August 2012

Covering the Bases: Game 126

Final:

Indians 3, Yankees 1

FIRST: The Streak II is over.

Justin Masterson turned in a strong performance, Michael Brantley provided some power, and Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez did their thing, helping Cleveland ends its nine-game losing streak. It was a sequel to The Streak: the 11-game slide that began on July 27 and transformed the Tribe from hopeful to hapless.

With 22 losses in 27 games, this is a stretch the players won’t soon forget.

“I’ll never forget about this season for the rest of my career,” Perez said. “For me personally, yeah, this is going to go back into my bank. I’ll be like, ‘I don’t ever want to get there again. How did it get to this? How did it get to 11 in a row? How’d it get to nine in a row?’ Me personally, yeah, it’ll help me out in the future.

“As a team? I don’t know. It’s hard. Because youre in the middle of a streak, it doesn’t mean you come to the park trying to do something different. You try to win every game. We were losing all different ways. Bad starting pitching. Bad hitting. Bad bullpen. Errors. Walks. Everything. Home runs. You name it, and we found a way to lose.

“You can laugh about it, but it [stinks]. If anything, if we come out here and have a good September, we can say, ‘Look, we went through the worst you can go through and we bounced back and we’re professionals.’ At the end of the day, that’s our job.”

SECOND: Masterson paved the way to the win column by giving the Indians 6 2/3 strong innings. The big sinkerballer allowed just one run — in the sixth, after loading the bases with no outs — on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

Masterson was the man who ended both streaks.

Indians manager Manny Acta was asked what it is about the pitcher that makes him such an effective stopper, and why he seems to perform better in such situations.

“I wouldn’t say that he’s just better in those situations,” Acta said. “He had a chance to stop it before it got to nine.”

True. Masterson was behing No. 2 and No. 7 in the 11-game slide and he lost No. 5 in the nine-game streak.

“But, he’s our guy,” Acta continued. “He’s our guy, our No. 1 guy coming into the season and he’s got the stuff to do this more times than not. He’s human, but we feel that every five days he can go out and do this.”

THIRD: Brantley gave Masterson all the support he required in the first inning, when the center fielder launched a three-run home run. It’s a good thing he did, too, because Hiroki Kuroda settled in from there and turned in a complete game with no more runs allowed.

“Michael, he stepped up,” Acta said. “That was a huge three-run homer.”

The blast gave Brantley 55 RBIs on the season.

“One more,” Brantley said with a smirk.

As in, one more RBI, and he will tie the career high of his dad, Mickey Brantley, who had 56 RBIs for the Mariners in 1988.

HOME: With two outs and runners on second and third base in the seventh inning, Acta handed the ball to Pestano. The setup man issued a walk to Robinson Cano and then fell behind, 2-0, to slugger Mark Teixeira.

At that point, Acta headed to the mound for a chat.

“I was more trying to settle him down,” Acta explained. “Also, I just told him that if this guy hits his best pitch, I could sleep better tonight. I just felt the at-bat before wth Robinson he was throwing way too many sliders and he was falling behind in the count because of that.

“I went up there and just told him to throw him your best stuff right here. If he hits it, wherever he hits it, we can go to bed and sleep well. I don’t want to see this guy hitting your second pitch.”

Pestano listened and induced an inning-ending flyout from Tex, who walked away impressed.

“Pestano’s got dirty stuff,” Teixeira said. “You don’t want to throw out a Mariano [Rivera] comparison with that cutter. I mean, that’s a really tough cutter. He throws it hard. He throws it from a sidearm angle, which is really tough to see. And his numbers show it. His numbers are really good this year.”

On deck:

Yankees (73-53) at Indians (55-71)
at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 125

Final:

Yankees 3, Indians 1

FIRST: It was cruel of the baseball gods to have CC Sabathia come off the disabled list to face the Indians in the midst of another long losing streak for his former team. It was crueler still that they’d have him flirt with a no-hitter for four innings.

Can you imagine the fan reaction had Sabathia no-hit the Indians — with Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta in the lineup — during a ninth straight loss? I’m not sure I’d want to be writing my game story while angry mobs wielding torches and pitchforks swarmed the stadium.

Alas, CC did not get his no-no.

That came to an end with one out in the fourth, when Asdrubal Cabrera crushed a solo home run to center field. The previous pitch sailed behind Cabrera’s legs, prompting home-plate ump Fieldin Culbreth to issue warnings to both sides.

It was clear retaliation for rookie starter Corey Kluber hitting Derek Jeter in the head with a fastball in the second inning. At least that’s the way the Indians saw it. That said, manager Manny Acta did not take issue with CC’s actions.

“That’s part of the game. Heat of the moment,” Acta said. “I understand Derek or them not being happy with Kluber hitting him on the head. I think everybody pretty much knows that he wasn’t doing that on purpose. But, that’s how the game is played.

“CC deserves credit. At least he didn’t throw at his head. He did what he had to do. It’s part of the game and we’re moving on.”

Sabathia picked up the win after holding the Tribe to one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings, during which he struck out nine and walked one.

SECOND: The Indians dropped 11 in a row earlier this month and are now riding a nine-game losing streak. This is the first time in franchise history that the team has suffered two losing streaks of at least nine games in a single season.

During the 11-game slide, Cleveland’s main issue was its starting rotation, and that remained a problem early on in this current slump. That said, the offense has been mostly to blame for the past handful of defeats.

Over the last five games, the Indians have hit .226 (37-164) with six runs scored, including one each in the past three games. Over that five-game drought, the club has hit just .114 (4-35) with runners in scoring position. On Friday, Cleveland went 0-for-6 with RISP and left the bases loaded twice.

THIRD: Rookie Corey Kluber gave the Indians a decent outing, but had to leave after five frames after a 30-pitch first inning drove his pitch count up. The righty allowed one run on six hits, striking out six with two walks and the hit-by-pitch to Jeter. Giving up only one run was impressive in the sense that Kluber escaped a pair of bases-loaded jams.

That lone run came in the first inning, which has been a trend for the young starter. He now sports a 19.80 ERA (11 ER/5 IP) in the first this season, compared to a 1.45 ERA (3 ER/18.2 IP) in all other frames combined.

HOME: I write this off-day feature on rookie Cody Allen and, naturally, he allows the first runs of his career in his next appearance. Acta is trying to work Allen into more high-leverage situations down the stretch and he gave the rook the seventh inning of a 1-1 ballgame on Friday, with the top of New York’s order due up.

Two batters in, Nick Swisher launched a two-run homer.

Not only were the two runs the first runs allowed in Allen’s career (he had turned in 13.2 scoreless innings across his first 12 appearances, but Swisher’s hit was the first by a lefty hitter vs. the pitcher this year. Allen had held lefties to an 0-for-21 showing before the blast.

“It was going to happen,” Allen said of having his scoreless streak end. “I hate that it happened in a situation like that. I’d rather give up a run in my first outing when we’re down 7-1. In a 1-1 ballgame like that, during an eight-game losing streak going in, we need a ‘W.'”

On deck:

Yankees (73-52) at Indians (54-71)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Saturday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 114


Final:

Indians 5, Red Sox 2

FIRST: Every time you see Zach McAllister warming up to pitch at Progressive Field, you can expect to hear “Return of the Mack” pumping through the stadium speakers. Every time he pitches, it seems like you can expect him to pitch into the sixth inning.

“He’s been as consistent as anybody here,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It means a lot. You know that you’re going to get at least six innings depending on his pitch count. He doesn’t walk a lot of guys. He gets himself in position to pitch a good game by attacking the zone with a good fastball and mixing his pitches.

“It’s nice to see that. It’s great that it’s one of those young up-and-coming guys for us.”

E-Z Mac was at it again on Saturday night, turning in a gem against the Red Sox. the 6-foot-6, 240-pound righty went eight strong, holding Boston to two runs on three hits. He struck out four and walked none. McAllister said he could’ve pitched the ninth if Acta had asked him as much.

Consider this, even including his rough outing last time out (1.2 IP, 9 R, 2 ER), McAllister is on a short list for consistency among American League starters this season. McAllister currently has 13 straight starts with four earned runs or fewer allowed. Entering Saturday, only CJ Wilson (19), CC Sabathia (16), Matt Harrison (14) and Jason Hammel (14) had longer streaks among AL starters this year.

One flaw in McAllister’s season has been his performance after miscues in the field. He leads the American League in unearned runs, despite having just 78 innings under his belt this season. A good development on Saturday was seeing McAllister settle in and limit the damage when things went sour in the field in the fourth.

After Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, Carl Crawford reached on a botched bunt play. McAllister gloved the ball, and heard catcher Lou Marson calling for the pitcher to throw to third. The only problem was third baseman Brent Lillibridge was charging in on the play, so no one was covering.

On the next play, Dustin Pedroia reached with a chopper to Lillibridge, who looked Ellsbury back to third, loading the bases while stopping a run from scoring. With the bags full, McAllister yielded a two-run double to Alex Gonzalez. Ater that? He retired 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced.

That’s damage control.

“He was dominant the whole night,” Acta said. “He ran into a little bit of trouble in that inning where we gave him two extra outs, and he didn’t even get rattled.”

SECOND: Indians manager Manny Acta is 6-for-7 on squeeze plays in his career at the helm in Cleveland, and his latest successful call came in the seventh inning on Saturday.

Lillibridge led off with a double and then advanced to third on a groundout from Casey Kotchman. Marson then dropped a 1-0 pitch down for a squeeze bunt with Lillibridge sprinting home from third. Lillibridge was safe, giving the Tribe a critical insurance run.

“That’s something that, as soon as the guy gets to second base, you’re thinking of,” Acta explained. “If we would’ve been in the middle of the order, I wouldn’t even be planning on it. But you had the bottom of the order. Kotchman, I was going to give him an opportunity to move the guy over by swinging the bat.

“And, if he got to third, I knew that at some point, if the count worked for me, or if I had a good gut feeling, I was going to call it with Lou. He’s a good bunter. It worked out good, because Lillibridge is a very good baserunner. [Boston reliever Mark] Melancon made a good play, getting to the ball, but because Lillibridge is so fast, he didn’t have a play at the plate.

“It’s something that you start planning way before it happens, depending on who’s on deck and so forth.”

THIRD: In the sixth inning, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo teamed for a double steal with one out and Carlos Santana at the plate. The Red Sox opted to intentionally walk Santana to load the bases for Michael Brantley. Acta had no qualms with the runners pulling it off, even though it opened first base and set up a potential double play.

“Any time you can get guys to second and third in that type of situation,” Acta said, “you’ve got to go for it. And right now, the way Michael is going and swinging the bat, Michael is the guy we want to see up there in any type of situation. Today was another example of how huge he’s been for us in the middle of the order.”

Brantley came through with a sacrifice fly that gave the Tribe a 3-2 lead.

HOME: Saturday’s offensive output was all about the Lillibridge Over Troubled Waters. The light-hitting Lilly went 3-for-4, falling a triple short of a cycle. He homered in the third, knocked in a run with a single in the fifth and doubled and scored in the seventh. It ws Lillibridge’s first homer and two-RBI game since Aug. 31 last year. It was his first three-hit showing since Aug. 21 last season.

On deck:

Red Sox (56-59) at Indians (53-61)
at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 112

Final:

Indians 5, Red Sox 3

FIRST: You’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher inside the Indians’ clubhouse who was happy to see pitching coach Scott Radinsky fired on Thursday. Radinsky was well-liked, despite the on-field results turned in this season by the Tribe.

Ubaldo Jimenez was among those surprised to learn that “Rad” had been let go.

Say what you want about Jimenez’s performance this year, but he teamed with Radinsky for countless sessions to try to correct the pitcher’s mechanical issues this season. The results have been erratic, but the Indians new their undertaking would include incosistency until Jimenez gained a feel for the changes.

“We spent a lot of hours, a lot of days, working every day,” Jimenez said. “I am always going to be grateful for what he did for me. He was there for me every day. He came to the stadium always positive. He was never negative and he was never disappointed. He was always trying to get you up and make you better.”

Jimenez was upset to hear of Radinsky’s firing.

“I think the clubhouse is really sad,” Jimenez said. “He did everything possible. It’s my fault. It’s all the starting pitchers’ fault. We haven’t been consistent. But, that’s baseball, man.”

Against Boston, Jimenez looked like the pitcher Radinsky has been trying to help him become for the Indians. The right-hander lasted into the seventh inning, holding the Red Sox to three runs on eight hits. Along the way, he racked up a season-high 10 strikeouts and only issued one walk.

“That’s the most aggressive I’ve seen him here with his fastball,” Indians manager Manny Acta said, “and probably the best command of his fastball that he has shown so far. He was just dotting it to both sides of the plate.”

SECOND: Less than two hours from game time, Jason Donald learned that — fresh up from Triple-A Columbus — he was being thrown into the starting lineup. He’d be playing second base and leading off. That last part came as a surprise.

“I felt ready to go. I felt prepared,” Donald said. “Mayeb if it was my first time here, there might be a little more anxiety or stress associated with it, but I’ve been here before. I’ve ben in this situation before. I really just tried to roll with it.

“I didn’t think I’d be hitting leadoff. When they told me I was hitting leadoff, I was like, ‘No better way to get back in it.’ Thrown right back into the fire.”

Donald ignited Cleveland’s offense.

Felix Doubront’s third pitch rocketed off Donald’s bat and sliced down the right-field line, where it carried over the wall for a leadoff home run in the first inning. The Indians were on the board and on their way to the win.

As for second baseman Jason Kipnis, he was scratched due to stiffness in his neck. Acta said Kipnis slept funny on Wednesday and was still sore on Thursday. He’ll be re-evaluated prior to Friday’s game.

THIRD: A key turn for the Indians came in the seventh inning, when Jimenez allowed a leadoff double to Pedro Ciriaco and was pulled in favor of lefty Tony Sipp. The southpaw struck out Jacoby Ellsbury and then induced a chopper to the left side from Carl Crawford.

With the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera gloved the grounder in the hole and caught Ciriaco running too far from second base. Stuck in a rundown, Cabrera and third baseman Brent Lillibridge teamed up to chase Ciriaco down.

On the play, Crawford tried to take advantage by sprinting toward second base. After applying the tag on Ciriaco, though, Cabrera quickly turned and fired to second, where Crawford was tagged out to bring an emphatic end to the inning. Donald gave a big pump of his fist after making the last out.

Nothing like the ol’ routine 6-5-6-4 double play.

HOME: After giving up eight runs (six earned) combined in his last two outings — a pair of gut-wrenching blown saves — closer Chris Perez searched through the video footage to find something, anything, that he could change.

Well, the formerly-bearded Perez is now completely cleanshaven.

“After I went back and looked at video and realized it wasn’t mechanical,” Perez said, “I was like, ‘All right, something else has got to change.’ So I took away the beard.”

And, guess what?

“We’re 2-0 since I shaved,” Perez said with a laugh. “Baseball is a game of adjustments. Sometimes you have to make some off the field.”

Perez got back to his usual ways on Thursday with a clean ninth, picking up his 30th save of the season. He became just the fourth pitcher in Indians’ history to record back-to-back 30-save seasons, joining Doug Jones, Jose Mesa and Mike Jackson.

Acta was asked how Perez looked out on the mound.

“Chris? He looked very white,” Acta said with a smile. “Very white without that beard. He needs some sun tan.”

On deck:

Red Sox (55-58) at Indians (52-60)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Friday at Progressive Field

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 111

Final:

Indians 6, Twins 2

WARMUP: Well, they did it. The Indians won another ballgame. As promised, with the win, Covering the Bases has made its triumphant return to this space.

Following today’s victory — the first in 12 games for the Tribe — one scribe asked Shelley Duncan if the team thought it’d ever win another game. Duncan cracked a smile and laughed at the poorly-phrased question.

“Of course,” Duncan replied. “We weren’t going to lose 70 in a row.”

No, it only felt that way.

FIRST: Much has been made of late of Manny Acta’s style of managing the Indians. After the 0-9 road trip, there were talking heads calling for his head on a platter. Well, that’s a bit much. They were calling for him to be fired.

General manager Chris Antonetti made it clear a few times that Acta’s standing with the club is safe, at least as things stand right now, and the plan is to have him back in 2013. Antonetti said Acta is part of the solution, not the issues.

After today’s win, Acta showed that he has a good handle on how he is portrayed.

“I know my story,” Acta said. “I know how things go with me. When things are going well, I’m being labeled as cool, calm and collected. And when my team starts to lose it’s, ‘He doesn’t argue enough. He doesn’t show enough fire, passion.’ Passion doesn’t mean throwing stuff and yelling profanities and disrespecting people. That’s what people are a little confused about.

“But, I understand that and I live with it. This is what I want to do and that’s the way I want to do it. That’s the way I’ve been successful doing it. That’s what got me up here. I’m not going to change. It has worked out for me so far.”

Acta said he does show that “passion” that people have been calling for over the past two weeks, but he just doesn’t do it in public.

“That’s how I lead. I stay true to myself,” Acta said. ” I’m not a chameleon. I’m not going to change because a few people think that screaming and yelling and turning tables in front of cameras is the way to go. I reflect calmness tomy players. I reflect that everything is under control.

“When I have to yell and scream, which I can do in two languages, I’ll do it behind closed doors. That’s the way I lead and I’m not going to change.”

Acta noted that the team did have a “screaming and yelling” session during a recent team meeting.

“You know what happened after that?” Acta said. “We dropped five more in a row.”

Acta reminded that dealing with big leaguers is different than dealing with players at other levels.

“In this game, at this level, you don’t get the best out of guys yelling,” Acta said. “This is not college. This is not the Minor Leagues. This is dealing with elite athletes that are making a lot more money than their boss. It takes a little bit more than yelling. I can get these guys to do stuff for me without yelling at them. That’s the main thing.

“If you can get them to do what you want them to do, you won the battle. The majority of our kids know what the drill is here. If you really need to be yelled at and screamed at, I’ve got the wrong guys and you’re at the wrong place. You’re only going to be yelled at and screamed at behind closed doors in my office because of lack of effort or something that deserves it.”

SECOND: Acta summed The Streak and today’s win up perfectly during postgame.

“Pitching sets the tone,” Acta said. “Pitching got us into this mess and pitching got us out of it, too.”

The starting rotation was abysmal throughout the 11-game skid, going 0-8 with a 10.44 ERA for the Indians. Last time I checked, the Indians weren’t averaging 11 runs of offense per game, so that showing by the starters did a number on the club’s chances night in and night out.

On Wednesday, though, Justin Masterson said he became “a hair selfish” and wanted to take it to the Twins regardless of the score. He gave Cleveland seven innings and held Minnesota (a team that torched him for 10 runs two outings ago) to two runs on three hits, ending with seven strikeouts and four walks.

Alexi Casilla launched a two-run homer off Masterson in the fifth inning, but that proved only to be a slight setback. Big Masty set down the final nine hitters he faced in order: six on grounders and three on punchouts.

“Masterson did a tremendous job,” Acta said. “He just stepped it up a notch a little bit after that two-run homer and really went after it those last two innings. He gave us an opportunity to stay on top the whole time and went as deep as he could.”

THIRD: The combination of poor starting pitching and woes on offense had the Indians playing “catch-up baseball” (as Acta likes to call it) throughout the past 11 games. On Wednesday, it was Cleveland that went on the offense.

The Indians ran to a 4-0 lead through two innings, marking the team’s fastest sprint to a four-run lead since July 8. Yes, a month ago. Shin-Soo Choo set the tone with a 4-for-4 performance that includes a double and a pair of RBIs.

“[Duensing] left a couple pitches out over the plate early in the game,” Acta said, “and we didn’t miss them. The key was Choo. Duensing usually pitches good against him and he has been struggling against left-handers. But [Choo] stayed in there pretty good and hit the ball up the middle and the other way.”

The Indians went 4-for-11 with RISP.

HOME: With the losing streak now officially in the rear-view mirror (see the previous blog post for all the gory details), the Indians get stop worrying about finally finding the win column, and focus on getting back to basics. Acta said such a long skid can be harder for a young roster like Cleveland’s.

“You feel good, because you don’t want that in the kids’ heads every day,” Acta said. “The hardest part of it is, when you’re young, it’s tough to put one, two, three, four, five, 11, as many as you lost, behind you. Guys just keep thinking about that.

“Now, all the weight is off everybody’s shoulders. They can concentrate on playing to win and not on playing not to lose.”

On deck:

Red Sox (55-56) at Indians (51-60)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Progressive Field

–JB

“If we need that extra push over the cliff…”

The Indians ended their run of non-quality starts on Tuesday night. Rookie Corey Kluber pitched into the seventh inning and ended with three runs (one earned) allowed in an admirable effort for Cleveland. When he exited the mound, the Tribe held a four-run lead.

The Streak appeared to be on the verge of ending.

Then, it happened.

“Our two strengths during the season,” Indians manager Manny Acta said, “our defense and our bullpen, kind of betrayed us.”

A grounder skipped through Jason Kipnis’ wickets in the seventh, allowing two runs to score to help the Twins cap off a three-run burst to pull within one. In the ninth, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera misplayed a ball and first baseman Casey Kotchman was eaten up by a weird hop on another grounder, leading to a blown save for closer Chris Perez.

It was a cruel twist that sent the Tribe to an 11th consecutive defeat.

Here’s some historical perspective:

  • The 11-game losing streak equals what is recognized as the second-longest streak in the history of the franchise. The data goes back to 1918 and the Indians were founded in 1901. There are two other 11-game droughts: one in September of 2009 and another in September of 1928.
  • The Indians’ longest losing streak is 12 games from May 7-21, 1931. During that stretch, Clevelnd dropped games against the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees.
  • The Indians’ 7.54 ERA is the highest for the four streaks of 11+ losses and is the second-highest among the nine streaks of 10+ games. The only one that tops it is the 8.06 ERA posted in a 10-game drought in 1969.
  • The 11 games (can include wins or losses) with at least five runs allowed (earned or otherwise) matches the club record. The only other such streak was 11 games from Sept. 23, 2008-April 11, 2009 (record: 2-9).
  • This marks the 61st time in baseball history that a team has given up at least five runs in 11 consecutive games. It marks the first time since the 2007 Astros allowed at least five runs in 12 straight games (record: 4-8). The record is 20 such games in a row by the 1924 Philadelphia A’s.
  • This is the sixth time that a team has given up at least five runs in each game of a losing streak of 11 or more games. The record is 0-12 by the 2005 Royals and 1996 Tigers. The other three 0-11 runs with at least five runs given up in each contest include the 1994 Red Sox, 1962 Mets and 1951 Senators.
  • The 95 runs allowed by the Indians over the past 11 games are the most by the club in any 11-game stretch since Cleveland gave up 97 runs in an 11-game stretch from Aug. 23-30 in 1938.
  • The Indians have given up 95 or more runs in an 11-game stretch 15 times in club history. The -59 (36-95) run differential on the current streak is the highest mark among those 15 stretches. The second-highest is -56 (57-113) from Sept. 15-27, 1901.
  • The Indians have scored 36 runs during the losing streak. They scored just 30 in the 11-game slide in 2009. Like this streak, that one includes series against the Royals, Twins and Tigers. The ’09 drought also includes games against the A’s.
  • Cleveland has hit .224 over the past 11 games, marking the lowest team average among the club’s losing streaks of 10+ games since the Indians hit .195 in a 10-game slide that ran from 1969-70.
  • Cleveland’s rotation has gone 0-8 with a 10.44 ERA during the 11-game losing streak.

On deck:

Twins (49-61) at Indians (50-60)
at 12:05 p.m. ET Wednesday at Progressive Field

–JB

Hang 10: Indians’ historic skid continues

I wrote on Wednesday night in Kansas City that I was not going to do another “Covering the Bases” blog post until the Indians won another game. I never would’ve guessed that, nearly a week later, Cleveland’s losing streak would still be active.

In my days covering the Blue Jays, I chronicled a pair of nine-game slides. To be honest, I don’t remember much about them. I find it hard to believe — due to the timing and the consequences — I’ll ever forget this one.

The Indians went from such an emotional high (beating Justin Verlander in comeback fashion on July 26 to pull within 3.5 games of first place) to such an incredible, gut-wrenching low. Here we are, it’s now Aug. 6, and Cleveland is suddenly 10.5 games back. The Tribe’s deficit wasn’t that deep until Sept. 10 last season.

There have been roster casualties (Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon and Jeremy Accardo have each been designated for assignment) and demotions (Josh Tomlin booted from rotation to bullpen). There has been a ball lost in the sun (Ezequiel Carrera), a runner caught over-running first base in fair ground (Carlos Santana) and one epic blown save (Chris Perez).

And, in the latest edition of this incredible collapse, there was a 10-run inning that seemed sadly poetic in this 10th consecutive defeat. So, cover your children’s eyes, and make sure you’re sitting down, because here is a quick rundown that puts some historical perspective on this losing streak:

  • The Indians have nine losing streaks of 10 or more games, dating back to 1918.
  • This is the longest losing streak for the Indians since the team dropped 11 in a row in September of 2009.
  • The club’s longest losing streak was a 12-game skid from May 7-21, 1931.
  • There have been only two losing streaks of 11 games: the one in 2009 and another that took place in 1928.
  • This marks only the seventh time since 1918 that an Indians team has allowed five runs or more in 10 consecutive games (wins or losses). The record is 11 such games in a row (Sept. 23, 2008-April 11, 2009).
  • There have been 327 losing streaks of 10 or more games in baseball history, dating back to 1918. This is only the 13th time that a Major League team has given up at least five runs in each of the losses.
  • The Indians have allowed 88 runs in the past 10 games. That marks the most runs allowed by Cleveland in any 10-game stretch since the club gave up 89 runs in a 10-game period in August of 1938.
  • Cleveland’s pitching staff has an 8.12 ERA (77 ER/85.1 IP) during the current 10-game losing streak. That is the highest ERA posted by an Indians team in any of the nine 10-game skids in franchise history.
  • Cleveland’s starting rotation has gone 0-8 with an 11.66 ERA (57 ER/44 IP) over the 10-game losing streak. Zach McAllister’s outing (1.2 IP) on Monday marked the sixth time in 10 losses that the Tribe’s starting pitcher lasted fewer than five innings.
  • The 10 runs allowed in the second inning represented the most runs yielded in a single inning by the Indians since the club gave up 12 runs to the Red Sox in the sixth inning on May 7, 2009 at Fenway Park.
  • It marked the most runs allowed in an inning at Progressive Field since the Tribe gave up 10 runs to the Angels in the eighth inning on April 30, 2002.
  • Over the course of the 10-game skid, the Indians offense has hit a collective .219 (75-for-343) with 31 run scored (3.1 per game).
  • Over the 10 losses, the Indians have been outscored 13-4 through the first inning, 31-7 through the second inning, 39-13 through three innings and 58-15 through four innings. That means they’ve been down roughly five runs on average after four frames.

Quote of the Day:

“I asked one of my coaches to pinch me. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
–Indians manager Manny Acta, on the Twins’ 10-run second inning on Monday

On deck:

Twins (48-62) at Indians (50-59)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Progressive Field

–JB

Month in review: July

The Indians experienced some positives in July, but overall it was a month that knocked the Tribe down a few pegs in its quest to convince baseball that this team can contend for the playoffs.

The offense got back to its on-base ways, drawing a solid amount of walks and cutting down on strikeouts, but the group struggled to bring those baserunners home. Combine that with a dismal showing on the month by the rotation and, well, that’s how you get a losing record.

The starters combined to go 8-14 with a 5.80 ERA in July, with continued problems for Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin, on top of mixed results from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Rookie Zach McAllister did, however, emerge as a bright spot and is currently the top starter on the staff.

The bullpen continued to be a strength, fashioning a 2.75 ERA for the month. Michael Brantley continued to develop into one of the team’s top hitters, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and closer Chris Perez made the American League All-Star team,

With the calendar flipped to August, here is a look back at July…

Overall: 11-15
At home: 7-7
On road: 4-8

Offense (AL rank):

.252 average (8)
.329 on-base (5)
.414 slugging (9)
.743 OPS (9)
26 home runs (9)
51 doubles (2)
89 RBI (13)
100 runs (13)
92 walks (3)
159 strikeouts (12)
9 stolen bases (11)
214 hits (9)

Pitching (AL rank)

4.74 ERA (11)
6 saves (8)
226 innings (11)
237 hits allowed (11)
130 runs (10)
119 earned runs (10)
26 home runs (4)
89 walks (12)
175 strikeouts (10)
.271 opp. average (12)
1.44 WHIP (13)
.769 opp. OPS (10)

Player of the Month: CF Michael Brantley
Stats: .318/.402/.518/.920, 3 HR, 6 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 9 R, 27 H, 25 games

Previous winners: DH Travis Hafner (April), 2B Jason Kipnis (May), RF Shin-Soo Choo (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Zach McAllister
Stats: 2-1, 2.56 ERA, 31.2 IP, 31 K, 9 BB, 1.20 WHIP, .240 avg., 5 starts

Previous winners: RHP Derek Lowe (April), CL Chris Perez (May), RHP Justin Masterson (June)

Reliever of the Month: RHP Vinnie Pestano
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 12 IP, 17 K, 3 BB, 0.83 WHIP, .175 avg., 12 games

Previous winners: RHP Vinnie Pestano (April), CL Chris Perez (May), RHP Esmil Rogers (June)

Performance of the Month (hitting): OF Shelley Duncan
Line: 3-for-4, 1 HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 runs in 6-2 win over Orioles on July 1

Performance of the Month (pitching): RHP Vinnie Pestano
Line: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, hold in 3-2 win over Rays on July 16

—————————————

MINOR LEAGUE HONORS

Triple-A Columbus

Player of the Month: OF Tim Fedroff
Stats: .413/.484/.700/1.184, 5 HR, 4 2B, 2 3B, 14 RBI, 24 R, 33 H, 22 games

Previous winners: 1B Matt LaPorta (April), INF Jason Donald (May), 1B/OF Russ Canzler (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Corey Kluber
Stats: 4-0, 2.91 ERA, 34 IP, 30 K, 12 BB, 1.12 WHIP, .210 avg, 5 starts

Previous winners: RHP Corey Kluber (April), LHP David Huff (May), LHP Eric Berger (June)

Double-A Akron

Player of the Month: 1B Adam Abraham
Stats: .317/.364/.598/.961, 6 HR, 5 2B, 15 RBI, 14 R, 26 H, 23 games

Previous winners: INF/OF Jared Goedert (April, May), OF Thomas Neal (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Paolo Espino
Stats: 3-0, 2.56 ERA, 31.2 IP, 25 K, 8 BB, 1.29 WHIP, .277 avg., 5 starts

Previous winners: LHP T.J. McFarland (April), LHP T.J. House (May), RHP Steven Wright (June)

Class A (high) Carolina

Player of the Month: INF Tony Wolters
Stats: .343/.396/.505/.901, 2 HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 15 R, 34 H, 25 games

Previous winners: DH Jeremie Tice (April), 1B Jesus Aguilar (May), INF Ronny Rodriguez (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Danny Salazar
Stats: 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 23.2 IP, 25 K, 6 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .209 avg., 6 starts

Previous winners: LHP T.J. House (April), RHP Shawn Armstrong (May), RHP Kyle Blair (June)

Class A (low) Lake County

Player of the Month: OF Jordan Smith
Stats: .345/.394/.452/.846, 2 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI, 14 R, 29 H, 22 games

Previous winners: OF Luigi Rodriguez (April), 1B Jerrud Sabourin (May), OF Jordan Smith (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Manuel Carmona
Stats: 1.38 ERA, 13 IP, 11 K, 3 BB, 0.92 WHIP, .200 avg., 8 games

Previous winners: RHP Cody Anderson (April), RHP Joseph Colon (May), RHP Mason Radeke (June)

Class A (short-season) Mahoning Valley

Player of the Month: INF Joseph Wendle
Stats: .313/.370/.515/.886, 2 HR, 10 2B, 2 3B, 16 RBI, 15 R, 31 H, 24 games

Previous winners: C/1B Charlie Valerio (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Luis DeJesus
Stats: 2-0, 2.33 ERA, 27 IP, 14 K, 8 BB, 1.07 WHIP, .214 avg., 5 starts

Previous winners: RHP Luis DeJesus (June)

Arizona League Indians

Player of the Month: SS Dorssys Paulino
Stats: .350/.404/.588/.992, 2 HR, 5 2B, 4 3B, 13 RBI, 18 R, 28 H, 19 games

Previous winners: 3B Jorge Martinez (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Alexis Paredes
Stats: 2-0, 1.59 ERA, 17 IP, 16 K, 6 BB, 0.88 WHIP, .150 avg., 7 games

Previous winners: RHP Luis Morel (June)

Dominican Summer League Indians

Player of the Month: OF Victor Cabral
Stats: .356/.448/.444/.892, 1 HR, 3 2B, 12 RBI, 19 R, 32 H, 24 games

Previous winners: 2B Odomar Valdez (June)

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Luis Gomez
Stats: 1-0, 0.39 ERA, 23 IP, 23 K, 2 BB, 0.52 WHIP, .130 avg., 4 starts

Previous winners: RHP Juan Nivar (June)

—————————

Month in review: June
Month in review: May
Month in review: April

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 103

Final:

Royals 8, Indians 3

FIRST: You have to wonder if we just witnessed Derek Lowe’s final start for the Cleveland Indians. For a team that is desperately trying to cling to the fringe of the postseason discussion, it seems too high a risk to keep sending the veteran out there.

As great as Lowe was on the mound early this season, as great a pitcher as he’s been throughout his career, and as much as he has been liked by teammates and coaches and reporters throughout his career, he has undoubtedly reached a turning point.

Asked if the Indians could afford to keep handing Lowe the ball every five days, here’s what manager Manny Acta said:

“I’m not going to be making knee-jerk reaction right now, right after the game. But, we’re going to have to sit back and analyze things, because it’s been rough for a while. We’re going to sit down and look at what the options are right now.”

The Royals lit the 39-year-old Lowe up to the tune of seven runs on eight hits over 2 1/3 innings. Over his past 13 starts, the sinkerballer, whose sinker has flat-lined of late, has gone 2-9 with an 8.28 ERA, allowing 61 earned runs on 97 hits with 28 strikeouts and 28 walks over 66 1/3 innings.

Prior to that stretch, Lowe went 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his first eight outings.

In his three most recent starts, Lowe has allowed 20 earned runs on 23 hits over only 11 1/3 innings, making for a bloated 15.88 ERA. Dating back to Sept. 5 last season, when he played a role in the Braves’ collapse, Lowe has gone 8-15 with a 6.06 ERA across 26 starts.

“Awful. It’s just mistake after mistake,” Lowe said. “We work hard on the side to try to come up with[answers]. When you’ve lost velocity throughout your career, you’ve got to be able to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. It seems like that’s where every pitch goes. At this level, you can’t get away with that many mistakes.”

The Indians could run Lowe through waivers and, once he clears, attempt to find a taker for a trade. Otherwise, Cleveland would likely need to just cut their losses and release the struggling pitcher. That is, unless the Indians decide to give Lowe at least one more chance. After all, Roberto Hernandez can return on Aug. 11 after his suspension.

It seems unlikely that Cleveland would put Lowe in the bullpen.

Lowe was asked if he’s worried about losing his spot on the team.

“Those are definitely things that you can’t worry about,” Lowe said. “You have to be more competitive, there’s no doubt about that. There have really been a lot of seven- or eight-run games. [Five] of them, I believe. I don’t sit here and worry about [losing my job]. You just go out and try to figure it out.”

SECOND: Right-hander Josh Tomlin followed Lowe and turned in 2 2/3 innings in relief of the starter. A move to the bullpen was noted as a possibility for Tomlin roughly a month ago, but Acta made it official following Tuesday’s loss at Kauffman Stadium.

Acta said righty Corey Kluber will come up from Triple-A to take Tomlin’s spot in the rotation.

“Kluber is taking his spot in the rotation,” Acta said. “It’s fair to say [Tomlin] has struggled up until this point and we need to give somebody else a chance in our rotation. Corey has made a lot of progress down there. He’s been throwing the ball really good and he’s going to get an opportunity up here.”

Tomlin is 5-8 with a 5.81 ERA this season, but he’s gone 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA over his last eight starts for the Tribe.

Kluber, who had a three-game cup of coffee with the Indians last season, will join the ballclub again after going 11-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 29 starts for Triple-A Columbus. In 125 1/3 innings, he’s piled up 128 strikeouts against 49 walks. Kluber has gone 7-2 with a 2.90 ERA over his past 10 starts.

THIRD: The Indians jumped on Royals starter Luke Hochevar for three runs through the first three innings, but that was the extent of the damage done on the evening offensively. The huge hole Lowe put the offense in early surely deflated the club, hurting the rest of the night’s showing.

Still, the Indians had plenty of baserunners and chances, but finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Cleveland has scored just nine runs over its last four games. That said, the rotation has gone 0-4 with a 13.75 ERA, forcing the hitters to play catch-up baseball a majority of that time.

“We’ve given up 36 runs over the last four games,” Acta said. “At this point, we need a well-pitched ballgame out there to help us win. It’s been very hard the last four games.”

HOME: I am going to end with something positive. There HAD to be something positive within the wreckage that was the box score. Ah, yes. Dr. Smooth. Michael Brantley went 2-for-4 to lift his average to .337 (34-for-101) over his last 29 games. I choose to ignore the two double plays (one bad-luck lineout, and one on a grounder) he hit into on the night.

Plus, Brantley made a slick leaping catch at the wall in dead center to rob Billy Butler of extra bases in the first inning. Just think, had it not been for that highlight-reel grab, Lowe might’ve given up 10 runs.

On deck:

Indians (50-53) at Royals (42-60)
at 8:10 p.m. ET Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium

–JB

 

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