This one is gonna be short. Last night’s 4-1 Indians loss to the Boston Red Sox was about as exciting as listening to a Ben Stein speech on economics. The difference in the state of these two teams is night and day. While the Sox are perhaps the hottest team in baseball despite being without Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, and Mike Cameron, the Indians are one of the worst teams in the game with a lineup mixed with retreads (Mike Redmond, Russell Branyan, Austin Kearns), under-achieveres (Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta), and youth (Jason Donald, Luis Valbuena, Trevor Crowe). Only Shin-Soo Choo rates as a quality, entering his peak type player.
The talk of the night was the return of the prodigal son, Victor Martinez who made his first appearance in Cleveland since last summer’s white flag trade. As always, Vic The Stik was a class act, meeting with many of his friends before the game and discussing his love for the Cleveland. “I didn’t leave this city because I wanted to. This city was great for me and my family,” he said.
We didn’t want you to leave either, Vic.
All The Stik did was go 2-4 with an RBI and even threw out Trevor Crowe in a steal attempt. It was almost as if he never left. Fausto Carmona, who did his best without his best stuff, pitched gallantly into the seventh inning, allowing three runs (two earned). None of them came via the hit. In the first it was a Kevin Youkilis sac fly. In the third David Ortiz beat out a double play ball to drive in the second Sox run. Victor’s seventh inning sac fly off of Hector Ambriz was also charged to Fausto.
His bugaboos on the night were the leadoff batters and the walk. In six of the seven innings Carmona started, the Red Sox leadoff man reached base. He also walked six in six plus innings. “I had trouble throwing first-pitch strikes,” said Carmona.
His manager gave him credit for being able to work his way through the jams most of the night.
“It looked like every inning they had a man on second with no outs,” Acta said. “He’s really come a long way keeping his composure and not letting the game get out of his hands. Despite all that, he gave us a chance. He had a lot of guys on base, but still gave us a chance out there.”
The problem was the offense. The bats were completely dormant against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Everyone knows the book on Daisuke, you make him throw strikes as he is notoriously wild and usually cannot pitch more than six innings due to high pitch counts. Without closer Jonathan Papelbon (bereavement leave), the Indians wanted to get into the Sox bullpen.
Matsuzaka was terrific in his eight innings, scattering four hits without allowing a run. “We couldn’t get anything off of Matsuzaka,” said Acta. Only an Austin Kearns solo blast kept the Indians from being shutout.
“He’s meant a lot,” Acta said talking about Kearns. “We didn’t leave Goodyear, Ariz., thinking that Austin Kearns was going to be in the middle of our lineup. The plan was that he was going to be our fourth outfielder. He’s done a tremendous job. He was patient at the beginning of the season, waited for his opportunity and took advantage of it. Right now, he’s one of our main threats.”
Now that is a statement that speaks volumes. Kearns (.313 BA/5 HR/26 RBI) literally has saved the Indians offense from real embarrassment. Imagine if he hadn’t come along and played this well. As bad as things are now, they could have been much worse.
Two more fun facts from last night:
1. After another 0-4 putrid performance at the plate, our “designated hitter” Travis Hafner is now hitting .238. He is in the midst of a 1-25 skid and has two RBIs in his last 11 games. Nothing like a DH who is hitting .209 with RISP.
2. Manny Acta continues to show me very little in terms of managing a bullpen. In a 2-0 game, he goes to Raffy Perez AGAIN. Wasn’t this a spot for Frank Herrmann? Naturally, one of the two men he faced was walked. With the bases loaded and a switch hitter and a lefty coming up, he yanks Perez for righty Hector Ambriz. Ambriz gives up a sac fly, and another run in the eighth on three hits. Then, he wastes Herrmann down four in the top of the ninth. That’s where you bring Jensen Lewis – garbage time.
I know, its minutia and I shouldn’t be breaking down a last place team like this, but this is what I do.
Tonight, yours truly with my three-year old son in tow, will be down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario to watch David Huff (2-6, 6.08) potentially make his last start for a while against Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (1-4, 6.02 ERA).
photo via Chuck Crow/PD