Second Thoughts: Game #124 Mariners 3, Indians 1
|W: S. Pryor (3-0) L: V. Pestano (3-1) S: T. Wilhelmsen (19)|
The losses just keep piling up. Wednesday it was a late push by the Mariners to secure a series sweep against the hapless Tribe. It’s been difficult to watch the Indians lose 21 of their last 25 games, sinking to 4th place in the American League central, just 2.5 games ahead of the last place Minnesota Twins. Persistent injuries and poor performances make it tough to not start looking ahead to 2013, as many major question marks surround the Cleveland ballclub.
Iwakuma, Mariners ‘pen smother Tribe bats: The Indians offense sputtered, while only amassing a lone run to back Zach McAllister’s quality start. 31 year old Japanese rookie, Hisashi Iwakuma tossed 5.2 innings of one-run ball, as he skated out of trouble most of the game. Cleveland collected six hits and three walks over Iwakuma’s 90 piches, but couldn’t come through with runners on base. Tribe hitters went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, in spite of having base-runners in seven of their nine innings— as well as eight hits and six walks total— in this unimpressive offensive showing. Iwakuma did a good job of limiting leadoff base-runners, as he yielded just two in six chances. He only touched 90-91 MPH with his fastball, but leaned on his slider and splitter, in addition to an occasional curveball to keep Indians bats from taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities.
Five Seattle relievers combined to stifle the Indians over the final 3.1 innings. The lone run scored for Cleveland came in the 6th inning. Following a Shin-Soo Choo one-out walk and Carlos Santana single, Michael Brantley struck out looking, as the base-runners pulled off a double steal. Next, Casey Kotchman rolled over on a grounder to Kyle Seager that was thankfully hit too slowly to give the Mariners third baseman a chance to make an out, as Choo scampered home. Zeke Carrera then walked to load the bases before Jack Hannahan struck out on a full-count slider to end the threat. A run-scoring chance was squandered in the 8th, when Choo singled and Brantley walked, giving the offense two cracks to take the lead. Unfortunately, Brent Lillibridge, who pitch-hit for Kotchman, struck out swinging and Carrera popped out to end the threat. All told, it was a frustrating day at the dish.
Pestano takes his 1st loss: Vinnie Pestano was called on in the 8th inning to keep the game knotted at one-one; unfortunately, he conceded a pair of runs. After getting Michael Saunders to pop out to start the inning, Kyle Seager laced a grounder into the right-center gap. On a hat-tipping hustle play, Seager hoofed it into 2nd base, and even though the throw beat him, a lazy tag by Asdrubal Cabrera allowed Seager to slip his hand under Cabrera’s outstretched glove for a tide-turning one-out double. Following an intentional walk to John Jaso, catcher Miguel Montero struck out swinging on a slider after seeing three consecutive fastballs. Then, Eric Thames turned on an inside fastball and roped it down the right field line for a two-out, two-run double, which ultimately proved to be the difference in this game. Not to make excuses for Pestano, but it’s hard to imagine that only pitching twice in the last nine days didn’t lead to some rust. He was bound to lose one at some point, but it was still disheartening that Seattle beat Cleveland by besting one of the Tribe’s best pieces.
McAllister settles, goes six strong: After throwing 30 pitches in the 1st inning, Zach McAllister settled down wonderfully, as he only allowed one hit in his final five innings of work. The lone run he gave up came off the bat of Mariners center fielder Michael Saunders in the form of a 1st inning solo blast on a full count fastball that was low, but over the heart of the plate. The thing about McAllister’s start that struck me as impressive was the way he limited the damage in the 1st inning. Following Saunders bomb, McAllister got Seager to fly out before Jaso and Montero reached, via a single and walk respectively. The young Tribe righty then bore down and baffled Eric Thames with three straight curveballs to record the inning-ending punchout. McAllister has previously been prone to lapses in command that lead to multiple-run innings for the opposition, but Wednesday he showed some resolve by squeezing the Mariners.
Zach-Mac followed his usual recipe for success: attack the zone, trust his stuff, and pitch to contact. He notched first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 24 batters he faced. Keeping the Mariners bats off-balance with his repertoire of three fastballs, McAllister got ahead and did well putting hitters away. Thus far, it’s netted him a 3.50 ERA on the season through 15 starts. McAllister has easily been the lone consistent arm in the Tribe’s abysmal starting rotation, as he has yet to give up more than four earned runs in any start, as well as pitching into the sixth inning in 14 of his 15 starts. With a lot of question marks surrounding the Cleveland rotation heading into 2013, it’s comforting to know that McAllister can be relied on as rock-solid number-four starter. The problem will be filling in the first three spots with consistently effective arms.
Crazy eights: Wednesday’s loss marked the 8th straight defeat for the reeling Wahoos, as well as the 8th straight win for a hot Seattle team. Sure, the Mariners have been playing well the last month, but an appropriate amount of blame should be thrust on an increasingly underwhelming Indians team. With the second eight-game skid in the last few weeks, it marks the first time since 1987 that the Tribe has endured two, eight-game losing streaks in a single season.
Pair of defensive gems: In the 3rd inning, Choo made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track, while avoiding a collision with Brantley to rob Dustin Ackley of a hit. Not to be outdone, Zeke Carrera turned in a sensational diving catch in the next frame to take extra-bases away from Justin Smoak. The Tribe left fielder bolted after the ball the second it came off the bat and reached out for full extension to notch the second stellar play with the leather. It was nice to see some defensive support for McAllister’s strong outing, especially after some downright embarrassing defensive play the last few weeks.
Another 1st inning run allowed: I know I’ve made a habit out of pointing out Cleveland starters’ inability to keep the opposition off the scoreboard in the first frame, but it really is a sour way to start the game, given sharp win-loss splits when giving up the first run, as opposed to playing with the lead. Indians starters have now yielded a whopping 95 runs (3rd-most in the AL) in just 124 opening frames, trailing only the Red Sox and Twins, who are tied for 1st with 97.
3 Most Wanted
A pat on the back for Acta: Manny Acta deserves credit for sticking up for Cabrera on the close play at 2nd base in the 8th inning, where the ball beat the runner to the bag. He got the heave-ho (just his second ejection this season) from second base ump Ed Hickox; and even though it turned out the right call was made, it was refreshing to see Acta show some emotion after watching his club fall apart the last month. He very well may be on the hot seat because of a second straight season with a demoralizing swoon, but in fairness he has been handed a roster that has plenty of deficiencies. The final reason for the pat on the back: the decision to have Lillibridge pinch-hit in the 8th for Kotchman, in order to setup a lefty-righty matchup didn’t pay off, as the former struck out swinging, while Kotchman ended his day 2-for-2 with a walk.
An extra-base hit: The Indians failed to record an extra-base hit in this game, making it back-to-back singles-only games. With so many cavities in this lineup, it is nearly impossible for the Tribe to win if they can’t get timely or extra-base hits.
Less double plays: Cleveland hit into three double plays in this game, killing rallies in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings. Carrera was responsible for the first and final twin-killers, while Cabrera hit into a 4-6-3 double play in the 3rd frame. Double plays aren’t good at any point in the game, but particularly in consecutive innings early in the game it only adds to the mounting frustration that’s percolating in Indians hitters.