Salazar solid, but Tribe falls to Orioles, 4-1 in series finale
Indians hitters manage just one run on two hits to end home stand
CLEVELAND—Solid starting pitching and a lack of offense is far from a recipe of success.
That was exactly the case for the Indians in the series finale with Baltimore Sunday. Managing just one run on two hits, the Tribe fell to the Orioles, 4-1 to close out a five game home stand.
“You hope they get out of town and beat up on somebody else, because they were pretty quiet for two games and a half,” manager Terry Francona said. “There’s a lot of thunder in their lineup.”
Starter Danny Salazar (4-6, 4.79 ERA) pitched well early, shutting out the O’s through five scoreless innings. The right-hander however ran into trouble in the sixth. With the Tribe leading 1-0, Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce opened the frame with a leadoff double. Salazar then hit All-Star Adam Jones with a pitch to put two runners on with nobody out.
“I felt good even in the last inning,” Salazar said. “I think my slider and changeup were both good today. My delivery is the key to throw strikes. Right now I’m getting ahead in the count a lot more than in the beginning in the year, and that makes me feel more comfortable.”
Francona then turned the game over to his bullpen, to the consistent Scott Atchison in relief of his starter. Recording two outs to the next two Baltimore hitters, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy tied the game up with a RBI base-hit to right field.
Hardy would go 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position in the series while the rest of his team struggled, going just 2-for-20 with RISP.
One batter later, the Birds had their first lead of the weekend on a RBI double off the bat of Chris Davis to give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“We’ve played a lot of really low scoring games, and it kind of had that feeling today,” Francona said. “That’s why we went to the bullpen when we did to try and keep it right where it was at, especially with a day off tomorrow.”
While the two inherited runs that scored off Atchison gave Salazar the loss, it was still a bounce back start from the Tribe phenom.
“His pitch count was fairly high, but I thought he threw the ball pretty well,” Francona said. “I think sometimes the game dictates trying to keep it right where it’s at. I thought he threw some really good changeups today and moving forward that will be beneficial to him.”
“Sometimes you want to finish the inning, but he’s the manager,” Salazar said. “He knows the game better than me and anyone else.”
The O’s lineup may have been quiet for most of the series, but it was Tribe hitters that were almost dead silent Sunday. Collecting just two hits in the contest, the only Cleveland run came off the bat of Jason Kipnis on an RBI single in the fourth inning against Orioles starter Kevin Gausman (7-4, 3.70 ERA).
“We hit some balls hard, not consistently, but the ballpark played big to left-center even for them too,” Francona said. “I thought early in the game Gausman was fighting his fastball command, but then he flipped a couple breaking balls in there at really good times and it kind of got himself back in rhythm. He pitched really well.”
The Baltimore right-hander tossed his fourth quality start in his last five outings, going a full six innings of work allowing just the one run on two hits.
Despite taking two of three from the Birds, Cleveland (62-61) falls six games behind first place Kansas City in the American League Central standings and five games in back of the second Wild Card seed.
Up next for Indians: After an off day Monday, the Wahoos travel to Minneapolis to open a three-game series with division foe Minnesota beginning Tuesday. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-7, 4.35 ERA) gets the start opposite of Twins starter Kyle Gibson (11-9, 3.96 ERA) in the series opener at 8:10 p.m.
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This is a .500 club as it is with all it's inconsistencies, so it's easy to see them contend once the youth settles in and becomes more consistent. Even if one or two of Salazar, Bauer and Carrasco disappoint again, the depth is still solid with Tomlin, House and McAllister, who are experienced now and could have comeback/breakout seasons on their own. At one point, you have to trust your own talent, especially a team like the Indians. They have four controllable SP with excellent/FOR stuff, not many teams can say that. Let them sink or swim.
The wildcard is Maronde, who could be a mid-season option. I expect him to open at Akron and if he performs, he becomes much needed LHSP depth.
I agree- some are still saying we need to acquire a starter this offseason, but I really don't think acquiring a starter is that paramount because to get someone better than you've already got, you're going to have to get rid of some considerable depth to acquire someone of that caliber. Any lower price in prospects is going to net someone who will be no better than what you already have, and in most cases, probably not even as good.
I, too, think the offense needs more attention this offseason, and I think some work by Antonetti will be needed to either shed some bad contracts, get as much value for what were thought to be "core" players, or both. In the first group, that definitely includes Bourn and Swisher, and you could make strong cases for Murphy, Raburn, and even Aviles. In the second group, the two main ones are Kipnis and Chisenhall. While Chisenhall's second-half drop has been disappointing, I'm more disappointed and down on Kipnis, as I don't see anywhere near a Chase Utley-type or Carlos Baerga-type offensively. Combine that with poor defense at 2B, and he would be my main core piece that I would look to trade.
I suspect, though, that the Indians will look to keep him ( at least for now), partly because he just signed that extension, plus his value isn't as high as it was June-early July 2013 (after his 1218 OPS in June 2013, but has not had an 800 OPS since, with a few sub-.700 OPSs mixed in). I would hope he would move to the OF next year, his natural position. Maybe that will help his bat.
I suspect Chisenhall might be the likelier one to be traded because he doesn't have a long-term extension and has raised his value a bit despite the second-half drop off. I still hold out more hope for him having a stronger bat than Kipnis, though, as Chisenhall does a better job driving the ball the other way, plus I think Chisenhall has more pure power than Kipnis has, never mind the fact Lonnie is younger and has fewer at-bats than Kipnis, so he has a better chance of improving a bit than Kipnis does.
As I said before, I would move Chisenhall out to LF, have him play a decent amount of time at DH (Swisher should only play a few times a week at most if he's still here, and I suspect it will be more difficult to shed his contract than Bourn's), and spell Urshela at 3B from time to time while he gets adapted to the Majors.
Still, I think the offense should be the primary focus in the offseason, as you have a solid young starting core of
Add in guys like Murata at AAA, with Anderson, Colon, Morimando, and Von Schmann still a little ways away at AA, and the starting pitching looks more solid than it has in many years.
Same with the bullpen:
Shaw (though I would get him out of that 8th inning and move him to the 6th-7th innings)
Rzepczynski (if he's still here- possible trade chip).
Atchison (if he's resigned)
Possibly one of Tomlin/House McAllister
Add in guys like Adams, Price, Sturdevant, and even perhaps Adam Miller, amongst others, to the mix at AA/AAA, and the bullpen picture is as good or better than in recent years as well.
The offense has reinforcements coming too, such as Urshela, Lindor, Moncrief, Naquin, etc, so it's more adding a complementary piece or two rather than a complete overhaul, but if they can acquire a strong run producer at a good or fair cost, that would probably be the number one goal for the Indians this offseason. Whether they can do that and alleviate some of the problems mentioned above, that will be the challenge for Antonetti and company this offseason in my opinion.