Second Thoughts Game #145: Royals 6, Indians 2
Total Team Loss
In the rubber game against the Kansas City Royals the Indians suffered a total team breakdown. A less than stellar pitching performance from Scott Kazmir combined with another futile day offensively doomed Cleveland. If that wasn’t enough, poor performances from Rich Hill and Matt Albers out of the bullpen shot down any chance for a comeback.
In the midst of a rough month, there was some hope that after his last start Kazmir was righting the ship, but he started off the game by giving up a home-run, triple, and single before recording an out. Kazmir would get out of the inning after giving up three runs and then settle down until the fifth inning, when he was pulled after allowing three straight base runners.
After two and third strong innings from Bryan Shaw, Francona turned the ball over to Rich Hill. As he’s done many times this year, Hill struggled. He walked the first batter and then gave up a single. If that wasn’t bad enough, he followed it up by taking a groundball and committed a throwing error that allowed another run to score. In the last couple of weeks Hill’s usage has gone down, which has been good, but now is the time to pull the string altogether (and has been for months). I’m no Clay Rapada fan, but of course that’s why I was in favor of seeing Kyle Crockett get a shot this September.
In the past two games the Indians have had to use a lot of different relief pitchers that they’d probably like to avoid having pitch in games against a wild card contender like the Royals. The fact is that the Indians main bullpen pieces have pitched a lot of innings over the last two weeks. That’s one of the byproducts of Danny Salazar being limited to 75 pitches, Kluber coming back from injury, and the struggles of McAllister and Kazmir lately. That’s a lot of stress being put on the bullpen.
On the other hand, one of the things that the team could use to bail out an overworked bullpen and a struggling pitching staff is an offense that gets more than four hits. James Shields is tough, but this offense has needed to heat up for weeks and more now than ever. You can’t win a game with two runs and four hits.
Michael Brantley Does It Again
The Indians only offense on the day came from another clutch two-out hit from Michael Brantley. On a team that has struggled seemingly for months with runners in scoring position, Brantley’s two-out two-RBI single in the first gave hope that the team would be able to bounce back from the early deficit. Unfortunately, James Shields had other plans.
Brantley is now .353/.402/.451 with runners in scoring position and .328/.409/.483 with runners in scoring position and two outs. Now we just need to find a way to get him to the plate each time the team has runners in scoring position.
Kansas City vs. Cleveland – Playoff Chances
The Indians, Royals, Orioles, Yankees, and Rays are now all bunched together within three games of each other in the wild card race. Despite the series loss, the Indians still appear more than capable of holding off the Royals. Cleveland is up just one half game in the standings, but the Royals still have series to play against Detroit, Cleveland, and Texas. The Indians SHOULD gain a game or two while the Royals are going through that stretch. The series between the two teams on September 16th-18th is going to be huge.
- Let’s set aside Asdrubal Cabrera's and Mark Reynolds' time with the Indians for a second. Other than them, the next Indians starter with the lowest WAR is Drew Stubbs. There’s going to be plenty of conversations about the merits of keeping Stubbs next season. For a team that’s not going to have a lot of money to play with (and a backup RF under contract for $2.25 million) Stubbs is going to command a raise to around $4 million or more in the off-season. Stubbs has three hits in 24 at-bats with 12 strikeouts this September. Not only would it be best for the team to mix in Raburn and Kubel more in RF the rest of this year, I’m hopeful they’ll look for different options moving forward.
- As a reminder, the Rays still have series against the Yankees, Orioles, and Rangers. In addition to the Rays, the Orioles still have two series against the Red Sox. The Yankees also have a series with the Red Sox in addition to their series against the Rays. It’s time to start rooting for the Red Sox.
- The Indians open a four game series on Thursday against the White Sox, the second worst team in the American League record-wise. These are games we’ve been looking at on the calendar for months now knowing that we had a chance to win and gain ground on the other contenders in the process. Now, it’s time to go out and win them.