Second Thoughts Game #44: Athletics 13, Indians 3
Poor pitching, errors and lack of clutch hits doom Tribe against A's
Let's put it this way, the Indians didn't do much to help take my mind off the flu-like symptoms that have plagued me these last few days. In fact, in my fever-riddled state of mind, I would probably swear I was watching the same game over again three times.
The sad reality is I was not hallucinating as the visiting Athletics outscored the Tribe 30-6 over the course of a three-game sweep.
Starters Now Struggling
It was almost the same story every game. The Indians would take an early 1-0 lead, but that advantage would be short-lived as the A's bats roared back to not only take the lead, but put some distance between them and the Tribe on the scoreboard. 11-1, 6-2 and 13-3 were the finals of the three games with Oakland on top in every one.
Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister each had their outings shortened by ineffectiveness as they surrendered seven and eight earned runs, respectively, to the A's loaded lineup. Only Josh Tomlin had a respectable outing even though he, too, was saddled with a loss as he allowed three runs in six innings of work in game two. However, Tomlin has now served up a home run in each of his first three starts this season, which as I've said before is something to keep a wary eye on.
Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have already been removed from the rotation due to ineffectiveness. Now Zach McAllister's recent struggles are becoming a concern as he has lost four out of his last five starts and not pitched more than five innings in those losses. He had a dominant outing against the Twins two starts ago, but other than that, he hasn't had the consistency lately that the Indians expect of him.
Corey Kluber has been, by far, the Tribe's best starter over these first several weeks and they'll look to him to turn their fortunes around again on Monday against a tough Tigers team. Also, Trevor Bauer is scheduled to return to Cleveland to take Salazar's place in the rotation. He has pitched well in Columbus this season and was dominant in a spot start against San Diego last month, so maybe he can help get this staff back on track, too.
As many have said, this team will only go as far as their starting rotation and during their series-win streak, that proved to be the case as it has during this current skid.
No Clutch Hitting
As bad as the pitching was this weekend, nothing could top what turned out to be yet another anemic performance by the offense. Even with Michael Brantley and David Murphy racking up eight hits combined during the series, the offense put up one big goose egg with runners in scoring position going 0-for-15 over the course of three games.
The two primary culprits in this lineup's offensive struggles, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher, were finally moved down in the lineup on Sunday. Hot-hotting Mike Aviles took over in the #2 spot while Ryan Raburn, another struggling bat, hit cleanup. I would guess that if these lineup changes are permanent, Asdrubal Cabrera would bat second since Aviles was giving him a day off at short. As to who will bat cleanup until Santana gets on track? Your guess is as good as mine.
It's no secret by now that the Tribe offense is struggling. Of course, injuries to Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, Nyjer Morgan and Jason Giambi can't be helped, but the performance of key contributors like Santana and Swisher certainly can. The clutch hitting of Brantley and Murphy does help ease the pressure a bit, but a supposed playoff contender can't rely on them alone to drive the offense.
On the season, the Indians have posted a mere .226 batting mark with runners in scoring position, which is just a handful of ticks higher than the lowly Houston Astros for worst in the league. With the Indians now in a double-digit deficit in the division race, something has to be changed or corrected in the lineup and fast.
Welcome to the Big Leagues
Probably the only positive in this series was the fact that we got to see a first glimpse of several key prospects at the big league level.
Left-hander Kyle Crockett was summoned just before the start of the series as he became the first player from the 2013 draft to receive a big league call-up. He appeared in two of the three games allowing a run on two hits, including a home run. He has also walked one and struck out one. On Sunday he pitched an inning and a third of shutout ball, which had become the norm for him in the minors. As an intern for the Akron RubberDucks who has watched him pitch all season at the AA level, I could not be happier to see him get a well-deserved opportunity.
Also called up were left-hander T.J. House and first baseman Jesus Aguilar from AAA. This marks the second big-league call-up for House, but the first time he has been used in a game as he pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday. Aguilar was actually summoned a few days ago and has gotten sporadic playing time thus far. He has yet to record a hit in four official at-bats thus far, but he has drawn a pair of walks and struck out twice. The Indians are hoping his power and run production in AAA could help spark this lineup.
For many of us at the site, seeing these prospects at the big league level is about as exciting as anything, but it's also concerning considering how we're dipping into our farm system reserves this early in the season.
Up next: Tigers (26-12) vs. Indians (19-25) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.
As things stand right now, the Indians are in last place in the AL Central and now 10 games out of first, which is a tough spot to be in no matter where you are during the season. They will have a chance to make up some of that ground, however, as the first-place Tigers come to town for a three-game set.
Once again, Corey Kluber, arguably the current ace of the staff for Cleveland, will be put in the position of trying to stop the team's losing skid. He pitched well in his last start against Toronto as the offense busted out for 15 runs. The right-hander pitched seven two-run innings while walking one and striking out nine.
Left-hander Drew Smyly will be opposing Kluber on Monday after dealing six dominant frames in Baltimore last week despite walking away with a no-decision. He has not had much trouble transitioning back to the starting rotation so far this season as he is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in seven starts.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
Kluber, Brantley, Gomes, Chisenhall, Bauer, Salazar, Kipnis......and maybe Santana if he ever remembers how to hit are again are a core to build on. It's time to be looking at some transactions involving the non-core players. Masterson in particular needs to be moved now while his value is still high.