Second Thoughts Game #67: Indians 2, Red Sox 5
Kipnis accounts for only scoring as Tribe drops third straight
Consistency continues to elude the Indians even now in mid-June. Just when it looked like they were getting locked into a groove after sweeping their last home stand and taking two out of three in Texas, they have suddenly lost their way once again in Kansas City and now Boston.
A two-run single in the sixth inning by Jason Kipnis accounted for the only runs for the Tribe. Despite racking up eight hits on the night, the Indians only had three opportunities to bat with a runner in scoring position as Michael Brantley recorded the only extra base hit.
Josh Tomlin wasn't terrible on the mound on Thursday as he allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits in five and two thirds innings. His defense, more specifically Asdrubal Cabrera, didn't help him out much, but he didn't do much good for his own cause as he uncorked a wild pitch and an errant pickoff throw.
The Indians have been very fortunate to be playing in a very mediocre division from top to bottom this year. Even the mighty Tigers have had bouts with inconsistency. As things stand right now, the Indians are in fourth place in the division, but are only three and a half games out of first. Every team in the AL Central right now is within at least four games of each other.
Of course, there's always a chance, actually a pretty good chance, that the Tigers figure it out at some point and put some distance between them and the rest of the division, so the Tribe may have their best opportunity to make up ground in the division right now. They were well on their way to doing so prior to their two-game set with the Royals by winning nine of their last 10. Now they've lost three in a row, but have only lost a game and a half in the standings.
They have an upcoming three-game series at home against Detroit. The Indians have played well at home this year and swept the Tigers at Progressive Field a few weeks ago. Right now, Cleveland owns a 4-1 advantage in the season series against the Motor City Kitties. The Tribe has benefited from inconsistent play by pretty much the whole division this year, but they can't rely on that forever. They have to take care of their own inconsistency sooner rather than later.
On the Road to Minneapolis
Michael Brantley: 65 G, .313 AVG, 10 HR, 16 2B, 3B, 43 RBI, 23 BB, 27 K, 8 SB, .381 OBP, .584 SLG, .885 OPS.
Dr. Smooth was probably the most likely All-Star representative for the Tribe from the start of the season based on his performance. He continues to be one of the team's best hitters not only overall, but also in the clutch as he is batting .317 on the year with runners in scoring position. He also has probably the most even splits against left and right-handed pitching as he is batting .293 and .324 against them, respectively.
On defense, Brantley continues to impress. His errorless streak came to an end this season, but he is tied with Jose Bautista for second in major league baseball in outfield assists with seven and trails only Yoenis Cespedes, who has nine on the year.
Because of the injury to Jason Kipnis that sidelined him for a few weeks and the continued struggles of Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley has been the Indians' best overall player. In fact, one could make that argument if Kipnis and Santana were playing well. At the beginning of the season, I made a bold prediction saying that Brantley would win or finish in the top five in the league for the batting title. As things stand right now, he is seventh in the league at .313.
Corey Kluber: 6-4, 14 GS, 1 CG, 91.1 IP, 91 H, 40 R, 34 ER, 7 HR, 3 HB, 22 BB, 104 K, 1.24 WHIP.
When the Indians needed an ace-type pitcher to pair with Justin Masterson after the departure of Ubaldo Jimenez, Corey Kluber stepped up in a big way to not only become the Tribe's best pitcher, but also continue what he started last season as the team's "stopper", in that he can help stop a losing streak and get them back in the win column.
Kluber is currently fourth in the league in strikeouts with 104 and is tied for the third fewest walks issued with 22. He has struggled a bit in his last couple starts, but overall has been arguably one the best and most efficient pitchers in the league.
Since he is a pitcher, it's up to the All-Star coaches to decide if he makes the team, but with Tribe skipper Terry Francona on John Farrell's staff, there's probably a pretty good chance of him making the team, barring any injury or continued struggles on the mound.
Lonnie Chisenhall: 53 G, .393 AVG, 7 HR, 12 2B, 32 RBI, 10 BB, 25 K, 2 SB, .438 RBI, .619 SLG, 1.057 OPS.
The evolution of Lonnie Chisenhall this season is just one of those things that makes baseball such a great and unpredictable sport. Even all those on the Lonnie Baseball bandwagon can't claim they saw him putting up these kind of numbers this year, especially after the struggles he had in 2013.
He has now played over 50 games this year and is still batting close to .400. And to just add to his video game-type stats, the power that he has been known to have is starting to work its way back into his approach without taking away from his hitting or on-base ability. He is still a handful of at-bats shy of officially qualifying for the batting race and the All-Star game, but even with his day off on Thursday, he should still manage to account for all those at-bats well within time of the Midsummer Classic.
While I've been blown away by many of his stats this year, the one I was very impressed with is his line against left-handed pitching, which has been his kryptonite in the past. In 28 at-bats thus far, Chisenhall is batting .500 (14-for-28) with a home run and five RBI. He has also drawn a pair of walks and struck out only three times.
I'll admit I was not a full-on believer in Chisenhall, but I didn't give up on him either. However, I wasn't all that optimistic after last season. I doubt he will hit .400 the rest of the year, but I think the long wait may be over for him to come full circle as a solid big league hitter.
Honorable mentions: Yan Gomes, David Murphy, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen.
Up Next: Indians (33-34) vs. Red Sox (30-36) @ Fenway Park. First pitch at 7:10 pm ET.
Justin Masterson is hoping to continue his recent success and repeat his dominant performance against his former club from the last home stand. The sinkerballer has allowed only two earned runs in his last two starts combined, which was good enough for a win in each outing. Masterson is hoping to earn his third straight win for the first time since July 21st, 27th and August 1st last season.
John Lackey will be matched up against Masterson once again as he had an eight-inning complete-game effort go by thr wayside as the only three runs he allowed proved to be too much for his team to overcome against the Tribe right-hander. He has made one start since then and pitched eight innings again in Detroit. This time, he earned the win allowing only a pair of earned runs.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
The question is, what do you do with Masterson? Keep putting him out there every five days and hope he finds it? Shift him to the bullpen where he had some success last year? His command seems to be getting worse with each start, and he's providing no length - he's going as little or less than Salazar was, and unlike Salazar, he's not racking up the strikeouts- he's just going to deep counts and walking a lot of guys, often leading to giving up a lot of runs and going a short amount of innings.
Certainly an issue- I think the Indians can overcome the leadership issue, as I think Kluber is stepping into that role, as was McAllister before he fell off and was injured, as was the younger ones coming of age (Bauer, and to a lesser extent, House), but throwing Masterson out there every five days isn't helping, especially when the offense is erratic- they usually can't climb out of the holes he's putting them into.
Also, I'd rather see Kottaras take the DH at-bats instead of Giambi- he probably could provide better at-bats, and being you have three catchers, you could do it. I just don't think there is much left in Giambi's at-bat, especially with the limited playing time he's receiving, and you're not going to sit Chisenhall (or SHOULDN'T sit Chisenhall) for Giambi. Giambi could provide the leadership and guidance as a coach- you can't force him to retire, but I think the roster flexibility the Indians would gain would be more beneficial than Giambi's inconsistent bat, whether that's bringing up Sellers, Aguilar, Ramirez, etc.
This team is so inconsistent. The last 3 have been terrible.