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Second Thoughts: Game #95-Orioles 4, Indians 3

Second Thoughts: Game #95-Orioles 4, Indians 3
July 23, 2012
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Player of the Game: Zach Britton (6 innings 4 hits 0 ER 2 BB 5 SO)

The Leadoff

What if? For the Indians, the real reason behind the slogan “What if?” may have officially ended as the sunset on Sunday night, as the Tribe dropped their fourth consecutive game 4-3 against Baltimore and now sit with a record below the .500 mark. What seemed like another day where the Tribe bats were on ice ended too little too late, as the Indians rallied for three runs in the ninth inning but ultimately fell short of the comeback.

Indians starter Josh Tomlin settled in nicely giving up just a two-run homer to J.J. Hardy eight pitches into the game. The Tribe’s little cowboy went six innings strong innings giving up just the two runs on eight hits, but picked up his seventh loss of the year due to yet another performance by the Indians stagnant offense.

The Bottom 9

  • Below .500. The loss puts the Tribe below the .500 mark for the first time since April 14. No, you didn’t read that wrong…April 14! That was way back when the Indians had just a 3-4 record through the first seven games of the season. Cleveland NEEDS to avoid falling further below the even mark with the first place Detroit Tigers next up on the schedule.
  • Can’t win if you can’t score. Yes, pitching wins games, but contending teams score more than six runs over their past four games. Take away the three runs scored in the bottom of the ninth and the Tribe would have been outscored 23-3 over the four game losing streak. Wow.
  • Continue to struggle with runners in scoring position. It amazes me how many times I note this as one of my key points in my game column from week-to-week. The Tribe went just 1-for-8 with RISP on Sunday, stranding Carlos Santana on second base after hitting a leadoff double in the fifth inning, and also stranding the bases loaded one inning later in the sixth. That’s your ballgame right there.
  • 1st inning struggles continue for Tomlin. What is it about Tomlin and the first inning? Through his first 30 pitches of a ballgame, the opposition is batting .294 with 14 doubles, eight homers and 26 RBI off the Indians right-hander. Pitching for a team that continues to struggle to score runs, this is no doubt a recipe for disaster.
  • Loss against another lefty. If fans didn’t know any better judging by yesterday’s game, many would guess that Zach Britton would be a candidate for the American League Cy Young Award this season. The Tribe is now 10-20 against southpaw starters in 2012.
  • Choo and Cabrera go hitless. There’s no question the Indians struggled to string together hits on Sunday to get back into the ballgame. The first two hitters in the lineup in Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera certainly did not help, going a combined 0-for-8 in the game with two strikeouts. The Indians are successful when their first three hitters in Choo, Cabrera and Kipnis can put the bat on the ball and drive in runs. That didn’t happen yesterday.
  • Lineup vs. a lefty. Is it just me or does the Tribe lineup seem pretty weak against a left-handed starter? Like I mentioned earlier after noting the team’s struggles with RISP, after Santana doubled, it was up to Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson and Aaron Cunningham to drive him in. To no avail, neither one of them hit the ball out of the infield. Think for a second how many contending teams have a bottom of the order like that. Yeah, I couldn’t think of any either.
  • Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Camona) back with the Tribe. Yes, it is good for the now 31-year old Hernandez to be back in Cleveland after finally gaining his U.S. Visa, but what is he really going to bring to the club? Tribe fans know he has not been the same pitcher since 2007. I wish him nothing but the best of luck, but if Chris Antonetti or Mark Shapiro think for one second that Hernandez could be the pitching upgrade and not go out and make a trade for a starter because of his return, they are 100 percent wrong!
  • How has Acta, Fields and Radinsky all gotten a pass? Let me start off first by saying I like Manny Acta as the Indians manager. Should the Tribe fire him during this season? Absolutely not. But, I will say that if Cleveland continues to fall out of the race, I would have to think Acta would be a candidate for the hot seat when the season is over. I am by no means excusing the players for the frustrating year it has been, but when the ship sinks, the captain naturally goes down with it. Listen, the Tribe front office brought in Acta back in 2010 because he was good at developing players when he was the skipper for the Washington Nationals. Well, the Indians are not developing players anymore are they? The Indians are still (believe it or not) a contender, but Acta has yet to have a winning season as a manager in the big leagues. He needs to greatly step his game up along with the other 25 guys on the roster if they have any chance to be in the playoff race in September. What still amazes me is how Scott Radinsky is still the pitching coach of this team. Just the difference to where starters like Justin Masterson and Tomlin were at one season ago when Tim Belcher was the pitching coach is absolutely shocking to me. The Tribe sits 13th in the American League and 27th in all of baseball in pitching with a 4.56 team ERA.

The Top ???

Normally even after a loss I would highlight a few high points of the game, but besides a late ninth inning rally and a 3-for-4 game from Santana, there was nothing. To me, nothing good comes from a below .500 team that had much higher expectations for the 2012 season. No team can even think or talk about the playoffs when they have a losing record. So until the Indians can get back on track (yes, I still have faith) no high points will be written by me for the time being.

Closing Time

With the Tribe loss and a Tigers win yesterday, the Indians (47-48) now sit 4.5 games in back of Detroit in the Central Division, their largest deficit so far this season. Not only do the Indians have three starters with ERA’s above 5.00, but three with losing records as well. The Tribe has now had a record below .500 through the first 95 games in four of the last five seasons, and in eight of the past 11.

Up next for the Indians: Cleveland will try to avoid losing their fifth straight in the  series finale on Monday, as it will be Justin Masterson (6-8, 4.29 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (4-4, 5.71 ERA) at 7:05 pm. In his last start against Baltimore on July 1, Masterson went seven innings giving up just earned one run on five hits, walking none and striking out seven for the victory. Hunter went just 1 2/3 innings in his last start against the Tribe back on June 30, where he gave up five runs on eight hits. With the red hot Tigers coming to town for a three game series starting on Tuesday, Monday’s game is no doubt a must win for the Indians.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Tony
July 27, 2012 - 7:23 AM EDT
Adam, I agree. I just get the sense the Indians have lost a lot of confidence in Donald, especially after his poor showing not just offensively, but defensively as well earlier in the season.
Adam
July 25, 2012 - 5:37 PM EDT
I understand trying to stick with experience with Lopez as the primary utility INF guy...but at what point does that experience lose it's meaning? Guy hasn't hit a homerun in roughly a month, and he hasn't even TAKEN A WALK since June 7th.

For a team that stresses quality AB's and OBP, Lopez has a .239 OBP since June 1, and a .250 OBP against lefties in all of 2012.

Meanwhile, Jason Donald is hitting .366 in his last 10 games, with a .983 OPS against lefties in Columbus this year. I absolutely agree that we're probably going to have to find someone outside of the organization that's better than both...but until then...Donald HAS to be an upgrade over Lopez against lefties---even if it's just a matter of putting up quality ABs.
Tony
July 25, 2012 - 2:07 PM EDT
I'm not totally up to speed on Lillibridge, but from what I understand, he is supposedly a pretty good defensive outfielder and can play center and also infield as well. I can see the value there over Cunningham.....and even Donald. Especially with his track record and experience.
Adam
July 25, 2012 - 11:17 AM EDT
Well, Tony....I guess we got our answer with the Lillibridge pickup :( I don't see anything about Lillibridge that even indicates he'd be better than Cunningham. Maybe a trade involving Jason Donald or Jose Lopez is on the horizon and Lillibridge adds to depth? No idea what the Tribe is thinking here...
Tony
July 24, 2012 - 2:24 PM EDT
Adam, I have not seen Rottino yet. But the problem is that you are banking on a guy in Rottino that has had almost no ML experience and when he has gotten it performed poorly. Lopez at least has a track record. This is where the Indians are thinking with Lopez versus guys like Rottino, Canzler, Goedert, and LaPorta. I actually agree with it, though I still would find a much better bench option via trade to fill Lopez's spot. Now Duncan is a guy with little ML success and is someone I would consider swapping for Rottino, Canzler, etc.
Adam
July 23, 2012 - 9:00 PM EDT
Tony, have you seen Rottino play? Do you think he'd be a better utility guy than Lopez? His numbers seem to indicate that he can at least put up quality ABs, which Lopez simply doesn't do.

Doesn't appear to be an in-house replacement for Cunningham as a RH backup CF, but I think it's important to find one. At one point it was rumored that the Royals were trying to get rid of Franceour...I'd take him as the 5th OF that can play every OF position, he has to be a better option than Cunningham.

Are the Indians looking at any external upgrades for the bench? Our LF platoon has been better of late so I don't know if we necessarily need an everyday player, but we absolutely HAVE to upgrade the bench. I mean, think about what Kevin Youkilis would have done for this team, and the package that Sox gave up for him (Stewart and Lillibridge) wasn't even consequential. There has to be some way we can pull off a similar trade.
Tony
July 23, 2012 - 7:10 PM EDT
Adam, I completely agree. I have no problem with a lefty-heavy starting lineup....but it is an absolute fail how the bench was not only setup to start the season.....but has barely been adjusted all season. To have the likes of Duncan, Cunningham, Lopez, etc on this bench really hurts when you have a starting lineup you are trying to maximize against righties. I give the Indians a pass for not getting "stars" as free agents, but there is no excuse how they can't find cheap, solid bats for at least the bench.
Adam
July 23, 2012 - 5:30 PM EDT
HUGE problem with this team is our RH bench bats. If you're going to load up the starting 9 with lefties, you should do well against RHP, which we have. But when Jose Lopez is your go-to clean-up hitter against LHP, you're not going to win many games. Lopez-Duncan-Marson-Cunningham...we need better options than those 4 going forward if we plan on winning anything.

Duncan still has a strong OPS against lefties, and Marson is valuable as the backup catcher, but Lopez and Cunningham are almost automatic outs at this point.

Is Rottino a better option than Lopez?
shy
July 23, 2012 - 4:52 PM EDT
Giants want Chris Perez. Good fit, they need a fiery closer- not as crazy as Brian Wilson, but still intimidating to hitters and entertaining to fans. The Giants don't have anybody the Indians really need. The Indians could probably throw in Carlos Santana and pick up Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt and Gary Brown and another young prospect. Sanchez will be a legit catching/hitting force in 1-2 years. Much better plate approach than Santana. Belt is a good defender and a lifetime 300plus Triple A hitter w power. He just needs everyday playing time at this level.
Joey
July 23, 2012 - 12:06 PM EDT
How does the management get a free pass?
Jim
July 23, 2012 - 11:00 AM EDT
CC...I like your thinking...

To me...Cody Allen is one of the biggest stories of the year for the Indians, up to this point. He absolutely is that dominant.

He lives in the 95's, and can touch 97...I haven't checked his numbers from yesterday, but it sure looked like he was overmatching major league hitters...did he even make ten pitches?

I'm not done with this season yet...a lot can happen, and this series with the Tigers is HUGE...if they can sweep, and that's a stretch to say the least...but if they can...

Right back in it...beating Baltimore tonight would be nice too...;)
CC
July 23, 2012 - 8:57 AM EDT
Surprised there was no mention of Cody Allen? To me, that was the big story! Is this guy really that dominate? I like the way the bullpen is looking... especially with Rafael Perez coming back. Maybe, just maybe a stronger bullpen can help shorten the leash on Lowe and Tomlin and even Jimenez! I really believe Santana turned a corner this week and I can see a series win against the Tigers.

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