The Cleveland Indians hosted the Kansas City Royals for their home-opening series in a low-scoring American League Central division matchup at Progressive Field.
The Tribe avoided the Royals taking claim of the series on Sunday, April 8, thanks to the efforts of Yan Gomes, who sent a towering two-run walk-off home run over the left field wall to contribute to a 3-1 win against the Royals.
Cleveland won their home opener in a 3-2 win, but fell to Kansas City in game two of the series, 1-0.
One of the eye-popping stats from this weekend’s opener, was through the course of the series the Indians failed to score a run for 24 straight innings. Cleveland scored three runs in the first inning of game one and failed to score a run until the eighth inning of game three of the series.
The Indians have had nine games this season out of 11 in which they have failed to score more than five runs. This has contributed to a slow start offensively and only four wins, which lands the division champions in third place to start the 2018 season.
Cleveland’s slow offensive performance is alarming for the fact that they lost three straight games to the New York Yankees and were eliminated from the 2017 playoffs, in which they only scored a total five runs in the final three games. Could the Indians inability to score runs be foreshadowing a theme for the 2018 season?
Two-time American League Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber headlines an established pitching rotation featuring Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin, so pitching has not been the issue; however, scoring runs has.
Standout shortstop Francisco Lindor has only added seven hits in 40 at-bats this season, and only had two hits in ten at-bats this weekend against Kansas City.
The two time all-star at shortstop is the club’s leading hitter with seven hits overall, but still rounds out at a batting average on an underwhelming .159.
Jose Ramirez finished third in MVP voting last season after posting a career-high batting average of .318 in 2017, and led the MLB in extra-base hits, as well. He has had his shortcomings this season along with Lindor, only totaling three hits in 38 at-bats.
First baseman Yonder Alonso and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion have only combined for five home runs this season in 78 plate appearances. Last year between the power duo of Carlos Santana and Encarnacion, they combined for 60 home runs in 2017.
Encarnacion leads the tribe so far in home runs with three, and is on pace to hit 44 if he plays all 162 games of the regular season. Alonso on the other-hand does show promise, leading the team in batting average at .167 and RBI’s with five.
Once again these numbers are weak and poor to say the least but they could show signs of how the statistics could round out at the end of the season, or so one can hope. It’s especially enlightening to see Alonso “producing” while former first baseman Carlos Santana is batting .182 and already has eight RBI’s in 33 at-bats in Philadelphia.
The savior last weekend for the Tribe offensively was Michael Brantley, making his 2018 debut after rehabbing from ankle surgery. Brantley hit a two-run RBI single in his first at-bat back from the short-lived stint on the disabled list this season.
Cleveland has 10 hitters out of 14 total that are hitting less than a .200 batting average through nine games season. Lonnie Chisenhall at .235, is the only player on the Indians batting over the league average of .234.
It is difficult to depend on Chisenhall and Brantley for premier offensive production, as they both only played 82 and 90 games respectively last season. Chisenhall is already back on the 10-day disabled list with a calf injury, the same one that kept him sidelined for well over half of last season.
Somehow despite a slow offensive start, the Tribe have managed to win five games thanks to the efforts of the pitching staff.
Even with the efforts of the pitching staff, they still contributed to five losses in which three out of five games had more than five runs by the opposing team.
With the grueling 162-game season, it is impossible to rely on a five man pitching rotation to account for all of your wins, as it essentially has for Cleveland this season.
Halfway through this week’s four games series against the Tigers has been just as slow of a start offensively as it was against the Royals. Once again, the Tribe won both games with two run performances and bailed out outings from the Tribe’s top tier pitching staff.
Lindor is 0-8 and without a hit through the first half against Detroit, and Cleveland only has five players who have contributed with a hit this series. Ramírez has improved with three hits in the past two games, and Roberto Perez had a solid two hit performance yesterday, as well. Ramírez and Perez’s four combined hits were the only four hits of a nine inning ball game. I would not say it is alarming, but I would say it’s noticeable that the Indians are performing so poorly against an average Tigers pitching staff.
The weather is an easy excuse to make on why the Indians have struggled executing offensively. Hell, the first pitch on Sunday was the coldest game in Progressive Field history at first pitch at 32°. Also, we are only eleven games into the season with over 151 to go. This story likely will not even matter in August, or will it? Reminiscing of last year’s offensive postseason stall seems all too similar to the lackadaisical beginning of this season.