Another night, another April flashback. Monday night it was the bullpen, last night it was hitting in clutch spots. The Indians certainly had plenty of chances to take control of this game, but literally failed every single time in the 7-5 loss to Milwaukee.
They took Brewers start Yovani Gallardo completely off the hook, despite working him for six walks and 116 pitches in five innings. Other than Mark DeRosa’s one-out first inning solo blast looked like it would be the start of something big. Gallardo walked the next three batters, but the Tribe could only manage to push one more across on a Travis Hafner RBI fielder’s choice.
In the third, the Tribe had two on with two out, but Ben Francisco, who continues to get exposed each and every day, weakly grounded to third. In the fifth inning, they again loaded the bases with one out, but rookie Chris Gimenez looked bad striking out swinging and Francisco grounded into a fielder’s choice to kill the rally. In the sixth, Josh Barfield led off with a double and was moved over to third on a Luis Valbuena ground out. While they did get Barfield in, it was on a DeRosa ground out. The big hit eluded them all night long.
At this point, it was still a one run game at 4-3.
They had yet another shot in the bottom of the seventh. Shin-Soo Choo hit a double to open the inning to again put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out. Ryan Garko K’d miserably on a pitch that was a good five feet off of the plate. After Travis Hafner was intentionally walked (for the second time), Eric Wedge went to his bench for contact man Jamey Carroll. JC struck out looking on a borderline call from noted clown CB Bucknor. It was again up to Francisco. For a third time, he popped out on the first pitch to end the threat. Benny is now locked into a 3-31 slump and is hitting .156 in the month of June. Time for Trevor Crowe to get more time in Center. Not that he is the answer either.
That was for all intents and purposes, the ballgame. For the night, the Indians were 1-15 with runners in scoring position (Travis Hafner’s two run-homer in the ninth being the only hit). Milwaukee pitchers Gallardo and Todd Coffey gave them every chance to take this game, yet they never could capitalize.
Then there is the pitching. Jeremy Sowers started and again hit the wall in the fifth inning. Give STO analyst Rick Manning credit. He said on more than one occasion that when Sowers gets behind in the count, opposing hitters can sit on any pitch they want. He continued to nibble around the zone, throwing 99 pitches in his five innings of work. “He’s still controlling damage. He just needs to be more efficient so he can get into the sixth or seventh so we can set up the bullpen,” said Wedge.
The bottom line – Sowers is at best, a fifth starter. Despite his numbers of late, don’t be surprised when he is dropped from the rotation when Jake Westbrook and Aaron Laffey are ready at the end of the month.
Sowers’ failure to get past the fifth inning forced The Grinder’s hand to go to the pen early. After going through seemingly everyone the night before, he summoned Jensen Lewis. What happened to this guy? He was so dominant down the stretch in 07 and 08, yet his stuff continues to be flat and right down the middle. One batter he looks like a world-beater, and the next two tag him. Jenny Lew looks like he needs to be sent to Columbus to find himself. He allowed three earned runs over his two plus innings of work.
The shame of the last two nights is that the Tribe has had a real chance to gain ground in the division. Said Wedge: “If you look at the last two nights, there are a lot of things you don’t like to see.” With the Tigers losing again last night to the Cardinals, they still are only 6.5 games back.