We have now passed the Memorial Day checkpoint, and your Cleveland Indians (27-21) are still in first place by the narrowest of margins. The red hot Chicago White Sox pounded the Tribe into submission over the weekend and moved themselves just a half game back at 27-22. The onslaught was stunning to say the least, considering the fact that the Indians are built to win with their pitching. But that’s what makes baseball such a great game. You just never know how things are got to take shape.
Luckily for our boys in Wahoo red, white, and blue, they won’t see the White Sox again until late September, and they were fortunate enough to return home for a visit from the Kansas City Royals, one of their favorite punching bags.
The long weekend had lots of interesting action both on and off the field. Despite the sweep on the south side of Chicago, the Indians will be just fine. So let us jump right into the weekend that was in Wahooland.
The pitching was lit up during a series for the first time all season, but of course there is only one guy I am concerned about; Ubaldo Jimenez. The White Sox offense, led by alltime Tribe killer Paul Konerko (44 homers, 165 RBIs in his career against them), put up a whopping 35 runs on Indians pitching during their three game sweep of out boys. Derek Lowe was due for a bad outing. Jeanmar Gomez has only struggled now twice this season – both in starts against the White Sox. So I am not going to to dwell on what happened to them. Ubaldo on the other hand is a completely different story altogether.
I am running out of things to say about him. After watching another absolutely horrific performance on Sunday with the Indians bullpen needing a rest, it is time consider real alternatives for what to do with this guy. Ubaldo could only muster four innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits while walking four more. The Indians brass, GM Chris Antonetti in particular, continue to tell us that his issues are mechanical.
“In terms of the consistency in which he’s executed his delivery, that’s probably been the biggest difference. When we saw him – obviously the day we traded for him he was pitching after the trade as a little atypical – but in the starts prior to that, there wasn’t anything materially different.”
Didn’t we hear that he had worked all of the mechanical stuff out in winter ball and this spring? The numbers tell you everything you need to know. Get ready to be sick.
In 10 starts this season, Ubaldo has an 5.79 ERA, a 1.79 WHIP, 42 walks to just 30 K’s. In 10 starts, he has yet to go more than seven innings, and he has accomplished that feat just twice.
In first two innings this year, Jimenez has a 7.65 ERA, allowed 24 hits and walked 14 in 20.0 IP. He’s averaging of 40.6 pitches. (I just went Underwood on you!).
He leads all Major League pitchers in walks (42) and has the third highest ERA of any AL pitcher who has made 10 or more starts.
His road and home splits are staggering. In five road stars, Jimenez has an 9.00 ERA, and opponents are hitting .358 against him. Yet him five home starts, he has a 3.38 ERA, whole opponents are hitting .171. Very odd.
Last but not least, in 21 starts as an Indian, Ubaldo Jimenez is 9-8 with a 5.64 ERA.
This is the guy Antonetti hitched his wagon to. Brilliant.
At this point, you really have to consider moving Ubaldo to the bullpen and letting him work out the kinks as a long man. Zach McAllister has done a nice job filling in for Josh Tomlin and certainly was doing a better job of saving the Indians bullpen than Jimenez has. This division is ripe for the picking, but it could come down to the end. A game here or there could really mean something. I don’t know how much longer the Tribe can let a guy go out there every five days not knowing of he can get past the fifth.
Did I mention the Indians traded their top two pitching prospects for this glorified fifth starter?
The Indians are a banged up crew right now, but despite that, the offense showed some surprising life. After Friday night’s thrashing by the White Sox, the Tribe was about to face life without the middle of its order. Asdrubal Cabrera left the game with a sore left hamstring. Carlos Santana was drilled on the mask by a foul ball (is it me or has he taken a ton of punishment this year?) and also had to leave because if dizziness. They were already without DH Travis Hafner who didn’t even make the trip to Chicago because of a sore right knee and Jack Hannahan who still hadn’t returned because of a back strain.
So over the next three games, we saw lineups and people we would never expect to see.
Juan Diaz, a AA shortstop who to be honest was not on my radar screen, was called up just to add a warm infield body. Little did we know he’d be the starting shortstop Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Luke Carlin was added from Columbus with Santana being placed on the seven-day concussion DL. Luke would get to see some unexpected PT of his own when Lou Marson was forced to leave Sunday’s game after being drilled in the cheek by a again Floyd pitch. Then Monday morning, Hannahan had to be placed on the 15-day DL with a strained calf, allowing the article to call up its top prospect, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
Meanwhile, Acta had to put a lineup card together without the meat of his order. You know things are bad when Jose Lopez and Casey Kotchman are your 4-5 hitters. But you know something, this offense responded much better than anyone would have anticipated.
Acta said it best himself: “If you would have told me going into Chicago that we’d score 16 runs, I probably would have guaranteed you that we’d win the series.”
Lopez had two more hits and three more RBIs in yesterday’s 8-5 win over the Royals. He has been a godsend for Acta over these past two weeks. Carlin even had three hits in six ABs the last two games. But it was Chisenhall who made the biggest splash with his arrival.
In his season debut, Lonnie took Royals starter Nate Adcock deep in his first at-bat of the season with the big club, a rocket shot that got out of Progressive Field in a hurry. Starting at DH and hitting seventh, Chisenhall went 2-4. With Hannahan on the DL, Lonnie will find himself in the lineup every day, whether it be at third base or DH. He arrived in Cleveland hitting .324 for AAA Columbus and has made some nice strides. It should be very interesting to see how the 23- year old responds in his second tour of duty with the Tribe.
Kudos to the offense, who have scored 21 runs on 32 hits over the last three games without the Cabrera/Hafner/Santana 3-4-5 trio.
Meanwhile, how about Jason Kipnis? Does anybody love playing in his home city more than he does? Yes, the Indians got smoked by the Sox, but it certainly wasn’t Jason’s fault. He hit two more jacks and drove in 4 runs in the three losses, hitting third in Cabrera’s absence. Then on Monday, he delivered the biggest at-bat of the game, a bases loaded single which plated two and gave the Indians a lead they would never relinquish. He had three hits and moved his average up to .285. He now leads the Tribe in homers (eight), RBIs (30), and steals (nine).
Can you say All-Star?
And now on to two of my favorites (sarcasm font needed). Yes, I know Johnny Damon hit a three-run homer on Sunday, but save for that one at-bat, he continues to look completely lost at the plate. The bat speed just isn’t thee anymore. He plays every day and just isn’t getting the job done. Johnny is hitting a weak .152 while playing a brutal left field.
I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that Damon would be the one who would go when Grady Sizemore comes back, but it appears that we shouldn’t be getting out hopes up that this will occur in the near future.
Remember when we heard the “Grady will be back by June” bit and we saw video of him taking swings in the cage last week? Manny Acta was asked before yesterday’s game about the possibility of Sizemore going on a rehab assignment to get ready for a return to Cleveland. His response was “not anytime soon.”
Next year the Indians should just make things easier on themselves, take $5 million in cash, and light it in fire. Would be less frustrating.
Before you all jump all over me, I loved the healthy Grady. I wish he still existed. But that guy doesn’t work here anymore and that $5 million could be the difference in landing a guy at the trade deadline like a Carlos Lee (hitting .305 with 23 RBIs) or not.
OK, back to happier things. We should know more about Hafner and Cabrera later today, but the hope they could be back in the next two or three days. The Tribe will take their stabs tonight at another obscure lefty they have never faced (yeah!), KC lefty Will Smith (0-1, 13.51 ERA). Acta will counter with Justin Masterson (2-3, 4.62 ERA) who is coming off of his best performance since opening day.
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