Second Thoughts: Indians continue to lack consistency
Consistency Nowhere to be Found
Inconsistency is the only thing that’s been consistent with the Indians this season.
Their latest feat has been the offense’s struggles to back a starting pitching staff that has pitched well of late. It wasn’t much more than a week ago where the big question was where the team was going to find starters to complement Corey Kluber. Then they had great starts from Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin,Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco and Kluber twice.
In those seven starts the team went 5-2, but you can’t help but feel that an opportunity was still missed. You certainly can’t win every game, no matter how good your starting pitcher performs, but after a season of struggling through less than quality starts it’s disappointing to see the team lose the two games in the manner in which they did. There’s certainly good news to be had here, with Carlos Carrasco looking outstanding in his two starts back in the rotation. Danny Salazar has been more good than bad since the All-Star break and Trevor Bauer is coming off the best start of his career. Setting the playoff race aside for a brief moment, if those three can keep pitching well the Indians future gets much brighter.
For the present, the Indians might have finally found a five man rotation that can lead them to wins. What they can’t have happen at the same time is for the offense to bottom out. Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Chris Dickerson have struggled mightily in the month of August. Mike Aviles, Jason Kipnis, and Ryan Raburn have continued their year-long struggles. Nick Swisher and David Murphy are hurt. Recent call-ups Jose Ramirez andZach Walters have helped in spots, but more is needed.
Right now the Indians are getting consistent offensive production from two players, Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes. Past those two and Carlos Santana, it’s hard to see where the production is going to come from. There are players that might be able to help in Columbus, but that’s a gamble, and one the team doesn’t appear to be inclined to make until the rosters expand in September. That leaves the current group with the large task of cutting down its deficit in the Wild Card and Division standings over the next two weeks.
I can’t help but feel the team might have missed an opportunity to be proactive when it comes to trying to spark the offense. I understand the reasoning for sending down Tyler Holt last week, but I don’t agree with it. Not at this point in this season. It’s clear, at least to me, that Chris Dickerson’s usefulness has run its course. In addition, Ryan Raburn’s usefulness ran its course months ago. Yet, those two are still on the team and at least one of them will find themselves in the lineup every day, depending on the matchup. While Holt might not be a great option against right handed pitching, and isn’t anywhere close to a high-impact offensive player, he did provide a spark when he was here. The team needs that spark now, not two weeks from now.
The team should be exhausting all internal possibilities for jump-starting the offense, versus simply playing out the string on non-impact veterans such as Dickerson and Raburn.
The Indians begin a nine game stretch against Minnesota, Houston, and Chicago today. These are the same teams that they went 10-0 against to close last season. They need that same kind of stretch this year. If they don’t pick up a couple of games on their playoff competitors during these series', then their season is going to be on life support. This is one of the last remaining opportunities for the team to get on a run, and it’s essential that they don’t waste it like they have so many other times this year.
There is another stretch in mid-September with seven games against Minnesota and Houston, but that’s following a series against Kansas City and Detroit (twice) that could knock the team out of contention officially. The good news is that the team is entering this stretch on a high note. The offense’s woes aside, they’re 9-6 in August and the pitching staff could finally be able to string together quality starts. I don’t think taking seven of the next nine games is out of the realm of possibility if the pitchers continue to pitch well.
Even so, they’re still going to need a strong finish in September and the schedule is going to be tougher than it was this month, or last September. With Kansas City playing as well as they are right now, those seven games in September against Detroit could hold serious Wild Card implications. The team needs to beat up on the teams they’re supposed to AND win some of the remaining series against Kansas City and Detroit. It’s a tough task for sure, but this is still a team that won 20 games last September and has nine walk-off wins this year. I’m not going to count them out until they’re actually out.
In regards to Holt, he's doing better than anyone would have thought this year, but I agree with Norm that expecting a rookie to come in and light it up is a little silly. That said, he and Walters are players. Boy, the ball just jumps off of Walters' bat. I mean when he makes contact, it really rockets off of that bat...wow!
The kids came through last night with Holt and Walters each driving in two runs with clutch hits. Even Bourn got into the act with two hits, although he made two baserunning blunders.