Second Thoughts: Game #130 A's 8, Indians 4
The Tribe managed to snap a 24 inning scoreless streak, but still fell to14-30 against left-handed starters this season, as they couldn't solve southpaw Travis Blackley. In spite of a line that doesn't exactly corroborate how effectively Corey Kluber pitched most of the game, the Tribe righty was sharp early, but Oakland's all-or-nothing offensive approach produced enough to take the third straight in this four-game series.
Oakland's two-out RBI barrage: Six of the A's eight runs came with two outs. They also had seven doubles by seven different hitters, in addition to having five batters in the lineup notch multi-hit games. From top to bottom, A's hitters instituted a method of hacking hard at whatever came their way, and in this game it paid off to the tune of 15 hits and eight runs, as well as 12 strike outs. The aggressive mindset at the plate garnered Oakland 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and even on a ballclub that has struggled to runs, when you have that many cracks you're bound to plate a healthy share of runs.
The first three two-out RBI came in the 4th inning off the bat of Josh Donaldson, who cranked a full count breaking ball for a three-run blast off Kluber. This gave the A's an early lead that they would never relinquish. Two more two-out runs came in the 7th against Cody Allen. Seth Smith smoked a fastball to left-center for an RBI double, followed by a Chris Carter RBI single. Josh Reddick touched Vinnie Pestano in the 8th for the final two-out RBI on a double off a low breaking ball. Any pitch, any count— the A's were letting the lumber fly.
Tribe bats awake for two innings: The Cleveland offense showed up in the 3rd and 8th innings of this game, displaying something of an offensive outburst, at least compared to the last two games. Leading off the 3rd, Jason Donald ran into a first-pitch Blackley fastball, getting just enough to clear the outfield fence and mercifully end the scoreless streak. Zeke Carrera followed Donald's plan and ripped another first-pitch fastball for a triple. Kipnis then pushed the run across with an RBI groundout. In the 8th, Shin-Soo Choo walked and Lou Marson singled to put the first two hitters of the inning on base against Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle. Michael Brantley reached on a fielding error by Donaldson to load the based. Brent Lillibridge lifted a sac fly, followed by a Casey Kotchman RBI groundout to close out the Indians scoring.
It was positive to see the Tribe take advantage of Oakland's defensive mistake, but they still couldn't register a breakthrough hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-10 in that department in the game. In the other seven innings, the Indians recorded just three singles and a double. The biggest wasted opportunity came in the 7th inning, when Kotchman and Donald started the inning with back-to-back singles, only to watch Carrera, Kipnis, and Hannahan strand the pair of base runners. It was actually the eight and nine-hole hitters, Donald and Carrera that led the way offensively, as both had multi-hit games, as well as all three of the team's extra base hits. Blackley did well after the 3rd inning homer and triple, settling down to keep Cleveland at bay the rest of his 5.2 innings pitched. He trusted his fastball, moving it around the zone, while adding a healthy dose of curveballs and changeups.
Kluber stung by one mistake: Corey Kluber was remarkably sharp through his first two innings, netting himself three punch outs, while holding the A's hitless. He escaped a 3rd inning jam by inducing a Stephen Drew groundout, stranding runners on 2nd and 3rd base. Unfortunately, he wasn't so lucky in the 4th frame. Yoenis Cespedes opened the inning with a leadoff single. After a Seth Smith strikeout, Chris Carter did a great job keeping his hands inside, as he yanked a liner down the third base line for a double. With two outs and a full count, Josh Donaldson blasted a hanging breaking ball —Kluber's only egregious mistake— onto the left field home run porch for a crushing two-out, three-run bomb. In spite of three splendid innings, it only took one pitch for the Tribe to let go of the lead.
The fourth run is totally on the Indians defense, so Kluber can't be blamed there. All said, the 26 year old Tribe righty went six innings, giving up four runs (three earned), with no walks, seven strikeouts, and one homer. The part that really jumps out about his line, and reflects the way he pitched as a whole, is the seven punch outs against no walks. Sure, A's hitters were hacking, but the lack of walks highlights his strong command throughout most of this game. All but one of his breaking balls were very crisp; Kluber also showed good fastball location, as well. It's a start to build on for a young arm that should be in competition for a rotation spot heading into 2013.
Cabrera's ejection: Asdrubal Cabrera was ejected in the 1st inning by home plate umpire, Gary Darling for feverishly arguing balls and strikes. Cabrera was rung up on a full-count curve ball that appeared low; rather than realizing the importance of his bat in a struggling Tribe lineup, he instead chose to get in Darling's face. Cabrera could've easily said his piece respectfully, as Darling was letting him get away with some yapping, but a second pointing of the finger was enough to get Cabrera tossed. What a bone-headed mistake by Cabrera to lose his cool and blatantly call out a veteran ump, while putting a dent in his team's already depleted lineup.
Costly defensive miscues: In the 6th inning with one on and one out, Donaldson hit a grounder to Hannahan, who made a nice charging throw to his side, but the covering Donald let a perfectly-placed throw pass right between his legs at second base, as it skipped into the outfield to allow Reddick to advance to third base. Following Donald's error, Derek Norris hit a grounder to Matt LaPorta, who stepped on the bag for the first out, but got distracted by Donaldson's attempt to advance to 2nd, allowing Reddick to scamper home. Why LaPorta wouldn't look the runner back to third is anyone's guess. In any event, it cost the Indians a run. These mental mishaps are simply inexcusable with the limited Tribe offensive punch.
Gomez returns: Jeanmar Gomez was recalled before Wednesday's game, as Shelley Duncan was the latest Indian to get designated for assignment. Gomez appeared in the 8th inning for a 1-2-3 frame, while striking out Crisp on a nice hard sinker that caught the Oakland center fielder looking. For a guy who was supposedly sour about being sent down to triple-A, it's encouraging to see Gomez return with a scoreless appearance. Giving him a start or two over the final month of the season wouldn't be the worst idea, especially if he's in the mix for a 2013 rotation spot.
3 Most Wanted
Perspective: Jason Kipnis' postgame comments following Tuesday's loss show a guy who has been beaten down by a demoralizing string of losses. It was sobering to listen to a member of the team candidly characterize the second-half swoon as "embarrassing" because that's exactly what it's been. The Tribe should follow their young leader's advice and play loose the rest of the way. With losses in 26 of their last 31 games, there is no other option than to relax and put forth the best effort possible the rest of the season. The players on the roster, at least most of them, have plenty to prove, regarding their future roles with the team. Therefore, to the best of their abilities, the Indians need to block out this horrid stretch and play with some pride, individually and collectively, as they try to salvage something from this forgettable season.
Timely hitting: With an 0-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position for this game, the Tribe has now gone 6-for-74 (.081) in that department over the last ten games. Yikes.
Lonnie Chisenhall: The 23 year old Indians third baseman could be ready for a minor league rehab assignment after this weekend. He's resumed baseball activities: taking batting practice on Monday, as well as taking grounders and running the bases on Tuesday. If Chisenhall can bounce back from a fractured ulna and contribute over the final month, he could be a necessary youthful infusion to get this offense off the mat. If nothing else, he should be part of the long-term plans at third base, so hopefully he can prove himself worthy of the everyday gig.
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