Second Thoughts Game #84: Indians 5, Dodgers 4
Offense comes through late once again
It had been mid-June since the Indians last scored a series win. It took another late game rally, but they scored three times in the 8th inning to come back and take the win. This was an impressive win for a number of reasons. First, Los Angeles entered the series having won 10 of their last 13 games. They were on a roll while the Indians were treading water, at best, for the last couple of weeks. Then there’s the fact that the Dodgers were throwing a lefty in this game, which has been the Indians kryptonite this season.
The Indians didn’t get much off of Hyun-Jin Ryu, but it was enough. Ryan Raburn’s two-run homer in the fourth inning was refreshing, and much needed. It’s been discussed at length how much the team has missed his 2013 performance against lefties this season. The Indians’ .663 OPS against left-handers is third worst in baseball, and Raburn is one of the main reasons for that low number.
Still, his home run gave the Indians an early lead, and paced the offense until the 8th when David Murphy andMike Aviles’ RBI singles brought the team back after Trevor Bauer allowed three runs in the fifth. Murphy and Aviles are two guys that have struggled mightily in June, and combined with Raburn, really came through for the team in this game.
The Indians clutch hitting has been somewhat enigmatic this season. While the team hasn’t hit well with two outs, they are one of the better offenses in the majors after the 7th inning. As flawed of a group as they may be, they’ve found a way to make deficits disappear late in games and win in their last at-bat. It’s nice to cheer for a team that you can never count out of a game.
False start from Trevor Bauer
Early on this looked like it had a chance to be Bauer’s best start in well over a month. Facing a good Dodgers lineup in front of family and friends, Bauer cruised through the first four innings before running into issues in the fifth. With two outs in the inning, Bauer gave up an RBI double to Ryu, followed by back-to-back walks, and then a two-RBI single to allow the Dodgers to take a 3-2 lead. Bauer would eventually exit after 5 2/3 innings, tallying two strikeouts, two walks, and giving up three runs.
I’m still waiting (and expecting) for Bauer to start stringing together some good starts. That’s not to say that this was a bad start, but it’s a performance that should have been better. You could tell that giving up the double to the pitcher unsettled him and it cost the teams runs. This hasn’t been uncommon with Bauer. His poise on the mound wavers at times. For a starting pitcher, when it’s your game, you’re the team’s leader. It’s your job to keep your team in the game and project confidence.
Too often Bauer loses his poise, or wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s too reactionary to mistakes from his defense, big hits, or running into trouble. Expressions are one thing, but it also affects his performance. In this game he started leaving the ball up in the zone after giving up the first run and gave up three runs with two outs in the inning.
This could have been a start that helped Bauer build some confidence, and finally earn a road win. Instead he failed to go six innings and left with his team trailing. This has been a common theme in his starts of late, where the end result leaves something to be desired.
-On the topic of lineup construction, I liked seeing Jason Kipnis moved up in the order with Michael Bourn getting an off day. This is something that’s way down the list of issues with the team right now, but two low OBP guys in Michael Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera probably shouldn’t be batting 1-2. Kipnis isn’t having a great season, but I’d rather see him batting second than Cabrera.
-I’ve always been a Carlos Carrasco apologist, so I’ll begin with that disclaimer. Still, I can’t understand his usage right now (or lack thereof). He hasn’t pitched since June 24th, and it’s not because he’s struggling. He’s been one of the best pitchers in the bullpen over the last month and a half. In Tuesday’s game Justin Mastersonleft after three innings, and Francona instead went with Kyle Crockett, Vinnie Pestano, and Scott Atchison in middle relief. Crockett and Pestano have combined for six appearances since the last time Carrasco took the hill. Why is Carrasco being treated as the last man in the bullpen?
-The Indians head back home on Friday to begin a weekend series with the Kansas City Royals. It’s a big series, as the Royals stand three games ahead of the Indians in the division. The first game will feature Josh Tomlin, coming off his one-hitter against Seattle, against Yordano Ventura. The last time the Indians faced Ventura he went seven innings and gave up only one run.
Exactly, and it was just proven again against the Royals- your three best hitters have hits against Guthrie, and who helps to kill the rally created by Brantley and Santana? Kipnis, who again is put ahead of Chisenhall by Francona, and again, Kipnis fails to come through to keep the inning alive for Chisenhall, who again delivers another hit, this one to start the second.
The Indians would have likely been on the board already to match the Royals' run. It is ridiculous and inexcusable to have Kipnis ahead of Chisenhall - no good reason for it. Kipnis should bat seventh behind those three and Gomes as I mentioned before- if you really want to put him sixth when Kottaras is playing, I'd find another player, but he still should hit behind Chisenhall. What more does Chisenhall have to do to be placed with the other two hot hitters on your team- Brantley and Santana? The offense would be a lot more productive if those three (and Gomes were batting together) and leaving Kipnis out of the heart of that order.
Between Chisenhall and Carrasco, I really question Francona's usage of both of them- that is one area he really needs to improve upon- rely less on Axford and Kipnis and more on these two in my opinion.
Let's not underestimate how much progress Bauer has made at the young age of 23 and with still little experience at the ML level (I believe he has less than Salazar at this point, and Salazar doesn't have that much either). Let's not overblow the "he hasn't won on the road in so long" stat either; that gets overblown (some of his losses have been due to the lackluster offense more than his pitching poorly) as much as the "Tomlin gave up another HR in his start" stat (most of those HRs have been solo shots and not as bad as portrayed).
Bauer (like Tomlin) needs experience to continue improving. Really, this is what I think could have helped Carrasco if he had stayed in the rotation, as he doesn't have much more experience than Bauer (and might have less than Tomlin if I'm correct). Personally, though I doubt the Indians will do this, I'd like to see the Indians move Carrasco into the rotation and remove Masterson- he is obviously not right, and no one can honestly say that he'd give you a better chance than Carrasco of winning at this point. Of course, you also have McCallister too. Again, I think Masterson should be removed- he's not coming back next year anyway, and guys like House, Bauer, McCallister, even Carrasco, are the future of this team, not Masterson- that ship has long-sailed, and even at a reduced price, he'd be as much or even more of a risk than Jimenez would have been to resign him, even if he only gets 11-12M as Jimenez did. That's also why I'm not sure the Indians should offer the QO to Masterson or Cabrera- are we that certain they'll refuse that, especially since both, Masterson especially, have had poor years?
If the Indians aren't going to consider putting Carrasco back into the rotation, at least put him into the back part of that bullpen and use him regularly- he certainly has performed more times than not, far more so than either Axford or Rzepcynski (and even Shaw, though that's probably more due to overuse than general ineffectiveness like Axford and even Rzepcynski) Personally, if Carrasco is to remain in the bullpen, he should be in the backend with Allen, Shaw, and a combo of Rzepcynski/Crockett/Hagadone. Pestano still has to get some velocity back, though, I'd try him in a few more situations, but Carrasco should have higher priority based on recent performance and be put in the back end now if there are no plans to return him to the rotation (he was taken out too soon in my opinion, as I've mentioned before). Again, Axford is not likely to be here long-term, as it seems the Milwaukee problems were only temporarily fixed by St. Louis (plus the fact Axford was only there a few months and wasn't used that often down the stretch, as they had a pretty good bullpen before he got there).
I read Kevin's tweet from yesterday on how he thinks the Indians will probably start listening to offers if they fall to 7-8 games out of a playoff spot, and that's probably the smartest idea. Let the ones who are here next year (not Masterson, Cabrera, and Giambi, and possibly not Bourn or Swisher either) get the valuable experience- that includes all of the aforementioned pitchers and others like Price, Lee, Sturdevant, etc., as well as position players like Aguilar and Ramirez, to help propel us into a better position in 2015, rather than try to make a last-gasp effort to reach the postseason in 2014. We might not be at that point just yet, but if we don't make up some significant ground in the next 2-3 weeks, that's probably the best route to take if we really want to be a strong contender for 2015 and fix these glaring holes in the 2014 team.
As for Carrasco, it seems to me that TF has some players he just does not like. Their names are Carlos Carrasco and Lonnie Chisenhall. Right now, seems that Nick Swisher is fighting his way onto that list too, but it may just be this swing through the NL.