Second Thoughts Game #66: Indians 1, Royals 4
Offense boards plane to Boston early
Well, not really. I don’t think.
In a matchup of two of the more talented young pitchers in the American League Central, Yordano Ventura won decisively. Named before the season by Baseball America as baseball’s #26 prospect, Ventura breezed through seven innings without even giving up an extra base hit.
When Ventura left, the Indians offense looked poised for a big inning after loading the bases with no outs in the eighth. However,Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana followed by striking out, and David Murphy grounded out to end the inning.
The Indians left five runners in scoring position during this game. There’s certainly going to be a fair share of those types of games during a season, but when you’re down three runs and have the bases loaded with no outs, (not to mention the middle of your lineup up) you HAVE to get runs home. As good as the offense has been recently, they should be doing even better. Right now with runners in scoring position and two outs the Indians are hitting just .176/.281/.275 as a team. They’ve been buoyed by Murphy, Michael Bourn, Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantleywith runners in scoring position, but the rest of the team has struggled mightily in those situations. Too many opportunities are being wasted.
It was a disappointing two game set in Kansas City. Losing the two games isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it does throw some water on the team’s recent hot stretch and put some long-standing weaknesses back into the spotlight. For as good as the team has been recently, there are still some kinks that still need to be ironed out.
As mentioned, the offense is still struggling with two out hitting and against left-handed pitching. The rotation and defense still aren’t consistent, and improvement is going to be needed in both areas to push for a playoff spot throughout the summer.
The final line isn’t sexy, but Bauer didn’t pitch that bad in this game. In fact, his control was pretty good which sometimes can be a concern. Bauer’s issues in this start dealt mainly with the inability to put hitters away (1 K, 3 swinging strikes), something that is atypical for him. Instead of racking up strikeouts as usual, he racked up sacrifice flies – giving up all three of his runs via the sacrifice.
Of course, this was one of those: Escobar scores on pop up to shortstop.
That play changed the complexion of the third inning. A player scoring on a fly ball to shortstop should never happen. I understand losing the ball in the sun, but there’s a clear lack of urgency from Aviles to get up or get the ball in after the catch. I don’t think he even considered that Escobar might tag on the play, and it cost the team a run. It’s a microcosm of the Indians’ miscues on defense all year. If you prevent that run from scoring and get one timely hit in the eighth inning this game could have gone in a different direction.
Back to Bauer, he hasn’t quite put it together at this point, but he’s so much further along than he was at the end of last season. It’s exciting to think about where he’ll be in the next few months. Of all of the starters currently in the rotation, he’s the one guy who has the ability and upside to really raise his performance and become a difference maker in the second half. He still needs to work on refining his control and pitching deeper into games, but he’s been effective more times than not and I think he’ll only be getting better from here on out.
-There’s been some press on John Axford potentially returning to the closer’s role in the future following comments from Francona last week. This has no doubt been spurred by his recent performances. Even though he gave up a run in this game, it’s true that he’s pitched well lately. Still, giving him back the closer’s role would be the wrong move. Right now leads in the ninth inning feel safe. With his control and an elevated home run rate, I can’t trust Axford in the ninth inning. I understand (and agree with) the sentiment that a reliever like Allen will have a greater impact in a setup role, and is needed there; however, to me the better solution is finding another solid setup man to compliment Shaw, versus rolling the dice on Axford again in the ninth inning.
-Since his return from the disabled list, Carlos Santana has a .353/.476/.529 line. It’s only a six game sample, but it’s the best six games he’s strung together at the plate all season. Perhaps he’s getting back on track?
-Right now, only two batters have an OPS of over .700 against left handers – Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall (in only 28 at-bats).
-The Indians are headed to Boston to start a four game series that will complete their current 10 game road trip. The team will look to continue where it left off in Cleveland against the Red Sox, with Josh Tomlin taking the hill against Jon Lester. In his last start, Lester didn’t even last five innings against the Tigers, allowing 12 hits and 5 runs in 4 1/3 innings.
No way Ax to closer. He scares me worse than Perez used to.
Down 3 runs, top of the 8th, runner on 1st, no outs and 0-2 count. He layed off of 4 pretty good pitches from Wade Davis to draw a walk. I never thought I'd see this kind of AB, especially in that situation, from Lonnie. To me that AB was more important than the 3 HR game. He finally changed his approach, is more selective and is seeing the ball better. Everybody knew he could hit, but that side of the game was his problem in the past. Not anymore it seems. Very nice!