Second Thoughts: Game #25 – Rangers 5, Indians 2
|W: A. Ogando (1-0) L: J. Smith (1-1) S: J. Nathan (7)
Player of the Game: Adrian Beltre (Pinch-hit two out, three-run home run in the top of the 11th inning to give Texas the late lead and victory in extra innings).
It was a hard fought loss for the Indians on Saturday, as the Tribe just couldn’t get the big hit when the team needed it the most late in the ballgame. After being outdueled and by Rangers starter Derek Holland for seven innings, Cleveland would claw their way back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, only to have their hopes of any late inning magic crushed by Adrian Beltre’s pinch hit three-run home run that gave the Rangers the 5-2 victory.
Derek Lowe also pitched well again for the Tribe, getting himself out of tough jams all night and having Texas roll into 14 groundball outs. With the no decision, the former World Series champ remains 4-1 in 2012, where his four wins are tied for second-best in all of Major League Baseball.
The Top 9
- How Lowe can you go? No, Indians starter Derek Lowe wasn’t lights out on Saturday, but he threw yet another quality start for the Tribe, giving his team the chance to win the ballgame. The veteran right hander surrendered just two runs on nine hits in six innings of work, and is now a ridiculous 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA in four starts at Progressive Field this season. I now know who I want facing the Detroit Tigers when they come to Cleveland later this month.
- Asdrubal Cabrera with four hits on the night. The lone Indians offense came from Cabrera who banged out four of the Tribe’s eight hits on the night. The Indians shortstop is now hitting .409 in his last seven games at the plate, where four of his nine hits have resulted in extra-base hits. Cabrera is also hitting .425 during night games compared to just .244 during day games.
- Tribe with another late comeback push. Even though Cleveland lost the game in extra innings, it was nice to see the Tribe make a late inning push to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, especially against a dangerous Texas pitching staff. It goes to show fans that this team is going to fight till the very end for a playoff spot if they need to come September.
- Jason Kipnis is an absolute hitting machine. With another hit against the Rangers on Saturday, Jason Kipnis extended his hitting streak to a season-best nine games on the year. If he continues at his pace for most of the season, I honestly believe Kipnis could easily become baseball’s next Dustin Pedroia for many years to come.
- Keeping Kipnis in the two-hole. I said it at the outset of the 2012 season, Kipnis belongs in the two-hole of the Indians lineup, this after hitting .284 with all seven of his home runs and 18 RBI batting second in 2011. Currently the Tribe second baseman is hitting .333 in 48 at-bats hitting second in the lineup, with an on-base percentage of .377 as well.
- Michael Brantley continues to swing a hot stick. The Indians center fielder has now hit safely in nine of the last 10 games, hitting .317 during that time span and really becoming a force in the Tribe lineup. In order to stretch the lineup out as much as possible, I wouldn’t mind seeing Brantley drop further in the order now that Johnny Damon will be leading off the majority of games, where his ideal spot could be hitting ninth.
- Nick Hagadone solid out of the ‘pen again. Down by just two runs late in the game, I like that Indians manager Manny Acta called on Hagadone out of the bullpen to stop the Rangers from adding any insurance runs. The rookie southpaw made quick work of Texas after working two scoreless innings of relief, showing yet again why he deserves to stay in the big leagues.
- Very entertaining ballgames. The series may be tied at 1-1, but both games so far in the three game series with Texas have been very entertaining ballgames. With the Tribe hanging with the powerhouse Rangers in both games so far, fans can only hope this is a sign of good things to come against contending teams as the season progresses. How about an Indians vs. Rangers matchup in the 2012 ALCS? Ok…maybe too early.
- Don’t expect an outing like this from Joe Smith again. It was going to happen sometime. After the Bullpen Mafia snapped a 15 2/3 scoreless streak this past week, Joe Smith served up the eventual game winning three-run home run to Beltre in the 11th inning on Saturday. With Smith giving up just one home run all season, this could be just a tiny bump in the road for the sidearm specialist.
The Bottom 9
- Cabrera couldn’t turn crucial double play. After Joe Smith walked Craig Gentry to lead off the top of the 11th inning, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz grounded out in what should have been an easy double play but Cabrera dropped the ball getting it out of his glove, eventually leading to Beltre’s game winning blast later that same inning. An unfortunate mistake, but a big one no doubt.
- Lou Marson. Maybe it’s just me, but I am starting to get tired of seeing Lou Marson wearing a Tribe uniform. Don’t get me wrong he’s one of the best defensive catcher’s in the game, but in hindsight is simply a hole whenever he’s in the lineup. Marson went 0-for-4 on Saturday and is now just 1-for-16 on the season, as the Indians are just 1-4 in games he starts. In 586 career at-bats in the Majors, Marson now has a career average of just .213 and an on-base percentage of .292. Would he even be in the Majors on another team?
- Indians hitters 4 through 9 in the lineup completely absent from game. The Tribe’s 4-9 hitters (Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo, Shelley Duncan, Jack Hannahan, and Marson) went a combined 1-for-23 on Saturday. For a team already struggling to score runs and playing against a tough team like Texas, this is completely unacceptable moving forward. If the Indians want to say in contention all season long they cannot have games and showings like this.
- Hafner pressing? After going on a tear to start the 2012 season in his final contract year with the Tribe, Travis Hafner is hitting just .158 over his last seven games, going 3-for-19 with only one extra-base hit as well. With a .171 average at home and a .371 average on the road, could Pronk really be trying to do too much in front of his home fans?
- Not getting the leadoff man on. Just twice in 11 innings did the Indians get the leadoff man on to start off an inning. Sometimes all it takes is for a leadoff walk or hit to get the ball rolling for a big inning and the Tribe is without a doubt overdue for doing that.
- Having the Rangers score first. Even with a veteran pitcher like Lowe on the mound, having Texas score first can sink any momentum a team had going into the game. Yes, Cleveland did win the first game of the series so they did have confidence coming into Saturday night’s game, but with Holland mowing down Indians hitters inning after inning, it is never good to be playing from behind by the second inning.
- Tribe continues to struggle with RISP. The Indians were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position in the game, leaving seven men on base through the 11 innings as well. The Tribe’s best chance to grab the lead happened in the bottom of the eighth, with Cabrera on third base and only one out, Santana would strike out and Hafner grounded out to second base. All Santana needed to do was hit a sac fly and it would have eailsy changed the outcome of the game.
- No Indians home runs. After hitting at least one long ball in each of their past four games, the Tribe did not manage to hit a home run on Saturday. With the team scoring just two runs against Holland and the Rangers, it would have been nice for the Indians to put up some crooked numbers on the scoreboard with at least a couple home runs.
- Mike Adams trade. Many Tribe fans probably do not even know that Rangers setup man Mike Adams was once a member of the Indians farm system. After being claimed off waivers by the Tribe in 2006, Adams pitched in three games with then the Triple-A Cleveland affiliate Buffalo Bisons. It wasn’t long after though that the Indians would then trade Adams to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Brian Sikorski…yeah that trade worked out pretty well.
Even with the loss, the Indians (14-11) remain in first place still 1.5 games ahead of second place Detroit in the Central Division. The Tribe also snapped their third three-game winning streak on the season, sporting a home record below the .500 mark at 5-8.
Up next for the Indians: The rubber match of the three-game series against Texas on Sunday, as it will be Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 5.02 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (4-0, 2.18 ERA) at 1:05 pm. The Tribe had some success against Darvish during spring training, as the Japanese phenom gave up two runs on three hits in three innings against Indians hitters on March 13.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.