Tribe bullpen, bats struggled again in 7-2 loss to AZL Cubs
Bad seventh inning dooms AZL Indians
MESA – The AZL Indians dropped a second straight game Tuesday night, falling 7-2 to the AZL Cubs at Hohokam Park. In a game that was similar in many ways to Monday night’s contest, the AZL Indians failed to come alive offensively and even when they did score runs, the bullpen was unsuccessful in holding the lead.
The evening started off as another pitcher’s duel. Juan Santana took the mound for the AZL Indians, but was far from his best as he labored through four innings of work. Despite not having top-notch control, Santana really only ran into dire trouble in the bottom of the second inning when he walked in a run after allowing two hits and a walk to load the bases. However, he managed to limit the damage to only one run, which would end up being the only run he would allow even though he looked to be suspect at times. He finished the evening allowing one run on three hits in four innings with four strikeouts and three walks.
Offensively, the AZL Indian bats were silent most of the night, but they were able to awake briefly in the top of the sixth inning.
Victor Cabral led off the inning by taking a fastball off his left arm. Unscathed, Cabral quickly stole second base and Matt LaPorta followed with a hard groundball to the AZL Cubs’ third baseman that kicked away down the left field line, which let Cabral score and LaPorta advance to second on the play. Catcher Juan De La Cruz then stepped to the dish and roped a double over the right fielder’s head, scoring LaPorta for the second run of the inning.
The Tribe would end up loading the bases after an Ivan Castillo single and a Victor De Jesus walk, but they would ultimately fail to push across any more runs, as Takuya Tsuchida struck out to end the inning. Still, the two runs were enough to stake the AZL Indians to a 2-1 lead.
However, this is when things got ugly for the Tribe.
Still leading 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, the AZL Indian bullpen imploded and coughed up any chance the Tribe had. Reliever Casey Shane, heading into his third inning of work, walked the first two batters in the inning and gave up a bunt single to the next hitter to load the bases. Shane then proceeded to issue another walk, which allowed the tying run to score.
Ramon Rodriguez was brought in to try to keep the inning from getting out of control, but it was no use. Rodriguez plunked the first batter he faced, giving the AZL Cubs a 3-2 lead. The AZL Cubs were not done though, as they pushed across two more runs a batter later when Castillo, trying to make a really tough play in the hole, made an errant throw into the stands behind first base. Another single and an RBI groundout would give the AZL Cubs a six spot for the inning and stretch their lead to 7-2.
The five run deficit proved to be too deep of a hole to get out of and the AZL Indians would go down relatively quietly in the final few frames to fall below .500 at 13-14 on the year.
Once again, walks ended up killing the Tribe. The AZL Cubs were able to score twice on bases loaded walks and four of their seven total runs came from runners who reached on either a walk or a hit by pitch. This is an issue that does not seem to be going away for the AZL Indians and is surely becoming a point of emphasis with the coaching staff, since they are beginning to demonstrate less patience with pitchers who cannot find the zone.
To his credit, Thomas Pannone was the only Tribe pitcher that did not have any control issues on the night and he dominated in his one inning of relief.
In addition, AZL Indian hitters also need to get out of their mini funk. Castillo was the only Tribe hitter to collect multiple hits and De La Cruz was the only one to get an extra base hit. The sluggishness might have been due in part to the long travel times the past two nights, but a more consistent offense would certainly go a long way in helping the pitching staff have a little more room for error.
The AZL Indians will be back in action on Wednesday, as they try to stop their two game skid against the AZL Rangers in Goodyear at 7 p.m.