Second Thoughts Game #97: Twins 3, Indians 2
Kluber puts up zeros, but Tribe offensive struggles doom the team again in Minnesota
Player of the Game: Kevin Correia (6 innings, 3 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB / 3 SO)
If you thought Friday night was a nightmare for the Indians, Saturday became the ugly sequel.
After Cleveland jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Minnesota scored three unanswered runs for the second straight night to defeat the Tribe late, 3-2.
Starting pitcher Corey Kluber looked sharp through his five innings of work, giving up no runs on just three hits, walking two and striking out seven. Like Scott Kazmir’s start Friday, the effort went for naught, as another error and a lack of offense left the Indians stunned at Target Field yet again.
Where’s the offense?
While the starting pitching has come out strong, the Tribe offense seems to be still stuck in All-Star break mode.
Two runs on five hits would be all the team would manage against the Twins, the lone offensive spark coming off the bat of second baseman Jason Kipnis. The All-Star went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the sixth, driving in both Cleveland runs in the ballgame.
Going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, the Indians are now just 1-for-11 with RISP so far in the series.
If that wasn’t enough, the team is now 9-31 when scoring three runs on the season.
For those calling for Cleveland to add a starting pitcher before the MLB trade deadline, you may want to rethink your wish list to general manager Chris Antonetti. Sure, another starter would be great, but the Tribe has been lacking a legit cleanup hitter all season long.
This team needs a feared hitter that can bat right in the middle of it behind the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera and Kipnis, and certainly in front of both Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds.
Kipnis said it best after Saturday’s loss:
"You can make excuses for a while, but we're going to need some guys to start stepping up here. We're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot right now in these last two games.”
Good teams find ways to minimize the little things. For the Indians, the only thing they have been able to minimize is their run production at the plate.
It was Lonnie Chisenhall’s error Friday night that may have cost the Tribe the game and another mistake on a throw to the plate that certainly didn’t help Saturday.
The Chiz Kid has been hitting better at the plate, but two errors in two games is simply inexcusable for a player playing the hot corner on a contending ballclub.
It’s hard to get on Kip who did give the Tribe their only runs of the game with his 14th homer, but he too should’ve been able to turn an inning ending double play in that sixth inning. Instead, the Twins scored the go-ahead run on the play and never looked back.
With errors come losses, as the Indians are now just 16-29 when committing one or more errors in a ballgame.
What another absolute waste of great starting pitching.
Cleveland got another scoreless pitching effort for the second straight night, this time from right-hander Corey Kluber. Although he would leave the game after the fifth inning due to left hip tightness, Kluber was lights out again.
Both Kazmir and Kluber have combined to throw 11 innings the first two games of the series, without allowing an earned run to score. And yet, the Tribe doesn’t even have a win to show for it.
As the old saying goes, opportunities only knock so many times and it is more than time to take advantage of quality starting pitching. Over his last three starts, Kluber is now 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA.
We aren’t in Bro-hio anymore
What is it about the Tribe and their struggles at Target Field? Saturday’s loss to the Twinkies marked the fifth game in a row the team has dropped in the Twins home ballpark. Dating back to last season, the Indians have now lost eight of their past nine in Minnesota.
Cleveland plays at Target Field eight more times, including a four-game series in Minnesota to close out the season. If they want to play in October, the team better start finding ways to win in the Twin Cities…and fast.
Yes, the first two games of the series were ugly to say the least, as both Friday and Saturday were very winnable games for the Indians. As bad things seem right now, the Tribe hasn’t lost ground in the standings. Yet, these losses have echoed the word “collapse” among those so called fans who think this is another start of another freefall in the second half.
I’ll be the first to tell you, this team is different.
This is exactly the reason why Cleveland brought in the likes of Swisher, Jason Giambi and of course, Terry Francona.
Its stretch runs like these that call for a veteran presence and leadership both on the field and in the clubhouse. No, things haven’t been the best on the field for a few of the veterans, but with two months of the season to go, now is the time to find out if this team has what it takes to fight for the right to play in October.
With two World Series championship rings and lots of postseason experience, it’s time for Francona to really make his mark on this team, and lead the ship to the promise land.
With the loss, Cleveland (51-46) remains just 1.5 games in back of Detroit for first place in the A.L. Central. The team falls to 22-20 against Central Division opponents on the year.
Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will look to salvage the three-game series as ace Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.72 ERA) takes the hill against left-hander Scott Diamond (5-8, 5.32 ERA) Sunday at 2:10 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cabrera- He has been non-existent for much of this season. If the Cardinals are willing to part with one of their pitching prospects, I'd jump at it. Truth be told, I think Cabrera had a career year in 2011 with the 25-HR season, and he fell off badly in the second half of that season, not to mention last season, which is why I don't expect him to sizzle this second half, and that will likely drop his value further going into this offseason. That's why I think if one of the Cardinal's pitching prospects is on the table, I grab it. Never mind the fact that Aviles' offense won't be much of a drop-off because Cabrera has been that much of a non-factor in 2013.
Swisher- This guy has either lost it or he's unhealthy. My guess is, it's the latter, and because of that, he should be on the 15-Day DL to really rest the shoulder. If he needs surgery, then he should get it now, as I think he would still be able to come back late this year. He, too hasn't done much lately, and I agree that Brantley should replace him in the four-spot. In any event, Swisher should be moved out of the 4-spot.
Reynolds- The thought of DFA came to mind before the All-Star Break, and it's still coming to mind. He couldn't even get a run home with less than 2 outs against a LHP. His swing is too long, and he's not making solid contact against anyone. Use a combination of Stubbs, Gomes, and Rayburn, plus a little Giambi, while they try to tighten Reynolds' swing. If he doesn't get it going soon, I'd DFA him- Chen or Aguilar could give you better production to start off (I.e. before the league sees them and adjusts to them) than what Reynolds is giving you. He's not hitting, he's not walking, and he's not bringing runners in from 3rd and less than 2 outs (last time he succeeded was the bunt he put down before the All-Star Break).
The offense is just as guilty of us losing 2/3 to the Twins as the defense and the bullpen. Pelfrey and Correia aren't even as good as Ubaldo, who probably would be the ace of that Twins' staff, and we manage just 2 runs off of each, and both of those pitchers were struggling as well. There need to be some lineup changes, as you can't expect to win many games scoring just 2 runs, not even against the Twins or the Mariners. Let's hope the offense is out of its funk and Francona makes some necessary changes- we can't afford to keep giving away games as we did twice this series if we intend to contend for the postseason in 2013.
He should be spending 45 minutes a day on infield practice.
I think Swisher's shoulder is still not right. He just looks completely overmatched at the plate. Now he's clearly pressing. His last at-bat he struck out swinging at two pitches out of the zone. He swung and missed a 90 mph fastball right down the middle. He's killing the team in the 4 hole right now.
I would bat Brantley 4th. He's been the best hitter on the team by far with men on base. Move Swisher down and take a little pressure off him.
I'd also like to see more of Rayburn and less of Reynolds, although Reynolds did manage to hit two fair balls in three at-bats last night, which is progress. No hits, of course.
The starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.14 in the last nine games. That's unsustainable, but if they can continue pitching well the Tribe has a shot. Of course we need the Tigers to keep losing to teams like KC....