Its been said a lot lately; the sign of a bad team is one that can’t seem to do everything it takes to win on the same night. Examine if you will the three game series the Cleveland Indians just concluded with the Boston Red Sox. In game one, Cliff Lee pitched eight scoreless innings, but the offense was a complete failure in the 3-1 loss. In game two, starter Anthony Reyes couldn’t get out of the third inning, but the offense (helped by three Boston errors) put up nine runs and the bullpen pieced together seven solid frames of one run ball in the 9-8 win. Then we move to last night, the conclusion of the series. Fausto Carmona was good (his best start of the season, pitching into the seventh), the offense put up five runs, but the defense and bullpen failed them, blowing a 5-0 lead and losing a game they had in the bag 6-5.
As if things weren’t bad enough on this night, DH Travis Hafner was placed on the DL with fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder.
There are four people that deserve to be picked on this morning. What I am about to say may be sacrilegious in this town, but I’m gonna put it out there – Grady Sizemore is starting to move towards the dreaded “O” word, as in overrated. In the last couple of years, while his power numbers have improved, his batting average has dipped and strikeout numbers have continued to be too high, especially for a leadoff man. Take a look:
2006: .290/28 HR/76 RBI/153 K’s/78 BB’s
2007: .277/24 HR/76 RBI/155 K’s/101 BB’s
2008: .268/33 HR/90 RBI/130 K’s/98 BB’s
Thus far in 2009 he is hitting just .239 with 23 K’s (5th in the AL) in 92 AB’s.
Its not just the number of strike outs, its the spots in which he is doing so. I know its still just one month of the season, but this is supposed to be our superstar player. He was 1-14 in this three-game set and was miserable with runners on base, leaving 10 men on. Last night he had two shots to be the hero, and both times he failed to come through. In the bottom of the eighth, he flew out with the bases loaded and two out against Manny Delcarmen. In the 10th against against closer Jonathon Papelbon, he K’d with the tying run on second base to end the game. He finished the game 0-5. Maybe it’s time to move him down into the middle of the order, especially without Hafner?
As bad as Sizemore has been struggling of late, he can only be topped by Peralta, who looks completely lost at the plate. Without Hafner in the lineup, Jhonny has to be the one who steps up in the run-producing situations. Again last night, he had plenty of opportunities to deliver. In the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on second, he was punched out by Hideki Okajima looking. That ended his night at 0-5 with three K’s. He is currently sitting at .211 and dropping and we all know he isn’t in the lineup for this defense.
Sizemore and Peralta left nine runners on base combined on a night the Indians once again were brutal in such situations (0-7). That brings the three game total for the Wahoos to 2-30.
DeRosa is on the list for his defense. With the Indians nursing a shaky 5-2 in the top of the eighth and Rafael Betancourt on the hill, Jeff Bailey hit a double play ball right to the Indians third baseman, and he booted it. All runners were safe and the bases were loaded. If he does his job, the inning is over and the Tribe lead is safe at 5-2. Instead, the flood gates opened and a two out, bases loaded single by Jacoby Ellsbury off of Jensen Lewis tied the game.
Credit DeRosa for being a stand-up guy after the game:
“I put this loss on me,” said DeRosa. “Raffie [Betancourt] comes in and gets a double play ball. It’s got to be turned. Even if it’s not, it’s first and third and two outs. You’ve got to get an out there.”
The worry with DeRosa is his defense. Readers of mine know I was no fan of Casey Blake, but DeRosa’s glove at third isn’t what we hoped for. I know his stick will come around, and errors are going to happen, but he has picked some inopportune times to boot grounders this week.
Lastly – who is the real Jensen Lewis? In 2007 and at the end of last season, we saw a guy who looked like a fixture at the back end of the bullpen. He was fearless and went after hitters, despite a fastball in the low 90’s. But the 2009 version of Jenny looks a lot like the guy who stumbled out of the gate in ’08 and was sent to the minors.
He gave up the game-tying two out single in the eighth to Ellsbury, and was taken deep by former Tribe farmhand Jonathan Van Every in the 10th that sealed the Tribe’s fate. Its one thing to get crushed by Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz, but Van Every? Lewis has given up five homers in 12 1/3 innings pitched, four of them were in key spots were the Indians were either tied or in the lead late in the game.
I hate being this negative so often this early. I know its been a month and I know there are over 130 games left in this marathon season and I know the AL Central is pathetic, but does anyone see signs that this is a team that can contend? They have yet to win more than two games in a row and have yet to put it all together in the same series. The Red Sox took two of three at Progressive Field and very easily could have been swept. By contrast, the Indians also could have easily been swept. When they split the series at Yankee Stadium, the Tribe bullpen blew the two losses.
I’m staying the course, the way Eric Wedge would like his team too. All its going to take in this bad division is a five game winning streak and the next thing you know, the Wahoos will be in first place. The rotation is stabilizing somewhat, Rafael Perez has shown some life in his last three outings, and you still have Kerry Wood at the back end. The offense has got to break out of this funk in RISP situations. A big hit or two here and there is contagious.
All I know is that I shouldn’t be this frustrated on April 30th. Tomorrow is the start of a new month and a seven game trip, beginning in Detroit, and hopefully, a new beginning for this club. Expect my boy (ha ha) David Dellucci to be activated and get some time at DH.