White Sox 4, Indians 2: Waiting on the Offense

It’s live-blog recap time, 2012 style!  As I’m sure you remember, when TD can’t cover the recap, I step in and blog the game from my comfy chair.  As always, I know you don’t pay your hard-earned money for no stinking live-recap.  Sorry ’bout that.  But if you’d like to…

7:15 PM  – Three things I learned about Josh Tomlin while hurriedly scarfing down dinner and watching the top of the first inning:

  • It’s only a matter of time until he gets arrested for a crime he’s not committed: facial hair like that belongs on a picture hanging in the post office.
  • He has—almost beyond comprehension—never pitched against the White Sox before in his career?  Rick Manning has said this three times now, and I still find it hard to believe…
  • He’s also not learned how to stop letting up home runs.  After carrying the fourth-highest home run rate last season, Tomlin picks up right where he left off.  Both De Aza and AJ Pierzynski take him deep to right.

White Sox 3, Indians 0.

7:24 PM – So this is what Manny Acta’s “right-handed” lineup looks like:

Donald (5)
Asdrubal (6)
Choo (9)
Santana (DH)
Lopez (3)
Dunc-A-Dunc (7)
Kipnis (4)
Cunningham (8)
Marson (2)

Ok.  I do want to see Donald get some more plate appearances this season where possible, and it makes all sorts of sense to bench Brantley, Hafner, and Hannahan against a lefty like Chris Sale, who has a particularly nasty arm-slot.  But in the end?  I guess this proves what we already knew: we don’t have much in the way of right handed hitting on this team.

As an aside, Shapiro and Antonetti spent a good deal of the off-season reminding us that “a team like the Indians” (a description that is beginning to become tiresome, at least to me) must “choose its weaknesses”.  I suppose I can acknowledge that a team with a payroll like this is bound to have weaknesses.  But has anyone yet asked, with a straight-face, why the weaknesses we choose to carry are the two most fungible in all of baseball?  Right handed, corner players grow on trees, you guys.  Pull your heads out of molasses.  This shouldn’t be so hard.

Oh, yeah.  Choo walked, but to no avail.  Still 3-0 Pale Hose heading to the top of the second.

7:28 PM – Um.  You guys?  The home runs are a concern, totes.  But Josh Tomlin has now pitched two innings and has….four strikeouts?  That’s honestly more than I expect out of him per nine innings, so maybe all’s not lost?

7:36 PM – I was about to write that Aaron Cunningham reminds me A LOT of Matt LaPorta—in his batting stance, his pedigree, his inability to meet his potential, etc.  Then he took a pitch from Chris Sale the other way for a two-out single, as if to say, “Shut your face, Steiner.”

Chris Sale has now allowed one hit and two walks through two innings.  I think Sale is an excellent pitcher; he has dominant stuff and is near unhittable against lefties with that arm-slot.  But I’m going to go on the record now: he belongs in the bullpen.  He will struggle with his command as a starter.  Which is to say the Indians need to stop swinging at all this nonsense.

7:48 PM – Josh Tomlin has six strikeouts through 4 innings pitched.  Four of those have been swinging.  This after he had the fifth lowest strikeout rate among AL starters last season.

In other words, I think I’m going to allow the facial hair.

Still 3-0 Bad Guys.

7:49 PM – Last season, those AT&T “Flash Mob” commercials seemed to drive a lot of people nuts.  Our own Kirk often appeared to be on the verge of uncontrollable Twitter-Rage when subjected to repeated viewings.

Luckily, I was largely immune.  I have a way of tuning out commercials (and any advertising, really) to the point where I don’t even realize they’re there.  Must be a terrifying thought to all those companies investing big bucks in advertising, but it’s one of four talents I possess, along with chili-making, assembling ceiling fans, and making self-congratulatory lists.

Or at least I thought I was immune to advertising.  This gondola-pepperoni-Subway commercial makes me want to stab myself in the pupil with a rusty icepick.

This is the fourth game of the season.  I’m never gonna make it.

8:00 PM – After a broken-bat single to LF, Alex Rios inexplicably tries to steal second base.  I say “inexplicably” because Josh Tomlin holds runners as well as anyone, and Lou Marson picks pieces of guys like Alex Rios out of his stool.  Silly Alex Rios.

Also, while I like all these strikeouts, I just checked Tomlin’s batted-ball stats: 75% of the contact tonight has been either a line drive or fly ball.  He just can’t live like that.

Still 3-0 White Sox, heading to the bottom of the fourth.

8:05 PM – Given that our 4-5-6 hitters were up that inning, that went far too quickly.  Santana ground out.  Lopez fly out.  Dunkers with a swinging strike out.

Chris Sale has thrown 59 pitches through four innings, but has still only walked two. Maybe I was wrong about his incipient control issues….

8:22 PM – After Choo allows De Aza (he of the 1st inning HR) to stretch a single into a double, Jose Lopez has a liner go off his glove and dribble into right field, allowing De Aza to score easily from second: 4-0 Sox.

Adam Dunn follows with a nine-pitch walk off Tomlin.  Dunn has now seen 26 of Tomlin’s 95 pitches.  Yes, I find that statistic interesting: Dunn is such a patient hitter that even when he struggles, he still affects the game by driving up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count.

But I’m also mentioning pitch counts as much as possible in TD’s stead.  He begged me to do that as an homage to his favorite play-by-play guy.

Meanwhile, the White Sox have seven hits to the Indians one, and Josh Tomlin still has more than a strikeout per inning.  This is a weird game.

8:25 PM – I kid you not.  The Indians just made three outs in three minutes.  Kipnis, Cunningham and Marson.  1-2-3.

8:36 PM – Despite loading the bases, Jairo Ascensio looks like a decent RH-bullpen arm to me.  He’ll have to stay down in the zone, but his pitches have some nice late movement—in on a right handed batter.  That said, he did give up a couple of hits and a walk, but he also had a swinging strikeout while inducing some good groundball contact.

8:42 PM – Chris Sale just allowed a baserunner—his first since the second inning.  This should make me happy.

Unfortunately, the baserunner is Shin-Soo Choo, and he reached base by way of a Chris Sale fast ball to the hand.  The same hand that Jonathan Sanchez broke last year.  This makes me sick.

8:47 PM – Choo stays in the game, takes first base, and then steals second.  Santana then drives him in with a single to right field.

Jose Lopez is still our #5 hitter, though.  So the inning ends there.  4-1 White Sox.

9:05 PM – I just took a quick break to get some work done.

OK.  That’s a lie.  I just zoned out for 18 minutes.  But in my defense, the offense has zoned out for four straight games now, so LAY OFF ME!

Either way, nothing of note has happened since 8:47, I promise.  Ascensio had another good-ish inning with another K.  Shelley got a hit.  Kipper GIDP’d.  Sale got pulled for the impressive young righty Addison Reed.  There was an error that didn’t end up mattering.  Et cetera.

STO also played the “Oooohhhhhh PEP-ah-RONeeeee” song again, and here I sit without a rusty icepick.

9:14 PM – Dan Wheeler makes Rafael Betancourt seem an exciting and frenzied pitcher.  This half inning has been going on for 9 minutes.  There is one out.  Runners on first and second.  I am comatose with boredom.  Reminder: it is the fourth game of the season.

9:20 PM – After an excruciatingly irritating wild pitch, I’ve decided that Dan Wheeler might be this year’s Obie if he’s not careful.

Also, with runners now on second and third and one out, Gordon Beckham pops a fly down the right field line.  I mention this only because Choo throws beautiful a strike to home plate.  Ramirez would’ve been out by thirty feet.  So maybe Choo’s hand is OK?

De Aza finally grounds out to second.  Almost fifteen minutes and 24 pitches later, the top of the eighth comes to an end.  The Indians have two innings to score three runs.  Top of the order coming up.  Still 4-1.

9:29 PM – Jason Donald.  I stick up for you all off-season long and then you go and do something like that?  Donald takes the first three pitches from Addison Reed, like a good lead-off boy.  He also takes strike one.

It’s what happens next the drives me crazy.  Fastball at Donald’s eyes, and he swings.  Pop up to first.  One down instead of one on.

Matt Thornton, the tough lefty, comes in to face Asdrubal, who promptly grounds out to short.  Choo lines a single off Beckham’s glove, but Thornton gets Santana to ground out to third.  Which means the murderer’s row of Lopez, Shelley and Kipnis is scheduled to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

9:39 PM – The top of the ninth was (wait for it…) boring.  Raffy Perez slowly worked through Brent Morel, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.  Still 4-1.

I just realized I have Chicago’s closer, Hector Santiago, on my fantasy team.  If you ever want to know whether your natural inclination is toward pessimism or optimism, ask yourself how you feel in a situation like this.  Personally, I feel I can’t lose: either my real team comes from behind for a dramatic victory or my closer gets a save.

But I know there are those out there who feel the opposite: paralyzed by the knowledge that no matter what happens, some of it will be bad.  To you, I say: stop harshing my buzz.

9:43 PM –I guess Jose Lopez didn’t like my little joke earlier about him batting in the #5 slot.  He takes Santiago deep to left for the Indians’ second run of the evening.  4-2 Bad Guys.  Shelley is looming.

9:45 PM – Shelley didn’t loom for long.  He flew out to left center, and Kipnis struck out in, like, 14 seconds.  Which means Aaron Cunningham is our last hope.  Rats.

9:47 PM – Aaron Cunningham confirms my earlier suspicions, striking out in what can only be described as LaPorta-esque fashion.  With that, the Tribe falls to 1-3 on the young 2012 campaign.

There are things to like about this team: I think our starting pitching is going to be strong enough—though they obviously can’t keep up that opening weekend performance.  Similarly, the bullpen is going to be fine, despite some of the tremors we saw over the weekend.  I do worry that they just won’t hit enough—especially against left handed pitching.  I know this gets overblown more than it should, but when the Tribe faces a lefty like Chris Sale, we basically have to punt that game; our lineup tonight was, for all intents and purposes, laughable.  Luckily, the AL Central doesn’t have too many southpaw starters, but that’s not really a winning attitude, I don’t think.

Regardless, we’ve now played four games and scored 14 runs.  Manny Acta isn’t worried about the anemic offense, and, to be honest, neither am I.

Not just yet, anyway.  But like Shelley, I’m looming.

Photo Credit: AP/Mark Duncan

  • JNeids

    “Lou Marson picks pieces of guys like Alex Rios out of his stool.” I think I just soiled myself laughing.

  • Natedawg86

    We have to get some people on base so that we can hit and run, and play some small ball, but even playing small ball you still have to score some runs.  Trend so far, keep the opponent below 4 runs and win the game lol…

  • Technically, based on innings played this team has played five games and scored 14 runs. That is slightly less than three per game, coupled with a .153 BA. There is reason to be worried.

  • Garry_Owen

    The only bright outlook for the 2012 Indians season, and the only thing I’m actually looking forward to this summer, is Jon’s game summaries.  This was far more interesting and entertaining than that “game” last night.

    My son, 8, after watching about 15 minutes last night, and after his own Little League practice (wherein his team looked comparatively better than the Tribe – I smell a championship), asked me, “Dad, are they actually playing a game?”  Great question, son.  My response:  “One of the teams is, but it’s not the Indians.”  My 6-year-old daughter, who knows that we root for all things Cleveland at all times, chimes in, “Are we rooting for the Indians?”  Great question, sweetie.  Great question.  

    I still have no answer.    

  • Harv 21

    thanks, Jon. Along with Rick’s football film breakdowns this is my fav feature here.

    I wait to understand the fairly widespread Jason Donald love. Lot of tribe fans seem to have it. You can toss lots of promising stats but this guy needs to pass visible inspection for me to believe he’s a potential major league contributor. So far just don’t see what others are seeing.   

  • mgbode

    Outside of Choo, Santana and Hafner, I don’t think any Indians hitter even realizes the season has started yet.  And, I really have to stretch it just to include those guys.

    Taking out walks for a moment, our best hitter is 4/16 (or 3/12 if you want to go Hannahan).  

    The best BABIP on the team is .250 (and that is much, much more hitter dependent than the pitching equivalent).

    When do we get to face the Twins pitching staff?

  • Garry_Owen

    While not a “grinder,” he is a “scrapper.”  He plays “dirty.”  

    Yeah.  I’m with you. 

  • kjn

    To stay positive, Lopez’s jack was a nice thing to see. He hit 25 home runs in 2009 and is still only 28 years old. He doesn’t walk much and has bad range, but a live bat would be a nice addition to our bench.

  • kjn

    I think most of that came from his rather strong finish to 2011. Nothing gets a fanbase excited like small sample size.

  • Steve

     He’s been a league average hitter who can fill in at short, and plays a decent 2B and 3B. I don’t think anyone is crazy about him, but he’s Blake, with a bit less offense and a bit more defense, and it looks like he’s going to be appropriately used as a super-sub.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Don’t scar your kids by letting them watch the Indians!  On the positive side at least your son has an example of what not to do and even better can recognize it.  😉

  • mgbode

    does that mean we get the next Carlos Santana for him?

  • Ritz

    I agree… Yes Lopez was horrible last year, but he has shown he can be a very good hitter with power. If he somehow gets back to that form I don’t think its unreasonable to think he could end up starting at first.

  • Lisa S

    I’m a Sox fan, and I don’t know how I ended up here exactly (the joy of surfing the internet at work), but I’m glad I did. I commend you, sir, on a wonderful real-time recap. The Chicago Tribune used to do this for all Sox and Cubs games, and I miss it. Great job! 

    Side note: The Sox have played four games and scored a total of 10 runs so far, so we’re not exactly an offensive juggernaut thus far. Also, 5 of those 10 were a result of home runs.