Second Thoughts Game #51: Indians 2, Orioles 4
High pitch count and quiet bats lead to series split for Bauer and Tribe
On Sunday, Josh Beckett managed to turn the clock back a few years as he threw Major League Baseball's first no-hitter of the season for the Dodgers. Trevor Bauer also had a glimpse back in time, but the memory wasn't so pleasant as he tossed over 100 pitches in only four and a third innings. Hopefully this is just a minor setback and not regression to his 2013 form.
A series split isn't the worst thing in the world, though, especially with the Tigers currently falling on hard times atop the division. Of course, the bullpen had to pick up and cover for Bauer on Sunday following his departure, but overall, they are not in nearly as dire straits as a staff as they were when they rolled into to Baltimore.
After a mini-hot streak, the Tribe offense fell flat following the first inning as they only managed five hits combined with none going for extra bases. Needless to say, the return of Kipnis to the lineup couldn't come soon enough.
Too Many Pitches
Like I said, you hope that this is just a minor setback for Bauer and that his effectiveness isn't slipping already. One positive was the fact that the rookie right-hander managed to rack up eight whiffs in his short outing, but the two home runs by Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz still raised some eyebrows.
After pitching very well against Detroit in his last start, Bauer and the Indians were riding high hoping that their starting pitching issues could be put on the back burner for a while, but his brief start on Sunday raised questions once again with Zach McAllister now on the DL and Corey Kluber proving to be pretty much the only starter right now capable of pitching deep into games for the Tribe.
The right-hander tossed 105 pitches in just four and a third innings allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Between Bauer, Justin Masterson, T.J. House (depending on how long he stays in the rotation) and, when he's healthy, Zach McAllister, they need to rediscover some effectiveness in order to at least back up Kluber's output in the rotation.
Hot and Cold
Michael Bourn (Last 10: .372, HR, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 2 SB): Since the injury to Nyjer Morgan, the pressure was on Bourn to earn his paycheck and become the igniting force at the top of the lineup that the Indians have needed. Well, he has not disappointed as he is batting well over .300 in his last 10 games and has accounted for nine runs in that period by either scoring or driving them in.
The only area where improvement is needed is in the stolen base department as he has only swiped two in that 10-game period and four total on the season. I don't think he can steal 50+ in a season anymore, but he's still better than four steals in two months.
Yan Gomes (May: .318, 3 HR, 5 2B, 10 RBI, 7 BB, 11 K): The Blue Jays announced last week that they had designated former Indians reliever Esmil Rogers for assignment. Rogers was the focal point of an early offseason trade in 2012-13 that netted the Tribe catcher Yan Gomes and utility man Mike Aviles. It looked like a solid trade for Cleveland back then and now it looks like pure highway robbery.
Speaking of Gomes, he has quietly turned it on in May batting over .300 with 3 homers and 10 RBI. It's also nice to see him cutting down on the strikeouts by more than half in May compared to April as he is focusing more on getting on base. His hot streak in May has raised his season average to .280 and OBP to .331 as he is proving that his offensive output last season was not a fluke due to limited playing time or favorable at-bats.
Mark Lowe (3.1 IP, 0 R/ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 4 K): Three games isn't much to go on as far as projecting how productive a player will be, but in Mark Lowe's case, the circumstances under which he has been used in those three outings make him worthy of a mention. The veteran right-hander was called up from AAA to put a fresh arm in a tired bullpen that had endured short outings from their starters and extra innings games left and right.
In his three outings against Baltimore in this series, Lowe pitched shutout ball to give the mainstay relievers a bit of a break after a hard-fought series at home against Detroit. Whether Lowe sticks around or not or maintains his effectiveness will remain to be seen, but I'm sure his teammates are certainly appreciative of his effort in these last three games.
John Axford (Last 2: 2 IP, 0 R/ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 3 K): I wanted to bring up Axford's line from his last two appearances not only because he didn't allow any runs, but the fact that he didn't walk a batter. Of course, it helps that the O's are a team that doesn't draw many walks to begin with, but it's still encouraging considering that 26 of his 39 pitches thrown between those two outings were strikes.
I still believe Axford could be an effective reliever for the Tribe even if he doesn't make it back to the closer role. The key is command. Keeping his pitches down is where he needs to start. If he did that and threw all his pitches for strikes, the mixture of his fastball, slider and curveball should take over and improve his effectiveness.
Mike Aviles (Last 10: .167, 2 2B, 5 RBI, BB, 10 K): After a hot streak earlier this month, Aviles has cooled off significantly as his batting average has fallen from the .300 mark to .256. Maybe filling in for Kipnis full-time while he's been on the DL has taken its toll, but either way, he's not getting it done at the plate.
Aside from a decrease in hits, what's been concerning for Aviles has been the spike in strikeouts as he is now averaging one punchout per game. The good news for Mike is Kipnis is due back within the next couple days, so he can get some much-needed rest.
Cody Allen (Last 10: 8 IP, 4 R/ER, HR, 3 BB, 10 K, HB): These numbers were inflated mostly by back-to-back outings where the young right-hander allowed a combined four runs. Other than that, he's been about as effective as he normally is, but at the same time, with 24 outings now on the season (T-3rd in AL), you have to wonder if constant pitching is already starting to take its toll.
Last season, Allen made 77 appearances out of the bullpen, which was the second most in the league. This year, there are more options in the bullpen, particularly in the back end with Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Atchison pitching well this season. However, with Axford out of the closer role as well as the late innings (for now), It won't get any easier for Allen and his cohorts in the back of the bullpen.
(Writer's Note: I tried to focus on the less-obvious hot and cold streaks for this section, which is why players like Michael Brantley, David Murphy and Carlos Santana are omitted.)
Up next: Indians (24-27) vs. White Sox (25-27) @ U.S. Cellular Field. First pitch at 2:10 pm ET.
Josh Tomlin will return to the rotation after missing his last start due to being used out of the bullpen in one of the extra innings affairs against the Tigers last week where he did earn the win after pitching three innings of one-run ball. In his previous three starts this season, Tomlin is 2-1 and has pitched at least six innings in each outing. In addition, the Indians are expecting the return of All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis from the DL during this series.
Left-hander Jose Quintana gets the nod for the White Sox. Despite pitching into the eighth inning in his last start against the Royals, he was tagged with his fourth loss of the year. The southpaw did not earn a decision in his first outing against the Tribe this season as he only allowed one earned run in six innings of work.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.