Nobody knows how to get shut down by the obscure lefty quite like the Indians do. I swear I have been watching this for the last 20 years. The opposing team trots out someone you haven’t heard of and makes the Indians look like they have never seen a major league pitch before. Chicago’s Jose Quintana did it last year. New York’s Vidal Nuno was this year’s version. That was until last night when the Indians made someone named Andrew Albers look like the second coming of Tom Glavine.
Albers doesn’t throw hard. But he peppered the strike zone and the Wahoo offense, which has been Mark Reynolds cold for a week and a half, had zero answers for him. He reminded me of a right-handed Josh Tomlin when we first saw him in Cleveland.
“He doesn’t overwhelm you with stuff. He attacks the strike zone with all of his pitches, any count. He dominated the game with a fastball that I don’t think ever touched 90,” said manager Terry Francona.
This is no hot prospect either. Albers is a 27-year old rookie making his second major league start. He was a 10th round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2008 and was out of baseball after missing 2009 due to his Tommy John surgery. Albers resurfaced in the Cam-Am league a year later. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal last year. He found himself in AAA this season, leading the International League in strikeouts before his call up on August 3rd.
In his first start, Albers threw eight and a third scoreless against the red hot Kansas City Royals. Last night, he kept on going, one upping himself with a complete game shutout of the Indians. This was the first time since 1966 that a pitcher has thrown at least 8.1 in his first two Major League starts without allowing a run.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Albers said. “I didn’t think it could get any better from the last start, and yet here we are again, and it did. It actually got a little bit better. It’s incredible. It’s another of those nights where things went my way.”
It was more of the same from the slumbering offense. They have averaged just 2.3 runs per game in their last 11 contests coming in, that figure will be lowered after the zero they put up Monday night in downtown Minneapolis. All they could muster were two singles – one from Jason Kipnis, the other from Yan Gomes. Albers didn’t walk anyone. And yes, Asdrubal Cabrera was once again in the cleanup spot and again took an 0-fer. His batting average has now dipped to .238.
The Indians rookie starter last night, Danny Salazar, proved he was human after all. The Twins knew he was a fastball heavy pitcher, and early on they sat back and waited for them. Brian Dozier led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer. In the second, after a blown call gave Oswaldo Arcia an infield single that he didn’t deserve (Cabrera made a great diving play at short), Trevor Plouffe turned on a Salazar fastball for a two-run blast.
Salazar worked his way out of a bases-loaded one out jam in the fourth, but that was it for him.
“I thought [Salazar] was a little less crisp than he was last outing,” Francona said. “I think the outing against Detroit, he was pumped up and got pretty deep into the game, so we did kind of want to keep him short. He had the long fourth inning … We just thought, give him a little bit of a blow rather than grind through one more inning, because I don’t have any doubt he could’ve gotten through it.”
Oddly, the Tribe pen kept their nice string of work going. Marc Rzepcynski, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen kept the Twins off the board with five shutout innings, giving the offense a chance to get back in the game, but they had nothing for Albers.
Said Francona: “Unfortunately for us, that kid put on a clinic.”
The Indians have now lost seven of eight. With the Royals blasting through a 17-3 stretch, they have fallen into third place in the AL Central and are 4.5 games back in the race for the second Wild Card. The bats have got to wake up immediately. I’d like to tell you that a waiver trade acquisition would be welcomed, but I just don’t see that happening. The guys who are going to get this team back on track are already here. There is nothing in Columbus worth mentioning either.
Zach McAllister (4-7, 3.90 ERA) is looking to right the Tribe’s ship tonight in Minnesota as he takes on right-hander Sam Deduno (7-5, 3.38 ERA).
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)