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.
Twins (49-61) at Indians (50-60)
at 12:05 p.m. ET Wednesday at Progressive Field
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
Twins (48-62) at Indians (50-59)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Progressive Field
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…
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
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)
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)
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
Twins 5, Indians 1
FIRST: Monday’s off-day will mark one year since news broke that the Indians acquired Ubaldo Jimenez in a trade with the Rockies.
I said from the start that I’d wait at least a year before really sitting back and trying to determine who won or lost the trade. Well, here we are, a year later. But you know what? This deal still remains a toss-up.
I say that because none of the pieces sent to the Rockies have turned into sure-fire impact big leaguers. Now, time is on Colorado’s side, and that’s where they “win” this trade. That said, Colorado is in last place and, as difficult as it’s been to watch Jimenez at times, the Tribe is on the fringe of a division race.
Since the trade, Jimenez has gone 12-14 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in 187 2/3 innings for the Indians, while Drew Pomeranz and Alex White have combined to go 7-17 with a 6.33 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 155 innings for the Rockies.
What about those “other guys,” you ask? Right-hander Joe Gardner has gone 4-7 with a 4.83 ERA in 21 games at Double-A in Colorado’s system. Matt McBride, who is 27 years old, has hit .359 with 10 homers and 75 RBIs in 86 games at hitter-happy Triple-A Colorado Springs for the Rockies.
So, has anyone won this trade? Definitely not. The Rockies just have more time to maybe turn it into a win. Those four players are controllable for years to come. Jimenez, on the other hand, is only under club control for one more season.
On Sunday, Jimenez dropped to 8-10 with a 5.08 ERA on the season after being charged with five runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He left in line for a quality start, but the two runners he left aboard pulled off a double steal vs. Tony Sipp and then scored on a single from Ben Revere.
SECOND: The Twins ran circles around the Indians over the past three games. Minnesota swiped five bags on Sunday, giving them nine stolen bases (four on two double steals) in the three-game sweep over the Tribe.
The nine stolen bases were the most given up by Cleveland in a three-game stretch since the team allowed 10 against the Rays from May 15-17, 2009.
Catcher Lou Marson was the victim of the five thefts Sunday, but he wasn’t at fault, according to manager Manny Acta.
“You don’t steal bases on catchers at this level,” Acta said. “Very few guys that can’t throw end up catching up here or playing every day. The guy that we had behind the plate was one of the best in the American League last year.
“Ubaldo struggles with that. That’s his history. He’s got a lot of moving parts in his delivery. Also, Tony hasn’t been very good at that as of late.”
Giving up stolen bases was an issue all of last season for Sipp, who gave up 13 swipes in 15 attempts in 2011. As for Jimenez, stolen bases have indeed been an issue throughout his career. Since 2007, Jimenez’s 108 stolen bases allowed are the fifth-most given up by a pitcher in the Majors.
“I try to execute my pitches and take care of the runner,” Jimenez said. “But those guys [on the Twins] are really fast.”
On the season, Jimenez leads the American League in most stolen bases issued (22), most wild pitches thrown (11) and most walks issued (72). Talk about a dubious triple crown. He added a balk to his 2012 resume as well in Sunday’s loss.
In the fifth inning, Ben Revere doubled with one out and, while caught in-between on a decision of whether to throw a pitch or try to pick Revere off at second, Jimenez stutter-stepped and balked. Revere moved to third and then scored on a wild pitch.
THIRD: It was the same old song and dance on Sunday with lefty Brian Duensing on the mound for the Twins. Cleveland managed one run on five hits against Duensing, who was on a limited pitch count, but still logged six innings for Minnesota.
With the loss, the Indians dropped to 10-22 against left-handed starters this season. The Indians rank last in the AL with a .219 average against southpaws and second-to-last with a .647 OPS against lefties.
The good news is the Royals have no lefties scheduled to throw in the next series.
HOME: Could this have been Shin-Soo Choo’s final game in an Indians uniform? A report out of Pittsburgh indicates that the Pirates have expressed interest in the Indians’ right fielder, who has been coming to terms with the possibility of being dealt before Tuesday’s Deadline.
“I’ve spent most of my time with the Indians,” Choo said on Sunday morning. “I’m so comfortable with the Indians. It’s been six years, so everybody in Cleveland, from the team to the people who work in the stadium, it feels like it’s good friends and like a family.
“But, the more important thing is I want to win. I want to make the playoffs.”
For more on Choo’s reaction to recent trade rumors, CLICK HERE for the story on Indians.com
Indians (50-52) at Royals (41-60)
at 8:10 p.m. ET Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium
Twins 12, Indians 5
FIRST: There is a debate currently going on among Indians fans about whether the Indians should suddenly become sellers. They are a season-high 5 1/2 games out, so many feel it’s time to cut some pieces and try to get some prospects.
I’m not in this camp. It’s not because I think the Indians are a lock to turn things around and make a run at the playoffs this year, because that is looking like far too tall a task at this point. My opinion is based on the fact that the core is still young and talented enough to contend next year.
If the club doesn’t feel they can contend in 2013, well then fine. Sell, sell, sell. But I think the Indians believe that can be a factor in the postseason picture next season. And they should think that way, if you ask me. Despite issues last year and again this year, the Tribe has been in the mix. Have they been great? Hardly. But they’ve been in the hunt in the Central both last year and again this year.
I look at it this way…
The main core group currently revolves around Jason Kipnis (25 years old), Michael Brantley (25), Carlos Santana (26), Asdrubal Cabrera (26), Justin Masterson (27), Vinnie Pestano (27) and Chris Perez. You could even throw Lonnie Chisenhall (23), Zach McAllister (24) and Carlos Carrasco (25) in there, if you’d like. The oldest core piece, if you view him as such, is Ubaldo Jimenez at 28 years old.
Shin-Soo Choo is 30 years old and will be eligible for free agency after next season, so I’m not viewing him as a key part of the future core right now. It’s most likely that he’ll test free-agent waters after the 2013 campaign, which is why he’s a big source of trade speculation right now.
Roberto Hernandez is 31 years old and has a club option for next season, and right now it’s not clear if the club plans on picking that up.
The previous group mentioned is young and will form the main cast going into next year. Veterans such as Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman are not part of the 2013 plans. Those looming holes are more likely to be addressed via trades or free agency over the winter.
If the Indians could find takers for any of those players — specifically Lowe or Damon — they would probably make a deal. Right now, though, they have little value on the trade market. Cleveland could dangle Choo or Perez (whose salary will spike through arbitration this winter), but those players are also a big part of the 2013 plans. I doubt either will be dealt before Tuesday’s Deadline.
Well, let me rephrase. I doubt Choo or Perez would be traded for a package of prospects. I think Cleveland would prefer to match up with another buyer and target a need-for-need trade that could reel in players controllable beyond 2012, but who could impact the current Major League team.
Teams like the Giants and Pirates might fit that mold.
So, the clock is ticking, and Cleveland is exploring a variety of things behind the scenes. San Diego’s Chase Headley had been mentioned. So has Rays pitcher James Shields. The way I see it, the Indians will look to add, or they will stand relatively pat.
SECOND: That first item was only game-related in the sense that Cleveland dropped further away from first place, tossing some more fuel on the trade talk fire. Let’s get to this game, which was as forgettable, if not more so, than Friday’s debacle.
Justin Masterson was stellar out of the gates, retiring the first 11 batters he faced behind nine groundouts, one flyout and a strikeout. Over the next 17 batters, he gave up 10 runs (eight earned) on seven hits (four extra-base hits) with two walks, two stolen bases and one hit batsmen.
It was another performance that emphasized Cleveland’s continuous problems with getting consistent starting pitching. Masterson, who allowed eight of his 10 runs with two outs, dropped to 7-9 with a 4.47 ERA through 22 starts. He was 8-7 with a 2.57 ERA through 22 starts a year ago.
THIRD: Masterson’s cause was not helped by the pair of missed calls by two umpires in Friday’s game.
The first came in the fourth inning, when Masterson froze Josh Willingham and appeared to have caught him looking for a strikeout. Instead, home-plate ump Bill Welke ruled it a ball and, naturally, Willingham smashed the next pitch out of the yard for a two-run home run.
“It was definitely close, in my own mind,” Masterson said of the second ball call. “[Welke] said he had it away. It was close, but you have to come back and make another pitch.”
The next call — clearly blown when you watch the replay — came in the fifth.
Danny Valencia chopped a pitch to third baseman Jack Hannahan, who gloved it and threw across the diamond. The throw forced first baseman Casey Kotchman to step in front of the bag, but he kept a foot on the base as he stretched to make the catch.
First-base ump Chris Guccione called Valencia safe. Upon watching the replay, it was easy to see that, A) Kotchman had his foot on the base and caught the ball before Valencia arrived, and B) Valencia actually stepped over the base without stepping on it.
“It’s frustrating,” Hannahan said. “It was a high hopper. I stayed back on it and kind of rushed the throw. Casey made a great play and stayed on the base and we didn’t get the call. That led to three runs. When things are going bad, that’s the kind of stuff that happens.”
“That was an out. Not even close,” Acta said. “They’re human. He blew the call completely and it cost us three runs. But, they scored 12, so it wasn’t Chris Guccione’s fault that we didn’t win the game.”
HOME: The Indians thought they might be able to carry some good vibes into Minnesota after taking two of three in an emotional series against the Tigers at home. Instead, Cleveland arrived in town with a big ‘ol Motown hangover and has been outscored 23-5 through the first two games.
Consider this: Cleveland is 7-2 against Detroit this season, but just 2-6 in series played immediately following series against the Tigers. Masterson laughed when a reporter asked him how he would interpret the Tribe’s overwhelming struggles in the wake of the Tigers series.
“The coming of Christ is soon?” Masterson quipped. “Am I trying to interpret the signs?”
In all seriousness, though…
“These two games are not exactly the way you wanted things to happen,” Masterson said. “But it doesn’t mean we’re done or out of it.”
That is something Masterson firmly believes.
“We’re still not playing the best and we’re still right there,” Masterson said. “One of these days it’s going to come together for everybody. We’re all going to kind of hit a streak, or we’re going to put a couple together both offensively and pitching wise, and I think that’s going to take us to a good spot.
“We just really haven’t hit any of that this year. It’s bound to happen. Plus, in the Central, we’re close. Everything is close right there.”
Indians (50-51) at Twins (42-58)
at 2:10 p.m. ET Sunday at Target Field
Twins 11, Indians 0
FIRST: The Indians need to do something with their starting rotation.
On Friday night, starter Josh Tomlin’s season-long roller-coaster ride continued in the form of an ugly lopsided loss to the last-place Twins. Tomlin gave up eight runs on 10 hits in four innings, and dropped to 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA across his past eight outings.
“It’s my fault,” Tomlin said. “There’s a reason why we lost the game today. It’s because of me.”
There have been a variety of issues this season for Tomlin, who is now 5-8 with a 5.87 ERA. At the forefront has been a lack of command with his changeup. That, in turn, has made his cutter less effective. Catcher Lou Marson said the cutter has also developed into a mini-slider, and that’s not a good thing for the pitcher.
This has led to more walks, which has made the hits (and home runs) allowed by Tomlin to be all the more damaging. Tomlin gave up homers last year, but he limited them to solo shots for the most part. This year, with his WHIP up to 1.42 from 1.08 in ’11, there has been more traffic coming home on the long balls.
“He doesn’t have that good of stuff to get away with pitches in the middle of the plate and up in the zone,” manager Manny Acta said.
Another issue of late has been Tomlin’s showing in the first inning. He surrendered a three-run homer to Justin Morneau in the first on Friday, continuing an unfortune trend. Last time out, Tomlin gave up a two-run homer in the first. The outing before that, it was another three-run shot.
Overall this year, Tomlin has given up 22 earned runs and six home runs in his 16 first innings. That equates to a 12.38 ERA in the first inning. Last season, when Tomlin won 12 games for the Tribe, he had a 1.38 ERA (4 ER/1 HR/26 IP) in the first inning.
So, what are the Indians to do with Tomlin?
“We’re going to sit down and talk and try to figure things out,” Acta said. “We have to make things better around here, that’s not a secret.”
Acta was also quick to note that Tomlin is not alone in his struggles. The manager did not name anyone else by name, but Derek Lowe’s woes of lates (2-8, 7.59 ERA in his last 12 starts) have been well-documents.
The Indians have one starting pitcher on the horizon in right-hander Roberto Hernandez (eligible to come off the restricted list on Aug. 11). One pitcher getting rave reviews at Triple-A is righty Corey Kluber. Oh, and the Trade Deadline happens to be Tuesday, before Lowe or Tomlin next take the hill.
SECOND: Also working against the Indians on Friday night was the fact that they scored precisely zero runs. It’s tough to win ballgames that way.
Twins lefty Scott Diamond spun a shutout against the Indians, improving to 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two outings vs. Cleveland this season. Over 16 innings against the Tribe this year, Diamond has given up three unearned runs on 10 hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks.
“I was trying to attack,” Diamond said. “I wasn’t going out there for strikeouts. I wanted them to put the ball in play and you saw our defense. It was outstanding. So when that happens, all I’m trying to do is get groundballs.”
The Indians fell to 10-21 on the year against lefty starters.
“He’s got a good cut fastball,” Marson said. “That, and his changeup was good today. I mean, he was pounding the strike zone, getting ahead and had us chasing some bad pitches today. I don’t think we play very good here in Minnesota over the last couple of years. We come in here and they beat us up pretty bad.”
THIRD: Over the offseason, the one player I felt fit exactly what the Indians needed was free-agent left fielder Josh Willingham. He was coming off a solid season with the A’s (29 HR, 98 RBIs) and could provide the Tribe with the right-handed pop they’ve been missing.
Willingham wanted three guaranteed years on his contract. The Indians were willing to offer two. One reason for Cleveland to balk at a third year was the fact that Willingham had averaged only 121 games per year from 2008-11, with 136 games being his high and 102 being his low.
That’s not exactly a history of staying on the field, and the Indians have had enough players in recent years who have struggled in that regard. So, when the Twins came calling with a three-year offer, Willingham took his services to Target Field.
On Friday, the Willinghammer went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run off Tomlin and an RBI single off reliever Jeremy Accardo. On the season, he is now hitting .273 with 26 home runs, 22 doubles and 76 RBIs in 95 games for Minnesota.
Every player has a price, but the Twins are not making Willingham available to potential suitors at the moment.
HOME: The Indians’ incredible comeback win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers on Thursday night had Cleveland fans thinking the club would soar into the Twin Cities on a wave of momentum. The 11-0 blowout loss put an end to all that silliness.
After the game, Acta said, “There’s no such thing as momentum.”
Anyone who has followed my coverage over the years knows I feel the same way. I believe momentum can exist within a singular game, but not over a game-to-game basis. Along those lines, it’s something for people to talk about and debate, but I believe momentum is myth.
As the old baseball adage goes, momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. And, you know, Tomlin just didn’t have it on Friday.
Hopefully, Minnesota doesn’t ride their momentum into Saturday.
Twins (41-58) at Indians (50-50)
at 7:10 p.m. ET Saturday at Target Field
The Indians aren’t necessarily waiting until the Trade Deadline’s arrival to make a move, that’s just the way things appear to be going. If the right trade proposal was in hand, Cleveland wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
“If we had the right deal, we would move on that deal,” Indians general Chris Antonetti said on Friday. “There’s nothing keeping us from doing it. We don’t have to wait for the Deadline.
“But, it has to b the right deal that makes the right sense, and I don’t necessarily see that happening in the short term.”
The clock is ticking and Cleveland still has needs in the rotation, lineup and bullpen. While Antonetti has said no singular area is a higher priority than another, the main issues this year have been a lack of consistent starting pitching and an impact right-handed bat.
The Tribe prefers to target players under control beyond 2012.
One player that fits that mold is San Diego’s switch-hitting third baseman, Chase Headley. He won’t become eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, making him the type of player Cleveland likes. The Tribe has indeed inquired about Headley, but the asking price is expensive.
ESPN.com reported that the Orioles, A’s and Pirates are also among Headley’s most aggressive suitors.
In the selling department, the Indians have attractive chips in closer Chris Perez (whose salary will spike through arbitration this winter) and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (likely headed for free agency after next season). As things currently stand, Cleveland seems unlikely to deal either player.
It’s not always about aggressively buying or selling, though. There is a chance that Cleveland might partner up with another “buyer” to try to orchestrate a trade that addresses needs for both teams.
“You can try to re-position yourselves,” Antonetti said. “There may be opportunities in this market where two buyers potentially line up to address other needs, because there aren’t enough sellers for the buyers that are out there.
“It could spur teams to be more creative and potentially trade from an area of depth or perceived depth to address another need.”
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
Indians 3, Tigers 2
FIRST: If this was Aaron Cunningham’s final game with the Indians, he went out in style.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against Detroit, Cleveland swung a trade with Boston to acquire super sub Brent Lillibridge. He can play four infield spots, but Tribe skipper Manny Acta said Lillibridge’s main role will be a late-inning defensive replacement for the team’s left fielders.
That sounds an awful lot like Cunningham’s current job.
The Tribe will make a roster move on Wednesday.
“There is concern,” Cunningham told MLB.com’s Justin Albers. “We kind of do the same job. He’s a good player that hasn’t gotten many at-bats himself. He’s done a good job with what he has.
“There’s a little concern, but I can’t worry about it. We’ll just wait and see.”
The stars aligned just so for Cunningham to play an integral role in Tuesday’s victory. With one out in the seventh, and the game caught in a 2-2 tie, Travis Hafner sent a pitch from Detroit righty Doug Fister off the wall in left-center field for (wait for it) his second triple of the season.
Acta promptly pulled Hafner in favor of a pinch runner, backup catcher Lou Marson. When Cunningham, who entered as a defensive replacement a half-inning earlier, fell into a 1-1 count, the Indians decided the time had come to take a risk.
“He’s a good bunter,” Acta said of Cunningham. “He’s shown that throughout the year. Fister could be very tough on right-handed hitters. After that first swing that he took on a 1-0 count, we decided it was a good time to take a chance.”
The plan worked to perfection. Cunningham squared around and Marson sprinted home from third base. The baseball was chopped in front of the plate, where Fister ran it down. But the pitcher’s relay to home was wild, allowing Marson to score and Cunningham to reach second on the play.
“I thought he might wait to see if he got the count in his favor,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “It was a great call by Manny. He didn’t wait, he got it down and they got the run in.”
Cunningham was thrilled to be a part of it.
“I’d do anything for this team,” he said. “If they want me to rub [baseballs] down or whatever, I’ll do it. To be able to do something, to come in late in the game like that, and be able contribute, it’s unbelievable.”
SECOND: Ubaldo Jimenez didn’t get the win (more on that in the next section), but he gave the Indians the kind of outing they had in mind when they traded for him last summer.
Six shutout innings with seven hits scattered, four strikeouts and two walks.
‘We were envisioning a guy like that,” Acta said.
Leyland called it the best outing he’s seen from Jimenez (against Detroit) since the pitcher joined the Indians. Jimenez’s fastball was sharp, but his splitter was “the equalizer,” as Acta phrased it.
That’s how Jimenez managed to escape a handful of jams. And there were plenty, considering the leadoff man reached in five of his six frames. Given the circumstances, Jimenez agreed that one could argue this was his best start since donning a Cleveland uniform.
“They just gave me a fight,” Jimenez said. “They have a really good lineup. Especially the leadoff guy of every inning, they found a way to get on base. It was really tough, but I was able to execute my pitches and get ground balls.”
THIRD: Jimenez did not get the win, because sidearmer Joe Smith allowed a game-tying home run to slugger Miguel Cabrera in the seventh inning. Smith was more frustrated with the two-out walk he issued to Quintin Berry before the blast.
“Where I screwed up was walking Quintin Berry,” Smith said. “I got him 0-2 and he fouled a good pitch off and I threw him four straight balls. That’s where you get in trouble. Miguel Cabrera is going to get his homers. He’s going to get his RBIs. He’s going to get his hits.
“But you’ve got two outs and nobody on base, and you walk a guy to get to him? It doesn’t matter what the track record is against him, and it doesn’t matter who you are. He’s arguably the greatest hitter in the game right now.”
No harm done in the end. The turn of events in the bottom of the seventh — Hafner’s triple and Cunningham’s successful squeeze bunt — rendered Cabrera’s home run moot, and actually sent Smith to the win.
That was quite a swing of emotions for the reliever.
“It’s like my truck is sitting on top of me,” Smith said. “And then all of a sudden somebody lifted it off.”
HOME: It has been said in recent weeks that the Indians might only go as far as Carlos Santana’s bat takes them. Well, the catcher has started to hit much better of late. Santana has reached base safely via hit or walk in all 18 of his games in July.
Over that span, Santana has hit .309 (17-for-55) with two home runs, six doubles, eight RBIs and 16 walks. He’s posted a .479 on-base percentage along the way. Cleveland can only hope this is the start of a two-month tear for their switch-hitting backstop.
Tigers (52-45) at Indians (49-48)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Wednesday at Progressive Field