This weekend really had a ton of promise. Consider the fact that the Indians were playing the one team that they have been consistently able to beat, the White Sox, and were coming off of back to back horrifying series in New York and Detroit. Things couldn’t have gotten any worse.
So what did they do? They went out Friday night and won with their bats and Saturday night with their arms. Friday’s 10-1 featured the first win of the season for Justin Masterson and the end of his miserable, almost year long quest to get off the schneid. The offense exploded for ten runs in three innings (5th-7th) and went a spectacular 7-18 with runners in scoring position. Jhonny Peralta’s four hit, four RBI night was a monster, considering how badly he had been swinging the bat on this trip. Austin Kearns added a two-run jack which provided plenty of breathing room to end Masterson’s losing streak at 11 decisions.
“I honestly didn’t know it was 11 games until you told me right now. I knew it was getting up there. I knew it had been a while. But overall, I didn’t feel I pitched terribly, so I didn’t think about how long it was. I kept thinking I was on the right track, and that helped me stay in a good place,” Masterson said.
For those of you who jump on me for saying Masterson is still a starter and I should get off his back, its not as if he was on his game Friday night. While he only allowed one earned run, he went 5.2 innings, giving up five hits and walked six. That is still way too many base-runners and pitches (108) for just under six innings of work.
Saturday night was “Fury Time” as Mitch Talbot once again continued his mastery of the Pale Hose. Going seven strong innings of one run ball, Talbot locked down the Sox for the third time this season, improving his ERA against them to 1.57. Chris Perez and Kerry Wood closed out the final two innings unscathed to give the Indians their eighth win over Chicago this season. Consider the fact that they have just 21 wins total, the eight over the Sox should make Ozzie Guillen wonder about his job security.
“For some reason we pitch very well against these guys, especially Talbot. He’s had a few good games against them and we play good defense also. Perez and Woody slammed the door,” said Manager Manny Acta.
Riding high and looking for the sweep yesterday afternoon, the Wahoo Warriors jumped all over Mark Buehrle in the first, sending eight men to the plate. Peralta kept his hot streak going with a single scoring Shin-Soo Choo and Kearns. Shelley Duncan followed with a gap shot double to right-center, easily scoring Jhon from first. The Tribe seemed well on their way to a sweep, except Jake Westbrook just didn’t have it.
In the bottom of the first, he gave two back on a two-out, two-run homer by Tribe killer Paul Konerko. Then in the third, the Indians struck again. This time, the power came from the most unlikely of sources. Lou Marson, who was locked in an 0-19 slump and saw his batting average move below the Mendoza line, crushed a three-run blast to the seats in left, putting the Tribe ahead 6-2. “He left it up, and I guess I put a pretty good swing on it,” Marson said.
It was the first home run from the catching position all year. Only the Royals have yet to accomplish that feat.
With a 6-2 lead and their opening day starter on the mound, the Tribe had to be able to close this one out, right? Wrong. “I could tell that Jake wasn’t going to have his best day,” Acta said. “I didn’t feel he had the right slot. He was trying to find the right slot for his arm. He was dropping down more than usual, and when you start giving up runs with two outs, it’s not a good sign.”
Jake’s sinker was up all day and he couldn’t get out of the fifth. The Sox got one in the fourth and three in the fifth to tie it, chasing Westbrook.
“I never really found it,” Westbrook said. “Early on, I didn’t really think I pitched all that bad, I just think I ran into getting behind in the count and not making big pitches when I needed to. Konerko’s got unbelievable numbers off me.”
Now it became a battle of the bullpens, always a dicey situation when it comes to our boys in Red, White, and Blue. Acta used the newly called-up Frank Herrmann to close out the fifth and the sixth. Herrmann, for the second time this weekend, didn’t allow a run. The same cannot be said for the next three Indians pitchers – Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez.
Sipp had a horrific road trip, allowing 12 earned runs in an inning and a third. He came on to start the seventh and gave up a single to the light-hitting Juan Pierre. Omar Vizquel bunted him over to second, and Acta turned to Lewis. To say Jenny was bad was an understatement. He faced two right-handed batters and walked them both. Next up for Acta was Raffy Perez. He got Mark Kotsay on a shallow fly to left, but with two outs, he once again failed to do the job. Against the right-handed hitting Carlos Quentin, he hung an 0-2 slider which Quentin singled right up the middle, scoring two runs and putting the Sox ahead for good, 8-6.
So the Tribe ended the weekend taking two of three in Chicago in a series they should have swept, and finished the ten game trip 4-6. Westbrook took the loss hard. “I lost this ball game today. Six runs is a lot. I need to do a better job shutting it down, keeping the score what it was. I didn’t do my job today. I’m the reason we lost this game today. I don’t care what anybody else tells you. That’s how I feel and that’s the way it is,” Westbrook said.
Now the Boston Red Sox come to town for four games. That should be fun! The good news is that the series sees the return of fan-favorite Victor Martinez.
The Things were learned this weekend:
Shame on Acta for going to Raffy Perez in a tie game. Acta was playing righty/lefty in the seventh, which was strange enough, then he lets Raffy face a righty (Quentin) who naturally singles in the winning runs? Its bad enough that he actually had the gall to go to Raffy in the first place in a tie game, let alone letting him face a right-handed hitter.
I’ve said this 25 times in the last two months – ENOUGH WITH RAFAEL PEREZ. What more do Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Acta have to see before they cut the cord on this guy? Raffy must have compromising pictures of someone to be able to perform this poorly and still keep his job. Its truly amazing to me that he is still on this roster.
Travis Hafner, ugh. Seriously, anyone else tired of this guy under-performing? Even on a night the Indians scored 10 runs on 15 hits, “Hackner” went 0-15. He ended a 0-21 slump Saturday with a ninth inning double. I don’t know about you, but I love paying $14 million for a DH who hits .244 with 4 HR and 18 RBI in 164 AB’s.
Good to see arms new blood in the pen. Put Frank Herrmann in the bridge to Chris Perez role right now. He couldn’t possibly be any worse than Jenny Lewis and Raffy Perez. Both of those two should be jettisoned as soon as possible.