Sometimes you sit back and watch a game and have to just chalk it up to being dominated by a great pitcher. That was certainly the case last night as Weaver completely befuddled the Tribe for six innings. But in the seventh, with the Indians trailing 2-0 , they finally had their shot.
Jason Kipnis led off with a walk and advanced to second on Michael Brantley’s single (by the way, I know Travis Hafner will be back soon, but its a sad state of affairs when Brantley and his one home run once again hits cleanup. When he isn’t, Jose Lopez is. Wow.) Carlos Santana, back in the lineup after his mini-absence, walked to load the bases with nobody out.
This was their big chance. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the next three names due up – Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, and Shelley Duncan. I immediately thought (and tweeted) that I had a bad feeling.
Damon’s best days are long behind him. That is no secret. We’ve been waiting and waiting for him to come around. He hasn’t. We are just about at the All-Star break and Johnny has barely registered in the big hit category. But with the bases loaded and nobody out in front of a home crowd of over 21,000, begging for a chance to get excited, would he be able to erase some of the disappointment we’ve all felt in watching him most of the year?
Johnny grounded to third baseman Alberto Callaspo who fired home to get Kipnis for the first out.
“I let the team down,” Damon said. “I was in a situation to — worst case — at least try to push across one right there. He gave me some pitches off the plate that I felt like I could drive to left, and I didn’t.”
All we asked for was a sac fly. He couldn’t even deliver that. Alas, the Tribe had two more chances. Kotchman was next. He quickly fell behind Weaver 1-2 before getting caught swinging way early on an off-speed pitch and popped out to the catcher. Shelley Duncan, who was so hot over the weekend against the AAA-esque pitching of the Baltimore Orioles, came crashing back to reality against the stud Weaver. The righty toyed with Duncan before making him fish for a low and away pitch in the dirt for strike three.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over right there.
Quickly back to Damon. The small sample size thing is now over with him. It is July 3rd and he sits at .201/.279/.608 and is hitting .133 (6-45) with runners in scoring position. And I haven’t even mentioned how awful he is in the field. Does it sound like I have reached my breaking point with him? I think last night put me over the edge with another 0-4. The problem, once again, is that the Indians have no other option outside of Duncan. (please, I beg you, for the love of everything, do not bring up Grady Sizemore’s health and the downward spiral it caused in left.)
Yes, in the eighth, Weaver gave up back to back singles to Jack Hannahan and Shin-Soo Choo, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to lefty Scott Downs, which we all know, is Tribe Kryptonite. Asdrubal Cabrera promptly grounded into a double play and Jason Kipnis flew out to center.
“We didn’t have a very good approach,” Acta said. I just felt that we were swinging at his pitches, and too early in the count a lot of times. Too many quick outs. Yeah, he was throwing strikes, but still. We were rolling over a lot, and he just kept flipping offspeed stuff and we didn’t make the adjustment.”
Overshadowed by the lack of offense was the stellar pitching of Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez. For the first six innings, Ubaldo matched Weaver pitch for pitch. The only run he had allowed before Howie Kendrick’s seventh inning solo homer, came on an Erick Aybar fifth inning sac fly. He ran out of gas in the eighth, walking in a run with two outs before Acta pulled him for Joe Smith, but this was another solid outing by the Tribe’s most scrutinized starter.
“Ubaldo pitched well again,” Acta said. “I like the way he’s throwing. He’s establishing his fastball and he’s in the strike zone, and he doesn’t have a lot of traffic out there like he did early in the year. I think he’s [headed] in the right direction.”
Not every pitcher is going to be as good as Weaver was last night and as we know, the beauty of baseball is that there is no need to dwell on what happened in one game, because another one comes the next day. So we turn the page on Weaver’s gem and focus on Dan Haren. Weaver is now 5-0 with a 1.52 ERA in his career at Progressive FIeld. Haren owns the Indians in his own way as well. He is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five career starts in Cleveland.
The Indians will counter tonight with Zach McAllister (2-1, 3.82 ERA), who pitched well Thursday in Baltimore.