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Second Thoughts Game #15: Indians 5, Tigers 7

Salazar's struggles continue as Brantley and Chisenhall's efforts come up short

Second Thoughts Game #15: Indians 5, Tigers 7
New Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler racks up four RBI in a 7-5 victory over the Tribe on Thursday. (Photo: Rick Osentoski)
April 18, 2014
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Despite the efforts of Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians could not overcome the pitching woes of Danny Salazar and the bullpen on Thursday as the Tigers split the brief two-game series in Motown. Even though the Indians managed to make Justin Verlander work during five innings, the Tiger bullpen came in and held the lead.

Player of the Game: Ian Kinsler (2-for-5, HR, R, 4 RBI)

I'll admit I was skeptical about the Tigers trading Prince Fielder for Kinsler straight-up since the former All-Star second baseman appeared to be in decline after last season. So far, though, the trade has payed off for Detroit as Kinsler is batting over .300 out of the leadoff spot and now has two home runs and eight RBI on the year.

Kinsler was a one-man wrecking crew on Thursday as he drove in four of the seven runs for the Tigers with the big blow coming in the fifth inning against Danny Salazar in the form of a three-run homer.

Command Concerns

The one encouraging element from Danny Salazar's start on Thursday was that he managed to conserve his pitch count better than in previous starts. Although, that may have been attributed more to the aggressiveness of the Tigers hitters since the right-hander still struggled to find the strike zone throwing less than 60% strikes.

I haven't lost faith in Salazar's potential, but it's hard not to be concerned with his command struggles at this point. And with the way Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson are also currently struggling to pitch deep into games, one has to wonder how much longer until a change is made in the rotaton. After all, Trevor Bauer did make a nice impression in his last spot start with the Tribe and he is dominating in AAA Columbus. Plus, Josh Tomlin also pitched well during spring training.

Thankfully, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister appear to have gotten back on track and picked up where they left off prior to injury last year. However, even with an eight-man bullpen, they can't continue to cover for three out of five starters who can't even make it through five innings for much longer.

Masterson is here to stay and figure out his issues on his own. Carrasco is out of options and would have to be DFA'ed or moved to the bullpen, but Salazar can certainly be sent down for a brief minor league tuneup. And with the Tribe going all in on him as a potential ace, it might be worth considering.

Can't Send Chisenhall Down

Chisenhall got his big test on Thursday as he not only got four hits in four at-bats, he got one of those hits against left-hander Phil Coke. Of course, Coke does have an ERA of over 11 on the year, but it's encouraging to see Chisenhall's approach remain unchanged even against a southpaw.

The young Tribe third baseman is now batting .522 with 12 hits in 23 at-bats thus far. But whats more encouraging is the fact that he's not trying to pull the ball or hit home runs in every at-bat. He has yet to go deep or even drive in a run in his limited playing time this season. Run producing is not a primary concern at this point, though.

His BABIP so far this season has been an impressive .632 with his line drive percentage a career-high 42.1%. The question becomes what role would he fill if the Tribe kept him on the big league squad? Obviously Jason Giambi's imminent return will make things interesting, but Carlos Santana's offensive struggles could also lead to more playing time opening up at third base.

Facts and Notes

  • Jason Kipnis was the first Indians player or coach to be ejected in 2014 after arguing strike calls in the third inning.
  • Michael Bourn recorded his first hit of the 2014 regular season with a single in the third inning.
  • Scott Atchison allowed his first earned run of 2014 in the ninth inning of Thursday's game.
  • Michael Brantley is now tied for third in the American League in runs driven in with 14 so far this season.

Up Next: Blue Jays (8-8) vs. Indians (7-8) @ Progressive Field. 7:05 first pitch.

Justin Masterson will take the hill once again and get another chance at returning to the dominant form that the Indians have become accustomed to seeing from him. Hopefully getting some extra rest due to recent weather-related delays and postponements helps. Matching up against Masterson will be right-hander Drew Hutchison, who is coming off a dominant start against the Orioles during which he pitched six shutout innings with five strikeouts.

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

User Comments

C L Who
April 19, 2014 - 1:53 PM EDT
Some AAA has worked for Bauer.....why not for Salazar? I dread Giambi's return....he hasn't had a hit in ST or in AA I believe. He needs an offer he can't refuse to become a coach.
April 19, 2014 - 4:31 AM EDT
Aaron Harang looks better than Carasco and Salazar at this point
April 18, 2014 - 2:40 PM EDT
I am not sure how you change that order either. By that I mean I think Chisenhall batting down in the order makes him better at the plate as he does not see the type of pitches he would be seeing if he was near the heart of the order. I don’t believe a Chisenhall is ready to be moved. But I do believe it is time to give Santana more days off during the week. I would DH him and spot start him at catcher. But more days off from playing third and get Raburn in the batting order more. Same with Swisher maybe move him down to 6th or 7th maybe move Murphy into the 2 hole how much worse can it get? I don’t believe a major overhaul is needed maybe some tinkering and give some guys days on the bench
April 18, 2014 - 2:26 PM EDT
Two, three and four hitters 0 for 10 with 6 punch outs. Time to rework the order.
April 18, 2014 - 2:15 PM EDT
15 games into the season and our cleanup hitter has 1 RBI, think it may be time for a change.
April 18, 2014 - 2:00 PM EDT
Swisher and Santana are leaving small armies of base runners in scoring position
Maybe it’s just me, but I have little faith with Santana wearing any other glove but a batting glove.
Chisenhall will not continue on this torrid pace, but I would hope we give him the full year to see what type of player he could become.
For the first 4 innings Salazar looked great, then for whatever the reason he lost it. I believe he will grow from this start
My goodness I love watching Bourn play center field he gets to balls so effortlessly….but… three times he wiped out Chisenhall at second base with a ground ball all pulled to the right side of the infield. Then we were 10-10 in base stealing attempts and guess who the first one caught? Our supposedly best base stealer.
April 18, 2014 - 1:11 PM EDT
Good idea not pitching Salazar in spring training to get him ready for the season.
April 18, 2014 - 1:10 PM EDT
Yeah, I think Chisenhall has bought himself some more time. It has to be a reliever going down for Giambi. Maybe even two going down (both Lee and Wood) to add a fresh arm and add Giambi. Or, they just finally punt on Johnson....
April 18, 2014 - 12:35 PM EDT
So would Wood, and Johnson be the candidates to be optioned down DFA'd respectively for Giambi and whoever else? Maybe like Aguilar
April 18, 2014 - 12:07 PM EDT
The hitting with runners on base has been atrocious. Big problem right now is the top of the lineup is really struggling....and doesn't help when your 2 and 4 hitters are doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps Santana goes on the DL because you have to wonder if that lower body injury he is dealing with his affecting his swing/power since he has shown none up to this point this season.
April 18, 2014 - 12:03 PM EDT
Errors.. nah..

Top of the order...certainly.. yesterday they were a combined 1 for 16 (6 k's, 4 BB's) while leaving 13 of the 19 men on base.. While the Tribe did score five runs.. the top four spots in the order have to put the bat on the ball and drive in runs..

Chisenhall has been dialed in as well as anytime in his career.. super effort by Lonnie..

Nice surge (going unnoticed) by Droobs at the plate..Perhaps he'll continue to hit like he has every year save for 2013...

Toronto today.. should be a beautiful day for a game...
April 18, 2014 - 11:52 AM EDT
Anyone else concerned about the errors?

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