Yesterday was an absolutely perfect afternoon for a baseball game. At first pitch, it was 70 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze. What a day to take off a couple of hours to go down to a still excellent ballpark and watch some professional baseball. Scott joined me for a “lunch break” from his real job. As usual, my chicken fingers basket was delicious (mad props to whoever decided last year to add Honey Mustard to the condiments stand). Last but not least, Russell Branyan threw a ball into the stands coming off the field which the guy next to me dropped and it fell right into my lap. Who says Russ isn’t giving us anything this year?
Notice in the “positives” section you didn’t see anything about baseball? Sure, I could have mentioned Jhonny Peralta’s two run home run or Travis Hafner’s first inning RBI single. Other than those, I defy you to find me something good that happened on the field.
First and foremost let me just say that “Sour” Luis Valbuena’s time with the big club should be up for now. His .152 batting average is bad enough, but his defense and overall look on the field has been just brutal. Yesterday may have taken the cake. Though it wasn’t as costly as the horrific error he made that cost the Indians a game against Toronto two weeks ago, Valbuena claimed something I’ve never heard in all of my years of watching baseball.
He lost a groundball in the sun.
You had to have seen the play to believe it. With the Indians down 6-3 in the seventh, Mike Aviles sent a double play ground ball just to the right of Valbuena. It looked to be an easy play. Except Luis just didn’t move. It was the strangest thing.
“He told me, ‘If the ball would have come right at my face, it would have hit me,’ ” Manny Acta explained. “That’s the first time I’ve seen it, but it’s my first year here, too.”
To make matters worse, Shin-Soo Choo let the ball go right under his glove in right, allowing Scott Podsednik to score all the way from first. Somehow Aviles was credited with a single on the play. The way the Indians offense has been going, you knew a three run deficit was probably going to be insurmountable. The Valbuena boot led the way to a three-run inning for the Royals, who cruised to a 9-3 win.
Without Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore, the Indians lineup yesterday was essentially Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, and a bunch if misfits. I mean, when you get complete-gamed by Luke Hochevar and his 5.86 ERA, you know its bad. The bottom four in the order – Branyan, Matt LaPorta, Valbuena, and Lou Marson – combined to go 0-13. At .215, LaPorta has the highest batting average of the four. My favorite whipping boy, Branyan, has seen his average dip below the Mendoza line and is mired in a 1-22 slump.
And its not as if the top of the order featured AC and Grady. Trevor Crowe led off, followed by Jason Donald. The ’95 Indians are turning over in their graves and the guys aren’t even dead yet. “We’re not doing much offensively,” Acta said, “and it puts a lot of pressure on our pitching staff.”
Mitch Talbot tried his best, but he just didn’t have it. “The Fury” was knocked around early and often by the now fourth place Royals. They got two in the second and four in the third, capped by Alberto Callaspo’s absolute bomb to the bullpen in right. It was a fastball up, over the plate,” Talbot said. “It was a good one to hit. I think I could have hit that one out.”
Give him credit though, he still went six innings and saved a tired bullpen. I was not throwing strikes,” Talbot said. “Pretty much the whole game, I wasn’t throwing strikes with my fastball and offspeed pitches. I’ve had a couple games where [my stuff] hasn’t been as good. But this was by far the worst. I didn’t have a whole lot going for me today.”
Talbot seems like a stand up guy, doesn’t he? I like his candor. I guess you have to keep a good sense of humor when you are pitching for a last place team.
Now in the AL Central cellar (that’s about as low as you can get), the Tribe welcomes their in-state friends from Cincinnati. Jake Westbrook (2-2, 4.37), coming off back to back great starts (15 IP, one earned run) faces Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 4.78).
photo via Chuck Crow/PD