Indians

Starting Pitching Tells The Story Of The Weekend

Corey Kluber

The way this Cleveland Indians roster is currently constructed, for them to win and/or be competitive is if their starting pitching keeps them in games. Pitching deep into those games is obviously a welcomed sight. Its as simple as that. This weekend, where the Tribe lost two of three to the Red Sox, the starters were all over the map.

On Friday night, Chris Seddon pitched surprisingly well in a 3-2 loss. The journeyman lefty went six innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits.  Yes, they loss, but they were in it until the end of this low scoring, one-run affair.

An evening later, in front of close to 28,000 (including yours truly), Zach McAllister rebounded after the worst start of a young career by completely shutting down the Red Sox over eight innings. Mixing in his fastball with his breaking stuff, right-handed batters had no chance against The Attack. McAllister gave up just three hits and didn’t walk anyone. Righties went 0-14 against him. The two Red Sox runs came after two bad defensive plays on fielder’s choices gone awry, and a bases loaded double off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez.

“He’s been as consistent as anybody here,” Manny Acta said of his rookie righty. “It means a lot. You know that you’re going to get at least six innings depending on his pitch count. He doesn’t walk a lot of guys. He gets himself in position to pitch a good game by attacking the zone with a good fastball and mixing his pitches.”

Acta could have easily let McAllister go out for the ninth, but went to his closer with The Zack Attack at 100 pitches. Chris Perez got the Sox without incident for his 31st save. After the game, everyone was talking about the guy the Indians acquired for the one and only Austin Kearns two years ago.

“Zach was THE man out there,” Acta said. “Right-hand batters were 0 for 14 against him. He had 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes and gave a rest to our bullpen. He was just fantastic.”

“The kid was throwing the ball where he wanted to throw it,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.

Then you had the opposite end of the spectrum – Sunday’s starter Corey Kluber.

The 26-year old had made two starts heading into yesterday. In his first, he allowed six runs in the first inning and last just four total against the Royals. His next time out, he made a quality start, pitching into the seventh, allowing just one earned run (two more were unearned). However yesterday, Kluber pitched like it was the first inning in Kansas City all over again.

Right from the start, the Red Sox were all over Kluber’s fastball. He has relied on striking people out in AAA to get out of jams. But this is the bigs, and when your fastball is straight and your breaking stuff isn’t working, you will get beaten like a piñata every single time.

Kluber lasted just three and a third and left with the Sox ahead 6-1. He wasn’t fooling anyone.

“Kluber just didn’t have command of his fastball,” Acta said. “It was up in the zone. Everything was up. He didn’t establish it and he wasn’t able to use that swing-and-miss slider that he has. It put us in a bind there.”

The rookie was replaced by the man who’s job he took, Josh Tomlin. The Indians new long man, banished to the bullpen, was even worse.

Tomlin was blasted for seven runs on five hits in an inning and a third. He left the game and headed straight to the clubhouse with a sore elbow. After the 14-1 disgraceful home loss, we would learn that Tomlin will be staying behind to have his arm looked it. It seems as though he is a lock for the disabled list. He’s lucky, because with the way he has pitched, Josh should be ticketed for AAA.

“We’re going to evaluate him . . . to see how he’s doing physically,” said Acta. “What you’re seeing is not him. Usually, when a guy’s not 100 percent healthy, that’s when the command goes away a little bit. And he can’t pitch without his command.”

The Little Cowboy didn’t want to make excuses. He just wanted to pitch and help his team.

“I felt like I could go out there,” Tomlin said. “It wouldn’t hurt every single day, but there were days it did hurt. That was kind of mind-boggling to me, why it felt good some days and why it hurt the other days. It’s time to get it checked out and see what it is.”

While he may be indeed hurt, the league has clearly figured him out.

It is pretty simple. This team lives and dies with its starting pitchers. Per our good pal Nick Camino of the Indians Radio Network:

That’s right, they have lost 21 one freaking times by six runs or more. Horrific starting pitching has hand a hand in the majority of those losses.

Seddon was supposed to be the guy who would be replaced in the rotation with the return of “Fauxberto,” Roberto Hernandez scheduled to start Wednesday night in Anaheim. The veteran right-hander gave up just one earned run in seven strong innings over the weekend for AAA Columbus and will be activated Wednesday. But with Seddon thus far outpitching Kluber, could the Tribe send Kluber back down to AAA for more seasoning, and either leave Seddon as the fifth starter, or push him to the bullpen in favor of another hot AAA starter, Jeanmar Gomez? Or will they give Kluber another shot?

Tomlin could be heading to the DL for Hernandez’s activation, which could buy the Indians an extra day to make a decision. Reliever Frank Herrmann was supposed to have been called up for a short period of time to protect an overtaxed bullpen. He most likely will be sent out for another bat, either Matt LaPorta or Russ Canzler.

That fact that we are having conversations about the Herrmann’s, the LaPorta’s, the Canzler’s, and the Seddon’s of the world in the middle of August is disturbing when you consider that this team was a mere three games back a little more than two weeks ago.

Quick Notes:

  • Watching Ezequiel Carrera sting the ball, use his speed, and show decent enough left field defense, makes me wonder why we had to watch Johnny Damon for three months. I like what I have seen from Zeke thus far since his recall. Damon, was well, a desperate move that didn’t work to say the least.
  • I saw Brent Lillibridge have three hits, drive in two runs, jack a homer, and finish a triple short of the cycle Saturday night in the Tribe’s 5-2 win. Over the weekend, the Tribe’s utility man made starts at third, short, and made an appearance at second. He’s also seen time in center and left field since coming over from Boston. He’s already shown more than the man who’s job he took, Aaron Cunningham. It is still incredible to me that Cunningham lasted as long as he did. I know Lillibridge is no regular every day guy, but he is a perfect utility guy.
  • Speaking of which, it was good to see Jason Donald back in the bigs and playing well. I don’t think the Tribe worried about his bat as much as the yips he contracted when playing third earlier in the year, but nevertheless he belongs up here as a bench guy.  Donald took the roster spot of Travis Hafner, who was placed on the DL with back problems. Its Hafner’s ninth trip to the DL in his career. This may be the last we see of him in an Indians uniform. Back in June, I wrote how the Indians continual faith in both Pronk and Grady Sizemore were huge parts of the team’s regression.  Here’s the link if you want to take another read. The story still holds three months later.
  • While it was easy to rip some of the pitching we saw, we can’t let the offense off the hook. They could only manage 10 runs on 13 hits in the three games over the weekend. Clay Buckholz (two hits in nine) and Jon Lester (three hits in six) made Wahoo bats look silly.
  • For those of you pining to get rid of Shelley Duncan in favor of LaPorta or Canzler, keep this in mind. With an offense so bereft of true impact guys, don’t you think if these two could produce at the major league level, they’d have been here by now? The brass has seen LaPorta regularly since 2008 and know what they have, or should I say don’t have in him. As for Canzler – the Tampa Bay Rays were willing to essentially let him walk away for nothing to the Indians. Do you honestly believe that an organization who is known for drafting and developing prospects, would give away a guy with a bright future in the bigs? Both may be nice guys, but they are both 4A, or, essentially younger versions of Duncan.
  • The Indians now head on a nine-game, three-city West Coast trip which will take them first to Anaheim, followed by Oakland, and then Seattle.

photo via Chuck Crow/PD

  • mgbode

    and back-handed compliment of the week award goes to…

    “with Seddon thus far outpitching Kluber”

  • mgbode

    also, major kudos should be continually given to Zach McAllister. He has been the sole member of our pitching staff to remain relatively consistent and relatively good throughout the season (couple blips but that’s normal).

    I don’t see him as a having a particularly high ceiling, but he should definitely have a slot reserved on the 2013 rotation.