe fan base when it comes to what the team needs to acquire. I’m not going to sit here and say that Cleveland doesn’t need a right-handed power bat. They do. But I’m also not going to say the offense has been the biggest issue. It hasn’t been.
Cleveland’s offense has been nearly identical to the one pieced together at this point last season. The on-base is up and the slugging is up (the Tribe is drawing more walks and striking out less), but the team has scored the same amount of runs (425) and belted the same amount of home runs (90) through 98 games as it did in 2011.
That’s a problem. The offense was supposed to be improved — not the same. That said, the glaring difference between the Indians through 98 games this year and the Indians through 98 games last year rests within the team’s pitching staff.
Rotation (through 98 games)
2012: 36-42, 4.70 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 580.1 IP, 617 H, 368 K, 229 BB
2011: 36-36, 4.32 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 591.2 IP, 612 H, 379 K, 163 BB
Bullpen (through 98 games)
2012: 13-7, 4.09 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 294.2 IP, 250 H, 282 K, 114 BB
2011: 15-11, 3.39 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 281.1 IP, 252 H, 230 K, 103 BB
The rotation is averaging fewer innings per start, putting more pressure on the Tribe’s middle relievers. That’s why you see the spike in bullpen ERA. The rotation has also experienced a big jump in walks issued, creating more traffic and, naturally, more damage caused by the hits allowed.
Offense (through 98 games)
2012: .256/.332/.401, 90 HR, 178 2B, 406 RBI, 425 R, 628 K, 353 BB
2011: .249/.319/.393, 90 HR, 171 2B, 403 RBI, 425 R, 733 K, 311 BB
Record (through 98 games)
2012: 49-49 (-4.0 in ALC)
2011: 51-47 (-1.5 in ALC)
There are clear needs in the offense, but the Indians could also benefit from improved middle relief and starting pitching. Those are a lot of holes to fill before the Trade Deadline, and it’s unlikely that the team is able to address all three areas.
As for the pitching…
“Of course we need pitching help. Everybody knows that,” Acta said. “That’s a priority.”
THIRD: Acta noted a few times that the “human element” cost the Indians on Wednesday night.
“But that’s not the reason why we lost the ballgame,” he quickly added.
In the second inning, Cabrera was charged with an error due to what was deemed an errant throw by first-base ump Tim McClelland. On an Omar Infante grounder, Cabrera gloved and fired to first baseman Casey Kotchman, who had to reach high to make the catch, and swiftly came off the bag.
To the naked eye, Infante looked out.
Up further review…
“The first one, the guy was out by two steps,” Acta said. “The human element got confused there. I don’t know why. If you watch the replay, the guy was out at first base. … I can’t blame Cabrera for that one.”
Kotchman agreed, but only after reviewing the footage.
“I wasn’t sure on the throw,” Kotchman said. “It’s tough to see with that glare coming in the early innings, so I went up to try and catch the ball. It turns out I was on the bag, but I wasn’t sure. And then obviously I didn’t tag him.
“I kind of deeked the umpire. But when I went back to look at it, I was on the bag.”
As for the next error by Cabrera — a misfire on a relay throw to second base on the subsequent play — Acta said the shortstop was simply too aggressive in trying to turn a double play. The manager said it might have been smarter to just take the sure out at second without rushing the play.
HOME: The human element came up again in the fifth inning, when Jack Hannahan chopped a pitch from righty Max Scherzer down the first-base line for a groundout. The only issue was that Hannahan fouled the pitch off his right foot.
“The ball hit off his foot,” Acta said.
Acta argued the out call with home-plate ump Brian Runge, who then headed to the mound to chat with Scherzer. Apparently, Runge wanted to check the baseball for… shoe polish?
“I don’t know why,” Acta said. “They don’t put polish on the shoes anymore nowadays. They just put soap and water every night after the game. I guess that’s an old trick not to tell us to go back to the dugout.”
These small lost battles aside, the Indians simply didn’t do enough at the plate. For the 11th time in 13 games, Cleveland scored three runs or fewer. So, for all the controversy, and even in light of Lowe’s ongoing struggles, there remained this fact:
“We didn’t score enough runs to win the ballgame anyways,” Acta said.
Tigers (53-45) at Indians (49-49)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Progressive Field