Covering the Bases: Game 103
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.
Indians (50-53) at Royals (42-60)
at 8:10 p.m. ET Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium