Second Thoughts Game #67: Nationals 7, Indians 6
Tribe gets stunned late as bullpen surrenders the game-winning homer
Player of the Game: Anthony Rendon (3-for-5 with a double, homer and RBI)
Only in Cleveland? Yeah, you could say that.
For the Indians, Saturday was a tale of the bad, the good, and the ugly.
Cleveland was left stunned on Saturday night as the Washington Nationals scored twice in the final two innings to secure a 7-6 victory over the Tribe. This came after the Indians offense battled their way back from a 5-0 deficit to be up 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Scott Kazmir (3-4, 5.89 ERA) didn’t have anything working for him on Saturday, as the left-hander went just 2 2/3 innings giving up five runs on four hits walking four and striking out two. Having the chance to get over the .500 mark for the first time since June 5, the Tribe still sits one game below with a record of 33-34.
The Bottom 8
- Back of the bullpen. Do the Indians really miss closer Chris Perez that much? It sure looked like it on Saturday as Joe Smith yielded the game tying homer in the eighth inning before Vinnie Pestano gave up the go-ahead long ball in the ninth. Smith left a high sinker up to pinch hitter Chad Tracy on a 0-2 pitch as the Nationals designated hitter crushed his second long ball of the season. After getting two quick strikes on Tracy with two sliders, why even bother throwing a sinker? That homer may have left Tribe fans stunned but one inning later, Anthony Rendon would leave Tribe Town heartbroken.
- Swisher’s error. With the game tied at six with two outs in the top of the ninth, Rendon popped a ball up in foul territory that Nick Swisher looked to be under. Instead, the ball dropped a few feet behind him and two pitches later, Rendon hit his first home run of his career off Pestano just over the right field wall. Had Swisher caught that foul ball, things may be looking much different today.
- Getting beat by the long ball. Washington smacked five homers in the game in route to their one run victory over the Tribe. While all five long balls were solo shots, they proved to be too much in the end for the Indians to comeback from in the game.
- Kazmir struggles. How many games can you say you would be in when your starter gives up five runs and can’t make it out of the third inning? Not many. As it was on the team’s most recent losing streak, starting pitching proves to be very inconsistent for the Tribe of late. There’s no doubt in my mind if the Indians have any chance of even playing in October, they will need to go out of the organization and bring in a starter.
- Offense goes cold late. After Michael Brantley gave the Tribe their first lead of the game with two outs in the fifth, the offense would manage just one hit over the final 4 1/3 innings after Mike Aviles hit a double with two outs in the ninth inning. Yes, the offense came back, but didn’t come through enough to secure the win.
- Errors. No error bigger than the ninth inning mistake by Swisher, but the Indians also committed two more errors for a total of three in the ballgame. Three errors? Committing three errors in a game is nothing but pathetic for a team that are still looking to contend for a playoff spot in three short months.
- Bourn goes hitless. Usually at the center of it all both offensively and defensively, Michael Bourn went a hitless 0-for-5 in the game with two strikeouts. Over his last four games, the centerfielder is now just 3-for-18 (.167) with no extra base hits and no RBI. He had a chance to tie the game up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth only to have first baseman Adam LaRoche snare his line drive to end the game. In order for Cleveland to stay successful, they need Bourn to stay consistent and become the table setter he is at the top of the lineup day in and day out.
- Not scoring first. Although they would take the lead late over the Nats, the Indians are now just 8-26 when the opposition scores first in a ballgame. While scoring first shouldn’t really matter in a nine inning game, it continues to be a problem for the Tribe this season.
The Top 3
- Offense battles back. Down 5-0 in the third inning, the Cleveland offense battled their way back off Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman who entered Saturday on a 15 inning scoreless streak. The Tribe would tag the hard throwing right hander for six runs over just five innings, capped off by Brantley’s two-run double that put the team up 6-5 in the fifth. For any team to be down five runs that early in a game and claw their way back like that says something about this offense and that no lead is safe.
- Albers, Shaw and Allen. In order for the Tribe offense to battle back, the team needed the bullpen to put up zeros on the scoreboard. Relievers Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen did just that, as the trio went a combined scoreless 4 1/3 innings giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out four. If one of the three pitchers falters, talk about a totally different ballgame.
- Kipnis stays hot. Going 2-for-3 with an RBI on Saturday, Jason Kipnis extended his hitting streak to nine straight on Saturday. Over his last nine games, the second baseman is hitting .417 (15-for-36) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBI. Now hitting .266 on the season, it looks as though The JK Kid is finally back contributing like we all know him best.
With the loss, Cleveland remains just 4 1/2 games in back of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central Division with a record of 33-34.
Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will look to take the three game series against Washington on Sunday versus one of the best right-handers in the game. Corey Kluber (4-4, 4.08 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Wahoo’s against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 2.54 ERA). Strasburg will be making his first start since May 29 after missing time with a strained back muscle. Kluber will try and build off his last start when he gave up just one run over eight innings against the Texas Rangers for his fourth victory,
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.