Second Thoughts: Game #109-Twins 14, Indians 3
|W: S. Diamond (10-5) L: Z. McAllister (4-4)|
After staying in the thick of the division race through most of the first four months by avoiding simultaneous, prolonged struggles from the offense and pitching, the Cleveland Indians are now painfully slumping in both key areas. It was poor pitching and untimely double plays, as well as one incredibly costly error that sunk the Tribe on Monday. The losing streak reached double digits with this loss; sadly, it doesn’t look like there is much hope on the horizon. Three-fifths of the current starting rotation started the season at triple-A, while the offense continues to struggle to string together hits and runs.
2nd inning error unglues McAllister: The main storyline from this game is the ten-run 2nd inning Twins onslaught, which was largely sparked by an error. Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau led off the inning with back-to-back home runs on a fastball and hanging curve ball, respectively. McAllister then yielded a Ryan Doumit double for the third straight hit, before rebounding to retire the next two hitters. Jamey Carroll worked a walk, and then unexpectedly the game changed for good when Denard Span reached on a Jason Kipnis throw that pulled Carlos Santana off the 1st base bag. Kipnis was tagged with the error (although it looked like Santana might’ve been able to use the corner of the bag to stretch a little further), as the third run crossed the plate.
Minnesota proceeded to single, double, walk, and single—all with two outs— to push across another four runs and cut McAllister’s outing short. Former starter, Josh Tomlin came on in relief, only to watch the second pitch he threw Doumit sail over the right field wall, for a crushing three-run blast, the third homer of the inning, seemingly crushing the Tribe’s spirit.
In one of the weirder lines you’ll ever see, McAllister went 1.2 innings, while allowing nine total runs, yet only two were earned because of the Kipnis error. McAllister now easily leads the American League in unearned runs with a whopping total of 18. Zach-Mac threw 50 pitches in the second inning, after breezing through a 1-2-3 1st frame. He continually attempted to work the lower-inside portion of the strike zone, but regularly caught too much of the plate and the Twins had little trouble going down and squaring up his fastball. He’s shown lapses before, but nothing like last night’s post-error implosion. With ten runs allowed in the 2nd inning, including eight of them coming with two-outs, it was gut-wrenching to watch this emphatically underwhelming exclamation to a ten-game slide.
Four double plays: After the first three Tribe hitters of the game reached base, it was another night of offensive inefficiency. The first, and possibly most discouraging, double play came off the bat of Santana, who came to bat with the bases loaded and none out in the 1st inning. A run crossed the plate on the play, but double plays in the 2nd, 5th, and 9th innings also quelled any semblance of a rally. Hindsight might be perfect, but if the Indians get out to a big lead in the 1st, who knows how it could’ve changed the dreaded 2nd inning meltdown. Maybe McAllister doesn’t press as much, maybe not; regardless, the lack of timely hits has plagued this offense all season. Jose Lopez, Lou Marson, and Zeke Carrera all had ground ball double plays, accurately depicting why the Tribe couldn’t sustain an offensive rebuttal.
The only other Indian to record an exra-base hit, aside from Santana’s home run in the 6th, was Michael Brantley, who smacked a double in the 4th inning, only to be stranded. Other than these two isolated strokes of power, it was six scattered singles for Tribe hitters.
Santana— good news and bad news: All three of the Tribe’s runs in this game were scored off the bat of Carlos Santana. The bad came first, in the aforementioned 1st inning, when he killed a bases-loaded, none out rally by grounding into a run-scoring (but non-RBI) double play. Sure, Brantley was the third out of the inning, but you could feel any sense of mounting confidence or optimism dashed by this first of four team double plays.
The good came when it hardly mattered; in the 6th Santana lifted a curve ball that was up and over the plate over the left-center wall to cut Minnesota’s lead to ten. For what it’s worth, it’s good to see Santana showing signs of continued slugging, as he now has seven bombs and six doubles, to go along with a team-best .636 slugging percentage (minimum 20 at-bats) since the All-Star break.
Diamond dominates again: In his third start and win against Cleveland this season, Minnesota starter Scott Diamond enjoyed a massive lead en route to his 10th win. In his last start against the Indians he twirled a three-hit shutout, and although he wasn’t quite as sharp in this game it hardly mattered. At least the Tribe was able to score an earned run off him, something they failed to do over 16 innings in his first two starts against the Wahoos, but the results were only negligibly better.
Obviously, with this kind of run support, it didn’t take a Cy Young-caliber performance to pickup an easy win, but credit Diamond with attacking Indians hitters. He settled in after a rocky 1st inning and didn’t allow a walk until the second-to-last batter he faced. Diamond rolled through seven innings, while allowing seven hits, three runs (two earned), a walk and a homer, as he struck out three.
Two-timing Tomlin: Josh Tomlin’s 3.1 innings of relief can be divided into two pairs: a pair of 1-2-3 innings (3rd and 5th) and a pair of costly mistake pitches, both of which landed in the stands. The first hitter Tomlin faced, Doumit blasted a fat changeup for the heartbreaking three-run blast that made it 10-1, capping off the miserable 2nd inning. After the previously mentioned 1-2-3 3rd inning, Morneau touched Tomlin for his 2nd bomb of the game and 200th of his career on a textbook hanging curveball, which according to Rick Manning, looked like “a slow-pitch softball”. Tomlin then notched a perfect 5th in his final inning of work. Even in the bullpen, he still appears prone to serving up the long ball, as he is tied for most homers allowed on the team (18).
Cody Allen’s 7th scoreless appearance: In a small victory, Allen kept his scoreless streak intact, as he’s now allowed a mere one hit, to go along with six walks and eight punch outs over his first nine innings pitched in the majors. Over the long haul, he’ll need to get the walks under control, but this scoreless streak can only do good things for his confidence. In this game, he got Tsuyoshi Nishioka to whiff on a 95 MPH fastball, before allowing a nine-pitch Brian Dozier walk. If he can continue to keep hitters off-balance with his buckler of a curveball, he’ll be a nice piece for the Tribe bullpen moving forward.
3 Most Wanted
Asking the tough questions: As fans watch this horrendous stretch of starting pitching, when does one seriously start to question pitching coach Scott Radinsky? Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti recently reaffirmed his faith in manager Manny Acta, but ducked making a similar proclamation regarding hitting coach Bruce Fields or the previously mentioned Radinsky.
While Acta’s job may be safe for the time being, Radinsky might not be so fortunate. After former pitching coach Tim Belcher resigned following last season to spend more time with his family, Indians pitchers have seen a troubling regression in 2012.
In 2011, under Belcher:
Team ERA: 4.23 (10th in AL), Starters ERA: 4.51, Bullpen ERA: 3.71
In 2012, under Radinsky:
Team ERA: 4.79 (last in AL), Starters ERA: 5.17, Bullpen ERA: 4.12
A quality start: Not only was Monday Cleveland’s 10th straight loss, it was also their 10th straight game without a quality start. Unsurprisingly, the last quality start came in the team’s last win on July 26th against Detroit. The Indians simply can’t win with this pedestrian offense if the starters can’t keep it close.
Some hustle: On the unceremonious last play of the game, Zeke Carrera got caught looking at a chopper in front of the plate that went for the fourth double play of the game. Showing little focus or interest, Carrera barely made it halfway down the first base line before he was thrown out to the end game. Look, I get it, the team is down eleven at that point and whether he legs it out or not Cleveland is doomed, but for a recent call-up, who is getting a chance to showcase what he can offer the team, it’d be nice to see a little hustle.