Second Thoughts Game #52: Indians 5, Reds 2
Masterson's solid outing, Giambi's home run give Cleveland a win
This Indians entered this game really struggling. They’d lost five straight for the second time this season and in the midst of a tough stretch of games that included two more games against a Cincinnati Reds team that has been as hot as the Indians are cold. The good news is that ace Justin Masterson would be taking the hill to try and stop the losing streak.
The Whole Nine
1. Masterson was absolutely dominating in the first three innings of this game. He made one mistake, and Joey Votto did what he usually does to mistakes – hit it out of the park. Other than that, it was apparent from the start that he had some of his best stuff going in this game. He did struggle with control later on, but Masterson gave the team the start they needed to get back on the winning track.
2. We’ve seen this before (particularly his April 17th start), where Justin Masterson is able to work himself out of a big jam. With the based loaded, no outs, and the team leading by one run, Masterson made some tough pitches to induce a double play and a fly out to keep the Reds at bay. In the flow of the game, these were the biggest outs of the night and another example of Masterson’s great composure on the mound.
3. The big hit in this game came from Jason Giambi. Right after Masterson worked his way out of that jam, Giambi followed with a three-run homer in the bottom half of the sixth to give the Indians a considerable cushion. It deserves mention that Giambi just missed a home run in his second at-bat in the game, having to settle for a double. After a 0-for-20 stretch earlier in May, Giambi is now 3-for-5 with two home runs and a double in his last two games.
4. We got a chance to see to the new seventh, eighth, and ninth inning relievers in their roles. Cody Allen and Joe Smith looked good, but Vinnie Pestano gave up a leadoff home run in his inning of work and still doesn’t look ‘good.’ On the other hand, his velocity was back in the 90s, topping out at 92, so it’s a bit up from previous outings. Regardless, it’s a bit disconcerting that he’s going to be working out his problems in the closer role.
5. Considering the performances of Rich Hill and Nick Hagadone lately, I’d really like to see the Indians give Scott Barnes a chance for a bigger role. In limited work over the past two seasons he’s been more consistent than Hagadone and has been successful in getting left-handers out. The Indians need to figure out what to do with their left-handed relief options. Rich Hill isn’t getting lefties out (or righties for that matter) and has walked 10 in 14.1 innings. He’s not getting the job done. We need one of Hagadone or Barnes to step up and so far Hagadone has failed when given those opportunities.
6. I love Nick Swisher’s consistency. You look at his projections for the year based on his numbers so far and they’re extremely close to the numbers he puts up every year. The new team, new position, and new contract haven’t changed who he is at all. Right now he’s tied with Carlos Santana for second on the team in WAR with 1.6 (Fangraphs). He had an error and baserunning blunder in this game but also had two hits and is sporting a .921 OPS during the month of May.
7. With Lou Marson beginning his rehab assignment, the question of what the Indians do with him draws near. I just don’t see any possible way the Indians send Yan Gomes down anymore. I suggested last week the possibility of him getting some time at third base, but his defense behind the plate may mean they should consider giving Carlos Santana some extra starts at first base and DH to fit Gomes into the lineup. At the same time, I’d hate to lose Lou Marson. We’ll need the catching depth at some point.
8. Walks are a problem for this pitching staff. The Indians staff has struck out 442 batters this season, good for third in all of baseball. On the flip side, they’ve walked 185, fifth worst in all of baseball. It all combines together to form a staff that’s 23rd in baseball in ERA. Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Scott Kazmir are each issuing more than three walks per nine innings. For Jimenez and Kazmir this is leading to shorter outings and more stress on a bullpen that’s taken hits due to injury and ineffectiveness.
9. I wanted to make one comment as a follow-up to Ubaldo Jimenez’s last start. Over the last 30 days, Jimenez has posted a 3.38 ERA in six starts (34.2 innings) while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine innings. It may be a dream, but just imagine if he’s able to put up those numbers the rest of the season. We opened this season with Masterson and Jimenez being the biggest question marks on the entire team. Both are pitching as well as the team could have hoped right now.
This was a win that will hopefully get the Indians back on the right track. They got a great starting pitching performance, big hits, and the back end of the bullpen finished it off. Questions remain about Vinnie Pestano as the closer, but Jason Giambi’s game was encouraging. The Indians will look to make it two straight against Cincinnati with Scott Kazmir taking the hill against Homer Bailey on Thursday at 7:05.