Second Thoughts: Game #128 Athletics 3, Indians 0
Roberto Hernandez was looking to build off his previous outing, in which he held the Seattle Mariners hitless into the 5th inning. Unfortunately, he exited before finishing the 3rd inning because of a right ankle injury. As the goose egg would indicate, the offense sputtered mightily, dooming the Tribe for another loss. The sparse gathering of fans in the stands looked as disinterested and uninspired as the Indians players that took the field. If you're still watching, following, or even keeping loose tabs on the Tribe after this horrid stretch of losses, then God bless you; you're a committed, unconditional fan.
Anderson befuddles Tribe hitters: Making just his 2nd start of the season since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Brett Anderson was lights out against a helpless offensive attack from the Indians. He sat down the first 13 Tribe batters in order before Michael Brantley reached on a disputed infield single to break up Anderson's streak. The Oakland lefty cruised through seven low-stress innings with two hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. He had a great breaking ball and did well changing eye levels, as he mixed in changeups to go along with his 92-94 MPH fastball.
Anderson averaged just 11 pitches an inning through the first four frames, as Cleveland hitters were simply overmatched and off-balance all night. He got ahead and did not hesitate in putting batters away, while flashing impressive arm strength and command. This did not look like a pitcher fresh off Tommy John surgery; however, he attacked and Tribe bats did little to rebuttal. Anderson is now 4-0 in his career against Cleveland, with a microscopic 0.96 ERA and just 16 hits allowed over 28 innings.
Hernandez not crisp, exits early: In his third start of 2012, Hernandez was looking to extrapolate on the success he had in his last start against Seattle. Yet, he battled a flat sinker and slider over 2.1 unimpressive innings pitched. Oakland hitters didn't have much trouble squaring up his non-sinking sinker, especially when it caught too much of the plate. It took Hernandez 50 pitches to get through the first two innings, as he struggled with command throughout his brief outing. In the 1st inning, Yoenis Cespedes forced him to throw 13 pitches before blasting a pitch that was middle-in for a double, advancing Stephen Drew to third. Seth Smith then lifted a sac fly to kick off the first of three consecutive one-run innings. In the 2nd inning, Josh Reddick, who has been scuffling with a batting average in the .170s over his last 20+ games, golfed an 0-2 slider to the right field stands for a solo shot.
In his final inning of work, Hernandez got Coco Crisp to pop out before Drew singled and Cespedes notched his second double in as many at-bats. It turned out Cespedes would be the last batter Hernandez would face, as he immediately gestured for Lou Marson, followed by the training staff and Manny Acta. It didn't appear that Hernandez landed awkwardly. Yet, he did seem to wince as he released his last pitch. The diagnosis for the Tribe righty is a sprained right ankle; he's listed as day-to-day. This start was a step back for Hernandez, who has plenty to prove if he is to have a shot at a rotation spot for 2013.
Seddon admirably bridges gap: If there is one positive to take from this deflating loss, it's Chris Seddon's 4.2 innings of two hit, no-run ball. He had no time to mentally prepare himself before being thrown into a two-on, one-out jam. Relieving the injured Hernandez, Seddon induced a Seth Smith line out, followed by a Chris Carter RBI single. He went down 3-0 to Carter before the Oakland first baseman smacked a get-me-over fastball for the third run, which was tacked on to Hernandez's line. Seddon did well in evading further damage by getting Reddick to pop out to end the inning. He then proceeded to notch 1-2-3 innings in both the 4th and 5th frames.
A look at Seddon's strike-to-ball ratio (31:28) shows that he wasn't the most effective at getting ahead of hitters, but he worked around a trio of 3-0 counts to keep the Athletics off the scoreboard. He only issued one walk, while going after Oakland hitters, sometimes out of necessity from being behind in the count. He fought courageously to put away opposing batters and to keep his team in the game. In fairness, he was pitching against an A's team that is last in the American League in batting average (.232), as well as second-to-last in runs scored (510). So, this scoreless appearance wasn't against a high quality opponent, but hey, why tarnish one of the very few positive points of the game from a Tribe perspective.
Tribe hitters amass two hits: And the sad thing is it really should've just been one hit because first base ump Jerry Meals incorrectly ruled Brantley safe at first base in the 5th inning. Notwithstanding, two measly hits to go along with three walks was all the Indians hitters could muster against Oakland pitching. Tribe bats squandered the scant chances they did have, as they failed to make the necessary adjustments, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Cleveland hitters struck out ten times in the game, to go along with five 1-2-3 innings, indicating they were clearly not seeing the ball well. They often hacked away, even carelessly at times.
Although they were overpowered and shutout in this contest, the Indians had their chances to score in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. Shelley Duncan erased Brantley's infield single in the 5th by rolling over for a ground ball double play. In the following inning, Brent Lillibridge led off with a double before Matt LaPorta struck out on three pitches and Lou Marson lined out. Kipnis then walked, followed by a fielder's choice off the bat of Jason Donald to end the inning. In their final opportunity with two-on in the 7th, Duncan struckout and Lillibridge flied out to kill the final run-scoring threat. It's never good to get shutout, but this offensive performance was particularly feeble.
Allen tosses two shutout innings: Following Seddon's scoreless appearance, Cody Allen locked down two of his own zero-run frames. The 23 year old Cleveland reliever allowed just one hit, while recording one punch out. He trusted his fastball and made short work of the A's. Flashing sharp location and the fearlessness to go right after Oakland hitters, Allen did well by not leaving any mistake pitches in the fat part of the zone. He mixed in his slider to keep hitters off his fastball, as it took him just 19 pitches, including 15 strikes, to toss twin shutout innings.
Yet another 1st inning run: With Seth Smith's 1st inning sac fly, Cleveland has now allowed an unsightly 97 1st frame runs, tied for 3rd most in Major League Baseball. Indians pitchers are 13th in the American League in opponents' batting average (.310) and WHIP (1.67) in the 1st inning this season. This is a painfully accurate indicator of how poorly the starting staff has pitched as whole this season.
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Some offensive fight: Monday marked the 7th time this season that the Tribe has been shutout. With a lineup that featured five non-starting caliber players (Donald, Duncan, Lillibridge, LaPorta, and Marson), it wouldn't be fair to expect them to mash the cover off the ball. However, the Indians hitters had their chances in this game. With the Cleveland starting pitching as dismal as it's been this season and the offense's inability to outslug opponents, the Indians simply cannot squander the few run-scoring chances they do get. The Tribe's lineup looked disinterested and unmotivated in this game, racking up twice as many strikeouts as base runners. It's almost as if Indians hitters saw a left-handed starter on the hill and prepared to sink to their AL-worst batting average (.226) and OPS (.652) against lefties.
Something out of LaPorta: With an 0-for-3 game, including two strikeouts, Matt LaPorta is now 1-for-11 with five punch outs in three games since being recalled from triple-A. Nothing new on this front for a player who looks like he'll never shed the dreaded quad-A label.
Fan incentive: It's impossible to fault Tribe fans for Monday's attendance of 13,018. Huge blocks of empty seats —including almost entirely empty sections halfway down the base lines— seems like an appropriate response after CEO Paul Dolan publicly stated that he doesn't understand why or how the team has collapsed so brutally over the second half. It's that kind of aloofness that retains underachieving management, which leads to a lackluster product. Fans deserve incentive to purchase a ticket, and right now there are few reasons to support an organization that is in desperate need of a regime change. Kudos to Chris Perez for his recent comments indicating he's not comfortable with a losing team mentality.
Why do inept employees (John Mirabelli) get promotions for arguably the poorest run of bad drafts in franchise history? John Hart would have fired Mirabelli's sorry A$$ yrs ago but the Shapiro buddy system stays in tact and the Dolans simply dont care.
If Dolan doesnt sell or clean out this inept front office of the three stooges: Shapiro-Mirabelli and Antonetti then expect the same run of mediocrity tribe fans