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Notes from the Wigwam: Tribe loses ground

Bullpen meltdowns lead to Tribe falling behind Detroit in AL Central

Notes from the Wigwam: Tribe loses ground
July 8, 2013
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It's funny how things in baseball change week to week. Just last week, the Indians were riding high after a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox.

However, after some tough contests against the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers, the Tribe is now reeling and not looking nearly as dangerous as they were just a week earlier.

The main culprit for the difficult week was the bullpen as well as the starting rotation. In recent years, the bullpen had been one of the most consistent parts of the team, but poor efforts during the week really hurt the Indians and are the primary reason that the team is no longer in first place in the American League Central.

There's still a lot of baseball left to play, and it is still too early to write off the Indians, but the bottom line is that both the rotation and the bullpen are going to have to put forth some more consistent efforts moving forward. The one positive is that the Indians did manage to win on Sunday against the Tigers, so there is a chance that the series could end tied at 2-2 if the Indians can win tonight.

With the two losses to the Tigers though, the Indians now sit 2 1/2 games back in the AL Central.

With that being said, let's take a look at the rough week that was for the Indians...

Weekly results

July 2 at Kansas City, W 6-5 (WP: Allen, LP: Collins)

July 3 at Kansas City, L 6-5 (WP: Smith, LP: Allen)

July 4 at Kansas City, L 10-7 (WP: Hochevar, LP: Shaw)

July 5 vs. Detroit, L 7-0 (WP: Porcello, LP: Masterson)

July 6 vs. Detroit, L 9-4 (WP: Sanchez, LP: Carrasco)

July 7 vs. Detroit,W 9-6 (WP: Allen, LP: Alburquerque)

Player of the Week

Lonnie Chisenhall — Third baseman

5 G, 6-for-17, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 SB

No one Indians player really stands out too much from this past week, so we'll give the nod to Chisenhall. Chisenhall has actually done quite well since returning to the Indians on June 18 as he's compiled a .296/.345/.519 line in 16 games and 58 plate appearances since that point. It's still a very small sample size, but it is a step in the right direction, so it's hard not to be pleased with the progress. He may not yet be the game changer that many had hoped for, but this recent stretch of baseball has arguably been the best stretch of his career at the Major League level. Additionally, Chisenhall may also now have somewhat of a longer leash since Mark Reynolds has struggled so mightily. In the past, it was easy for the Indians to justify giving playing time to Reynolds because he was hot at the plate, but Chisenhall's current performance has trumped anything that Reynolds has done as of late. All in all, it appears as if things may finally be looking up for Chisenhall. 

Minor League Player of the Week

Danny Salazar — Starting pitcher, Columbus Clippers

2 GS, 2-0, 10 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K

The right-handed Salazar picked up two more wins this season to improve to 3-2 with the Clippers. Salzar's ERA with Columbus is now 3.40 in 42 1/3 innings of work, and he is also striking out 10.4 batters per nine innings. The reality is that Salazar will probably soon find himself in Cleveland, especially since there are now some reports stating that Salazar and not Trevor Bauer will be the next starter in line for a promotion. The one concern with Salazar remains size as he is only a mere six-feet tall and weighs only 190 pounds. He also has been limited in starts and usually only throws between 60 and 75 pitches while throwing five innings. Nonetheless, Salazar has an electric arm, and he is a player who could provide an immediate boost to the Indians. Carlos Carrasco has struggled significantly this season, and he was optioned back down to Triple-A Columbus on Sunday. Knowing that, it seems as if there is a significant chance that Salazar could make his Major League debut this Thursday. Given his arm strength and upside, this will probably be a start that the Indians fans will not want to miss.

A rough week

Mark Reynolds — First baseman

6 G, 0-for-19, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K

Remember when some fans were clamoring for the Indians to make a move to resign Reynolds to a long-term deal? Well, it now appears if that thought has permanently disappeared. Reynolds has really been slumping for months, but this past week is somewhat of a microcosm of how bad it's been. Reynolds' season line now sits at .218/.309/.395 and he has also struck out 106 times in 86 games. Reynolds has always been known to be a streaky player, so his recent struggles should come as no surprise, but it's certainly hindered the Indians in recent games as Reynolds remains the team's top home run threat. On May 9, Reynolds was hitting .291 and looking like the steal of the offseason, yet he now looks like a player whose value may be just slightly above average. Perhaps the upcoming All-Star Break is just what Reynolds will need to get hot again.

Standout stat

7

This represents the number of home runs that Michael Brantley has hit already this season in 84 games. The seven home runs ties Brantley's career high, which he set in 114 games during the 2011 season.

News & notes

— What do the Indians do about Carlos Carrasco? The right-hander had another rough outing on Saturday as he allowed 10 hits and seven runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings of work. Carrasco fell to 0-4 after the outing and his ERA is atrocious at 9.10. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that the Indians optioned him down to Columbus on Saturday to promote Preston Guilmet. The problem now is that there are major question marks about what to do with Carrasco? He first made his Triple-A debut in 2008, and he has essentially dominated that level ever since that point. However, whenever he gets a chance at the Major League level, Carrasco seems unable to consistently get batters out. Some will argue that Carrasco is still young and that he needs more time, but the really discouraging thing is that there really have not even been too many positive signs from the right-hander. Whenever Carrasco is able to go out and have a good start, it seems as if he is unable to carry that momentum into his next outing. At this point, there should be no expectations for Carrasco for the remainder of the season. He's had one good start mixed in with a handful of bad ones, and the Indians simply cannot count on him if they plan on contending for a division title.

— Justin Masterson had a bit of an up-and-down week. The positive thing is that he was named an All-Star for the first time in his Major League career on Saturday, but he also unfortunately had one of his worst starts of the season on Friday as the right-hander allowed six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. Masterson labored throughout as he needed 108 pitches to make it through that point of the game, and he also walked four batters. Masterson is still a great starter and a huge asset to this team. However, the unfortunate reality is that a guy with just three pitches cannot be looked upon as an ace. Otherwise, what happens when one or two of those pitches aren't working? Well, Friday is what happens. Masterson is really a tremendous No. 2 starter, but has been overexposed at the top of the Tribe's rotation. It's an enormous longshot, but imagine how much a guy like Cliff Leecould help Masterson. Of course, acquiring a pitcher like Lee is just wishful thinking, but the thought does help you realize just how much improved this team could be if there were the presence of a bonafide front-of-the-rotation starter.

— Right-hander Corey Kluber had a strong week for the Indians as he started two games, but unfortunately earned no-decisions in both games. Even still, the Indians went on to win both games that Kluber started, so that shows that he pitched more than well enough to keep the team in the game. Across the two-game stretch, Kluber allowed six earned runs in 11 2/3 innings of work. The one real rough spot came for Kluber in the first contest against Kansas City where some bad luck led to him getting the bases loaded, and the Royals' Alex Gordon then hit a grand slam to tie the game at 4-4. It would have been nice to see Kluber buckle down and do what he could to get Gordon out, even if it meant surrendering a sacrifice fly, but the end result was unfortunately much worse than that. On the positive side of things, Kluber came back out on Sunday and absolutely dazzled on the mound as he struck out 10 Tigers, which tied the career high he set earlier this season against Boston. The Indians' bullpen unfortunately would later surrender the lead, so Kluber did not get credited with the win, but he certainly was more than deserving. There have been lots of good stories on the Indians this season, and Kluber's continued development remains one of the best ones.

— One of the things that continues to fly under the radar is the success that Tribe closer Chris Perez has enjoyed since coming off the disabled list. Perez pitched in three contests this past week and picked up two saves while pitching three scoreless innings and allowing just three hits. Perez has now pitched five straight scoreless innings since coming off the disabled list, and his season ERA is a very respectable 3.32. The often-controversial closer is also striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings. During this past week, the main storyline for the Indians was the decline of its bullpen and how it directly cost the team games. However, this same thing cannot be said about Perez as he was dominant and played extremely well. There are many points that are often made with Perez. Some argue he's overpaid while others argue that he's a loudmouth. Whether those things are true or not, one thing that is for certain is that the Indians are a much better team when Perez is healthy. It appears as if that is indeed the case now, and we saw the benefits of that this past week.

Quick hits

— Preston Guilmet was promoted to the Majors Sunday after the Indians sent Carrasco back down to Triple-A Columbus. Guilmet's promotion is well-deserved as the right-hander has compiled a 2.74 ERA in 276 minor league innings.

— Left-hander Scott Kazmir will start tonight's season finale against the Tigers' Max Scherzer. Kazmir faces a tall task as Scherzer is the first pitcher to start 13-0 since Roger Clemens accomplished the feat in 1986.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

User Comments

camfrommaine22
July 8, 2013 - 6:56 PM EDT
This offense looks great, love the versatility if gomes his 15 hr and bats .289 does he win rookie of year, he can gun down ollosing runners, what, at a 60% clip. , nothing to ignore,great trade again
camfrommaine8
July 8, 2013 - 6:52 PM EDT
Lonnie Chisenhall is here to stay !
Kluber should have a few more w's
Masterson is on way to win 20
Ubaldo looks better
Abd kazmir seems to have bad luck with fly balls. I still like zack mac too
camfrommaine
July 8, 2013 - 6:49 PM EDT
Why not bring salazar up for relief help? And carrasco can throw 96 make him a reliever.
Seth
July 8, 2013 - 1:08 PM EDT
Reynolds is currently at -0.2 WAR, after compiling -0.2 the past 2 years, so "value slightly above average" is overstating things significantly. "Lucky to have a job" is probably more accurate. Keep expecting Reynolds to turn it around, but at this point you'd think more playing time to Raburn and his team-leading .391 wOBA, or Gomes. Wouldn't expect either of those guys to keep up their production either but might as well go with the hot hand.
shy
July 8, 2013 - 12:22 PM EDT
Wow, I would love to see Danny Salazar make a start, but I can't imagine the Indians are going to throw a guy on a 65 pitch minor league pitch count against a major league team in the middle of a playoff race- if he goes, I will watch that's for darn sure! I would love to see CC Lee pitch as well!

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