Second Thoughts: Game #41 Marlins 5, Indians 3
|W: J. Johnson (2-3) L: D. Lowe (6-2) S: H. Bell (5)|
Pre game Thoughts
The Tribe entered this game up 3.5 games on the White Sox, and 4 games up on Detroit. I think most would agree that this was the most interesting matchup of the weekend. Derek Lowe has been far and away the best pitcher for the Indians this year while Josh Johnson has been a perennial Cy Young candidate for the Marlins. I think if most had predicted which of these pitchers would have an ERA over 5 by mid-May, it would not be Josh Johnson. Johnson is off to the worst start of his career. The Indians should have been able to take advantage of the trouble he has been having, especially since he is right-handed, which meant the line up should have been able to take advantage of Johnson.
It should also be pointed out that today was the 41st game of the season, past the 40-game mark when the Indians really reevaluate the team and see what needs to be done. Monday is an off day and there is a decent chance one or two moves will be made based on what the brass feels this team needs.
The First Three Innings
The Marlins showed why speed kills in the first inning, when they were able to manufacture a run after a Reyes double. Reyes is another one of their huge investments that is not paying off as they had hoped. They went and spent a ton in free agency, with the most effective player they signed being Mark Buehrle. Indians fans should thank the Marlins for getting Buehrle out of the division. Lowe got out of the inning, giving up a single run on 2 hits.
Last week in this write up I said they had to find someone to put in the leadoff spot instead of Damon. Part of me wanted to recommend Choo, but because he was a struggling a bit I decided against the idea. I am glad the Indians ignored his struggles. Choo has really performed in the top spot. He managed to work a leadoff walk and then stole second. It was all the Tribe managed to do in the first inning though.
In the top of the third the Marlins managed to get another run by striking with two outs. Hanley Ramirez singled, then Greg Dobbs elevated a Lowe pitch for a double that scored another run to make it 2-0 Marlins. In the Indians half to the third Choo singled; the Indians first hit of the game.
The Middle Three Innings
During the middle innings, Lowe was fantastic, as no one reached base in the 4th or 5th. He did start to wear down in the 6th, as Stanton singled and Morrison walked. Lowe then induced a ground out to get out of the inning. He went six strong, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk. He once again looked great, and right now has made the front office look incredibly smart trading for him.
As for the Indians, they did manage to put together a threat in the fifth. Brantley lead off the inning with a single. Then Jose Lopez stayed hot and singled, which scored a run for the Tribe and extended his hit streak to seven games. Lou Marson worked a walk, and the Indians had men on first and second with only one out. Choo hit the ball to Logan Morrison at first who went for a double play. Marson was called for interference because he never slid, and ran out of the base paths so the inning is then over.
The Last Three Innings
Nick Hagadone started the seventh, and while he had been untouchable, but has been showing a lot of the same problems he had with control in AAA the last two years. He got the first two guys out then gave up a single to Reyes and followed it up with a walk to Bryan Peterson, who was hitting all of .154. He managed to get Hanley Ramirez to hit a week pop up that Santana lost and is saved by Marson, who manages to redeemed his earlier error by getting the Indians out of a jam in the 7th.
The Indians again are able to make it tough on Josh Johnson. Carlos Santana led off with a single. Brantley flied out, then Damon hit a shot that was caught up against the wall. Jose Lopez stepped up and ripped a double, putting Indians on second and third with two outs. Kotchman pinch hit for Marson and worked the count to 3-0,but Johnson battled back to a full count, then got Kotchman to ground out on a 3-2 changeup.
Hagadone fell behind Dobbs 3-0, and then gave up a double. He was replaced by Jeremy Accardo, who walked Stanton on four pitches. The next batte,r Logan Morrison, hit the second pitch from Accardo for double, which scored Dobbs, Marlins 3-1. Next up was Brett Hayes who ripped a single. Marlins now lead 4-1. Coghlan followed with a ground out, which is the first out of the 8th and also scored a run. The score was 5-1 Marlins. The inning finally ended when Santana threw out Chris Coghlan trying to steal second but the damage is done, three runs are scored, and the Indians only have six outs left.
Randy Choate entered the game for the Marlins; he has pitched 11 total innings and one of those is vs. the Tribe. Every team has the book on the Tribe, and these match up lefties will be something the Indians face all year. Choo worked a walk on five pitches. Then Choate's first pitch to Kipnis was also off. Ozzie Guillen came to the mound, and seemed to calm Choate. Kipnis followed by swinging at the next pitch and hit into a double play. Still my biggest issue of the year with this team, is letting wild pitchers off the hook by swinging at the first pitch that is in the zone. Choate had been wild, and Kipnis should have waited to see if Choate can get it together. The next pitch, Choate hit Asdrubal, showing that Choate's control is definitely off. Choate then threw two more balls to Hafne,r before Pronk managed to strike out, the inning is done.
The Marlins left Choate in for the 9th. For a guy who is a situational lefty, he has now had more innings against the Indians than any team he has faced in baseball this year, and some of the other teams have faced the Marlins as much as twice as many times. This is why the lack of right handers in this line up can be a killer. The lineup has no balance at all right now. The Indians made it a bit interesting. After an error, Brantley grounded out in a fielder's choice. Damon managed a single, so the Indians had men on first and second with no out. Ozzie Guillen went to his pen and brought in his closer Heath Bell, since it was then a save situation. Jose Lopez took the first pitch from Bell and pounded it to centerfield. Brantley scored from second, making the score 5-2. Kotchman came to the plate as the potential tying run, with runners on second and third. Kotchman nearly legged out a single, but instead grounded out to second. Another run did score, which cut the lead down to 5-3. Choo flew out to end the game. Final score: Marlins 5, Indians 3.
Derek Lowe was great again today. He only managed to go six, but he gave up only two runs. He has been so good this year that this outing actually managed to raise his ERA. As a Tribe fan I don't think that anymore could be hoped for then what Lowe has given the Tribe all year. He is averaging seven innings a start and a hair over two runs per outing.
On the hitting side of things Choo and Lopez both managed to get on base three times today. Those two players accounted for 60% of the Indians times on base. Lopez could have pouted when he got sent to AAA, instead he hit. He came up to the majors and has taken advantage of his playing time. Even when Hannahan is ready to play, it will be hard to put Lopez on the bench. He has been easily the Indians best hitter this series.
Choo has really flourished since he got bumped to the top of the order. His average is up 31 points, his OBP is up 24 points, and his slugging is up 56 points. He is finding ways to get on base, and has really become a great table setter. If only the people hitting behind him were up to the task.
Remember when everyone told you that the Indians biggest strength was the bullpen? Well, that has proven to be not entirely true. They are stuck relying on guys like Accardo in the 8th inning, because of the lack of options. Injuries have really hurt the depth, and a lot of pitchers have been more inconsistent this year. This is always the trouble with bullpens. Nothing in baseball is more combustible than bullpens. The hope is that things will start it even out and that Raffy Perez will come back healthy, or that CC Lee will be able to step up and be the next great young arm to come up and help out the Indians’ pen.
This area is soon going to be renamed the bad, brought to you by Travis Hafner. He managed one walk and no hits the entire series. His line is now down to .238/.380/.421. Once again, while his OPS is actually solid, Hafner looks more or less done. He can still get around on fastball from time to time, but he is just killing the team in the four spot. I don't know who else could hit there, but it's about time to at least swap Hafner and Santana. The other hitter who is really struggling of late is Jason Kipnis, who also managed to only reach base once this entire series. In the past week his OPS has dropped almost 90 points, and when you add in the fact that he is a so-so defender; then if Kipnis is not hitting he is really not bringing a lot of value to the team. The hope is that he is a young player and that this is just the ups and downs that go with young players and a long baseball season. Still outside of the weekend in Boston, he has not hit at all over the past few weeks.
The Indians are now 23-18, and have a 2.5 game lead over the White Sox and a three game lead over the Tigers. They have an off day today, and I would not be shocked at all to see Laporta called up and Duncan released. Then, tomorrow starts a huge three game series with the Tigers. The reason is so huge and goes beyond the standings.
The Indians are finally starting to draw fans to the park, if they want to keep this up, they need to leave this series with the Tigers with first place in hand. They need to keep the casual fan interested. The Indians need continued success if they want to move out of the cellar in terms of attendance numbers. Over the past few weeks, the total attendance numbers have gone up over three percent, and while small, it's still a steady increase. If the Indians have any hope to add more help to this team, they need the fans to go to games, which will give them some leeway in acquiring salary.
While it hurts to lose this series, arguably, the most important series of the young season begins tomorrow. So fans, lets continue to make it out and support the Indians and their fight for first place this week against the Tigers.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The fact that the Tribe had to bring in Kotchman as a pinch-hitter tells you all that you need to know about the personnel.
Hafner needs to start elevating balls. It seems like everything he hits is on the ground, and with his lack of foot speed and pulling everything into the shift, he grounds out time after time.
He also takes too many fastballs right down the middle on the first pitch, but I've been complaining about him doing that for years. You only get three strikes - why give one away, especially when it's the best pitch to hit you'll see in the entire at-bat?