Second Thoughts Game #131: Indians 0, Braves 2
Search for offense continues as Tribe lays egg in Atlanta
Looking for a spark
Since the start of August, the Indians offense has been next to last in the major leagues in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Only the Phillies have had worse numbers. A long way to fall since that same group of hitters ranked in the top five in offensive production before the All-Star break. Tuesday night was more of the same, unfortunately as the Indians scattered six hits and five walks over the course of nine innings without plating a run. As has become quite a disturbing trend of late, the Indians just couldn’t find that ‘big hit’ to put runs on the board and get things rolling for them.
While the Tribe does have a favorable second half schedule, which up to this point has played a factor in their playoff push, they are on the leading edge of a crucial nine-game stretch in which the Indians will face the Braves for two more games before heading up to Motown for three against the dreaded Tigers and finally coming home for a three-spot against Baltimore. Despite facing mostly sub-500 clubs after that, this stretch could very well make or break their season.
For the time being, getting the offense on a hot streak again, as they have done before this season, is key to any success for the Tribe during this stretch. The pitching doesn’t appear to be an issue as they kept the team in the game once again on Tuesday night dealing shutout ball sans the RBI triple surrendered to Elliot Johnson in the second.
If I’m the Indians, I try everything within my power to try and find that proverbial ‘spark’ to get this lineup to start gelling again. Whether that means calling someone up from the minors, sending someone down, shuffling the lineup, changing player roles or just acquiring another hitter via the waiver wire, something has to be done to shake up the status quo of this offense which clearly is at a dead end.
Looking on the waiver market, the current high-profile players on the wire include Twins slugger Josh Willingham, Kendrys Morales of the Mariners, both of whom are on revocable waivers, and D-Backs outfielder Jason Kubel, who was designated for assignment by Arizona. Justin Morneau was also on waivers at one point, but it’s currently questionable if the Twins will deal him. The waiver trade deadline is on August 31st and it’s still possible for various players to be placed on waivers for trade between now and then.
Facts and Notes:
- RHP Josh Tomlin posted his best minor league rehab start pitching five innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts to earn the win for AAA Columbus. It’s very possible Tomlin could be called up by the weekend.
- After going 3-for-4 in Tuesday’s game, Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hit streak to eight games batting .375 during that span with three doubles and two RBI’s.
- LHP Marc Rzepczynski has now appeared in the same number of games (11) and pitched the exact same number of innings (10.1) for the Indians as the Cardinals this season, but has not yet allowed an earned run in a Tribe uniform as opposed to the nine runs he allowed in St. Louis.
- Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has now locked down 32 consecutive saves. The right-hander now has 42 saves in 45 opportunities this season.
- The Indians have now lost nine of 12 series openers since the All-Star break. However, they’ve won six of those series, including three in which they lost the series opener.
Up Next: Indians vs. Braves @ Turner Field. First pitch at 7:10.
Losing a series opener is never ideal, but for the Indians, it’s something they’ve grown accustomed to as of late and somehow have managed to work around them. However, as they learned on Tuesday night, the Braves are a team that you can’t make mistakes against. One questionable pitch selection by Danny Salazar against Elliot Johnson and one poor route to the ball by right-fielder Drew Stubbs led to the only two runs of the game scoring, which was enough for Atlanta to win.
The Tribe will try to even the score with their ace on the mound on Wednesday night against Braves lefty Paul Maholm. Justin Masterson battled command issues in his last start against the Angels, but still pitched well enough to earn his 14th win of the year. Maholm will be making just his second start since returning from the disabled list. St. Louis tagged him for five runs (four earned) in his first start as he took the loss.
Maholm is 0-2 with a 3.98 ERA in three career starts against the Indians while Masterson has only made one appearance against Atlanta as a reliever pitching two and a third innings allowing only one unearned run.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.