I have to say I am very, very disappointed with the Indians performance this weekend in Baltimore. Opening up with the worst team in the American League and taking the first two games of the series was a great start to the second half. But over the last two days, The Wahoos blew two huge opportunities and now must go to Minnesota to face a hot Twins team for four games over the next three days on a two-game losing streak.
After Friday night’s gut-wrenching win 6-5 win where the Bullpen Mafia again delivered an amazing performance, Saturday and Sunday the Tribe was let down by a lack of clutch hitting. Along the way, some concerns about the starting pitching may have popped up and another injury threatened to derail the offense. Meanwhile, the Tribe still sits tied for first place at the end of the weekend.
So what did we learn?
The offense started games hot, then cooled down at the wrong times. Even during the Indians 6-5 Friday night win, the Tribe went just 3-15 with runners in scoring position. On Saturday night, the tables were turned as the Tribe lost 6-5. They had just four hits against noted ace Alfredo Simon. Yes, the same Simon who failed as a closer last year and is possibly implicated in wrongful death charges in the Dominican Republic after a New Year’s Eve incident involving his cousin. He three-hit the Indians for seven innings. You can say Simon pitched a great game, which he did. You could also say he was certainly helped by a brutal Tribe lineup.
When rookie Lonnie Chisenhall is penciled in in the five hole you know the lineup is going to be long night offensively. After The Chiz, Acta had Orlando Cabrera, Austin Kearns, Lou Marson, and the newly called-up Ezequiel Carrera. It’s not a wonder that the offense didn’t have much success. It wasn’t until the ninth inning where the Tribe made any sort of noise, and that was only because Orioles closer Kevin Gregg (who may be the worst closer in the game) walked the bases loaded before giving up a bases clearing double to OC. Grady Sizemore (more on him in a bit) ended the tease with a groundout to third.
Yesterday, like they have in this entire series, the Tribe jumped out early on the Orioles. Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana crushed back to back jacks in the first. Sizemore then followed with a double, but injured his right knee rounding first, the same knee that DL’d him earlier this year. He had to be replaced by Carrera. Ezequiel was brought in on Travis Buck’s single. It was 3-0 and the Tribe looked like they would be able to get to Baltimore’s Mitch Atkins. But that was all the runs they would get the rest of the day.
In the second, they left two on with two out when Santana K’d. In the third they left two on with two out when Luis Valbuena struck out. In the fifth against reliever Mark Hendrickson, Buck’s double play with two on and one out ended the inning. In the seventh, trailing 5-3, the Tribe loaded the bases with one out. Buck ripped one up the middle right off of reliever Jim Johnson, who recovered to get the second out at home. Chisenhall struck out to end another Tribe threat.
“We left an army of guys on base and that hurt us at the end,” said manager Manny Acta.
It felt like June all over again. Now, they could be without one of their cogs, Sizemore.
The Tribe’s centerfielder had to be helped off the field in the top of the first because of his gimpy knee. He will be examined in Minnesota to see if he needs a DL stint. Even if he is day to day, we all have to come to grips with the fact that Sizemore will not be 100% at any point this season. He may not ever be 100% again. I’ve said this before, but I believe it to be true. Grady’s best days may be behind him as his knees are failing him. I expect him to join Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list, putting Carrera in center everyday, with the Buck/Kearns platoon sticking in right to go with Brantley in left. This could really accelerate the process for the Indians pursuit of a right-handed outfield stick.
I liked what I saw from Ezequiel in limited action over the weekend and we may see much more of him starting in tomorrow’s double-header in Minneapolis.
Now to the starting pitching. Josh Tomlin’s start Friday was shaky. I am a huge fan of his, but the facts are that he is little margin for error without overwhelming “stuff” if you will. The home run ball has been his issue all year, and it hasn’t gone away. Friday night he allowed three more to bring his season total to 18, fifth in all of baseball. Yes, 12 of them have been of the solo variety, but nevertheless, it’s a concern. No doubt pitching in that bandbox in Baltimore didn’t help his cause, but he has been shaky in his last two starts.
Carlos Carrasco took the mound Saturday looking to find his June groove after getting lit up for 11 earned runs in his last seven innings pitched. He was much improved, going seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out six. Nick Markakis, who killed the Indians all weekend, made Carlos a loser with his sixth inning solo blast, but at least he showed improvement and has something to build on.
Sunday’s starter was the replacement for the “injured” Mitch Talbot, Jeanmar Gomez. The right-hander has been very good in AAA Columbus and deserves the shot at a regular spot. The offense had plenty of chances to give Gomez breathing room, but failed to step on the Orioles throats. He weaved in and out of trouble and carried a 3-1 lead into the fifth. Then with one out, he gave up his second homer of the game, a three-run shot by Robert Andino. Just like that, he was trailing. A Markakis solo job in the sixth ended his day. It was the second time in three games that the Tribe’s starter allowed three home runs.
In five and a third, Gomez allowed five runs on six hits, striking out two without walking a batter. He will get another shot this upcoming weekend back in Cleveland against the White Sox.
Spiltting this series with the Orioles feels more like a loss to me. You have to take at least three of four when you are facing that sad sack team from Baltimore, who entered losers of nine straight. They hadn’t won back to back games since early June until Saturday and Sunday’s wins. Now the Indians must go to Minnesota for a four game set which starts with a day/night doubleheader, started by David Huff and Fausto Carmona.
Huff has been with the Indians over the last two seasons, but is making his first appearance in a spot start this afternoon. Readers of mine know I think he is 4A to the core. It’s the first start by an Indians lefty this season and with an overworked bullpen from the weekend in Baltimore coupled with the doubleheader, Huff must give the Wahoos innings.
The nightcap will be started by Carmona, who we all know has struggled mightily this season. I don’t know what more can be said about him that already hasn’t been said, but if the Indians are going to win the AL Central, Carmona must find himself, especially with the fourth spot in the rotation so iffy.
Today starts a huge stretch for the Tribe, with seven games against divisional foes this week. Lets see how they respond.
AP photo/Nick Wass