Second Thoughts Game #39: Indians 10, Phillies 4
Cleveland powers past Hamels, Phillies for series split
The Indians had either won or tied eight straight series heading into Wednesday’s game against the Phillies. Needing a win to keep that streak alive, the Indians relied on Corey Kluber, who was coming off a start in which he gave up eight runs in only 4.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers. Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels made his second career start against the Indians and faced a lineup that was without starters Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley.
The Whole Nine
1. There is something to say for how well the Indians have done against ‘good’ pitchers this year. Cole Hamels is the exact kind of pitcher who carved the Indians up in years past, but those days are over. The Indians’ team OPS against left-handed pitching so far in 2013 is .790, fourth best in all of baseball. New additions Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, Ryan Rayburn and Drew Stubbs all have .900+ OPS’s against left-handers.
2. Speaking of Drew Stubbs, has anyone noticed how ugly his splits are? Stubbs is hitting just .207/.226/.268 against right-handers this year. In 82 at-bats he’s had 30 strikeouts and just two walks. Meanwhile, in 44 at-bats against left-handers he’s hitting .341/.423/.545. As expected, Stubbs had a decent game against Hamels, but you have to imagine that he’s going to start losing a lot more playing time against right-handed pitching.
3. Games like this are obviously what Terry Francona was envisioning by batting Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera 2-3 in the order. Kipnis and Cabrera were 5-for-8 with walks and four RBI in the game. Their rough start to the season mirrored that of the Indians’ entire offense and their play over the last 15-20 games has gone a long way in the team’s climb toward the top of the division.
4. It was good to see Corey Kluber forget about his last outing and go back out there and pitch a quality game. He went six innings, giving up three runs and striking out five without allowing a walk. This marks the third ‘good’ start, out of four since he was inserted into the rotation when Brett Myers went down. With only 28 innings on the year, the eight runs given up last week against Detroit killed his ERA, but that number doesn’t accurately reflect how well he’s pitched. His FIP is 3.91 and his xFIP is 3.78. If his ERA ends up in that range the Indians will be ecstatic. It’s always good to see a pitcher breakthrough into a quality big league starter and that’s what we’re seeing from Corey Kluber right now.
5. Nevertheless, the Indians will have a tough decision to make when Brett Myers comes back. Myers is set to begin a rehab assignment soon and his return would presumably bump Kluber from the rotation. The rotation has really started to gel with Kluber, Scott Kazmir, and Ubaldo Jimenez providing quality innings over the last couple of weeks. I’m pessimistic on Myers' health and ability to return to form and I’m not sure even if he returns to form it’ll be better than what Kluber could give us. Either way, there are seven million reasons he’ll be back in the rotation. My hope is that the Indians will cut bait quickly, if needed.
6. Speaking of cutting bait, Matt Albers can’t be long for this team. Even with Nick Hagadone’s struggles with control, Albers is the weak link in the pen. His roster status has saved him this long, but when Pestano and Myers return, and assuming another position player is added to the roster at some point, I can’t imagine he’ll survive. You could do worse for a last guy out of the pen to eat innings, but the Indians don’t need him. They have other options.
7. After a terrorizing start to the year, Carlos Santana’s batting average has fallen all the way to .319 after a 1-for-5 performance in this game. Santana has only six hits in his last 32 at-bats (.188 batting average). The good news here is that the lineup is still putting up runs with Santana struggling.
8. I can’t be the only one skeptical about the Indians seemingly committing to playing Mark Reynolds a couple days a week at third baseman. One of the underrated benefits of the team’s offseason signings has been their improved play defensively. I suppose it’s a short-term solution, with the hope that Chisenhall works his way back to Cleveland, but Reynolds is not a major league quality defensive third baseman. They really need to watch how much they expose him over there.
9. With that said, I do think Mike Aviles can be a suitable everyday solution at third base, at least for this year. The problem there is that it would reduce his flexibility and mitigate his value as a utility player. Aviles is a capable defender at third and his bat has been solid enough. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is only .255, so he could even see an up-tick in his numbers moving forward. The Indians would obviously rather have Aviles coming off the bench, but my hope is he gets the majority of the playing time at third and Reynolds role stays somewhat constant with what he’s been doing.
A win in this game brings the Indians back to within a half game of the division lead. The team will be heading back home for a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners. The first game of the series will be Friday with Ubaldo Jimenez facing off against Brandon Maurer. Jimenez has put together three encouraging starts in a row while Maurer has struggled all season. On paper this game looks very winnable.