Second Thoughts Game #65: Indians 5, Rangers 2
Cleveland does just enough for first series win in almost a month
After breaking their eight-game losing streak on Tuesday, the Indians entered this game looking to make up some lost ground and grab what has become a rare series win. Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound for the Indians trying to put his last start (three innings, five runs) behind him. Jimenez has a 2.91 ERA on the road versus 7.53 at home. It’s a good thing this game is being played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The Whole Nine
1. As I watched Jimenez pitch in this game, I was just hoping to get five innings out of him. I probably wouldn’t have tried to squeeze in another inning like Francona did. His control wasn’t great in this game from the start, but he was able to limit damage. There were only three balls hit hard against him, one being the Leonys Martin home run that would be the only run Jimenez would give up.
2. I want to make mention of Jimenez’s third inning. The inning started with the home run and was followed by a sharp single from Jurickson Profar. It looked like Jimenez was going to walk David Murphy afterward, but instead induced a huge double play. It may not look like much on the box score, but it was a huge momentum shift early in the game. Lance Berkman and Adrian Beltre would reach afterward before Jimenez finally got out of the inning. I mention this because these are the type of innings that have sunk Ubaldo before. He was struggling with his command, getting hit and laboring heavily through the inning. In the end though, the only blemish was the home run.
3. Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis had great games offensively. Like many Indian hitters, they’ve struggled a bit of late but combined to go 5-for-9 with a walk and two RBI. Their performance and key hits from Mike Aviles and Carlos Santana provided the offensive punch for the Indians in this game.
4. Brace yourself for this; we’re nearly halfway through the month of June and Nick Swisher’s current monthly line is .108/.341/.108. He struggled again in this game. In the third inning he was up with runners at first and second base and no outs and struck out. In the seventh inning with a runner on second and no outs Swisher struck out looking on a ball that was basically right down the middle. He’s still out there smiling though, so the frustration hasn’t boiled over yet.
5. Speaking of hitting, the Indians now only have one regular with an OPS above .800. That’s Carlos Santana, who currently sits at .867. The season statistics will tell you that the team’s lineup is performing, but some of that has to do with the play the Indians have got from their bench. Based on my expectations when the season began, Swisher, Brantley, Cabrera (before injury), and even Jason Kipnis are underperforming. While Kipnis has shown improved power this year, I expected more than a .324 on-base percentage. Right now the lineup consists of several guys playing just OK, but certainly not what they’re all capable of doing.
6. I was on the edge of my seat when Rich Hill entered the game for Ubaldo Jimenez in the sixth. He got the out (on a hung breaking ball nonetheless), but the sight of seeing Rich Hill in the game with two batters on and no outs is terrifying. It’s legitimately a tossup as to whether he gets that out or walks the bases full. It’s a tough situation for a manager to be in. Francona doesn’t have anyone he can rely on in that situation, but I tend to believe he should have just put Bryan Shaw in the game to begin with rather than mess with Rich Hill.
7. Nick Tepesh must hate Jason Giambi. Luckily enough, the first time Giambi got hit in this game it prolonged the inning to allow Mike Aviles to hit his two-run home run. That’s one of the things that won’t show up in the box score, but it helped get the Indians out on top early in this game.
8. I’ve tried to pay special attention to Vinnie Pestano’s appearances since his velocity decline and struggles earlier in the year. With each appearance he’s appeared to have gotten better. After watching his inning in this game, I’m confident that he’s back. It wasn’t a clean inning for him, but that was mostly due to some bad luck. His stuff, control, and velocity looked good.
9. Lastly, the eternal optimist in me still believes this team has a shot at making the playoffs. The main reason is because of my optimism about the starting pitching staff. Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez have shown flashes of being great again, but need to find a bit more consistency. Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber have been solid, and at times great. Hopefully Zach McAllister can continue to pitch well upon his return. Like I mentioned earlier, I think the offense needs some players to step up, but the pitching staff has enough upside to keep this team in the race through the summer. As bad as the last two weeks have been, we’re only 4.5 games out from the division lead and there are a lot more games left to be played against the Tigers. We’ll see, but the season isn’t over yet.
A series win! That’s something the Indians haven’t been able to claim in a three game series since the May 17-20sweep of the Seattle Mariners. The team will head back home now where they will begin a three-game set with the Washington Nationals on Friday.