The Indians lost two of three this weekend against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. It was such a shame because this was a very winnable series with the way the Indians have been playing. The Tribe ended their incredible month-long stretch in which they played nothing but teams with over .500 records. They finished up the toughest portion of their schedule going 15-16 against Texas, Tampa Bay (twice), Detroit, Minnesota (twice), New York, Toronto, and Boston. They are 13-11 since the All-Star break.
As for the weekend….
Matt LaPorta is really starting to establish himself. Perhaps the best thing the Indians brass did all summer was trading off Russell Branyan and finally giving LaPorta the every day job at first base. Over the weekend, LaPorta was the hottest Tribe bat. On Friday night, he thrilled the crowd with a ninth-inning, walk-off blast – the first of his Major League career.
With the ability to play everyday without looking over his shoulder, the Gator is relaxed and playing like the prospect the Indians thought they were getting in the 2008 trade of CC Sabathia. Since June 6th, LaPorta is hitting .303 (40-132) with six homers and 20 RBI. You can really see how much more comfortable he is at the plate since after coming back from his stint in Columbus, where he found his stroke again. Over the weekend, he was 5-13 with two homers and four RBIs.
Jeanmar Gomez continues to impress. The Indians brass are definitely keeping him on a short leash in regards to innings and pitches, but once again the Indians rookie right-hander put his team in a great position to win.
He started Friday night’s 7-6 thriller and was in line for the win before Chris Perez blew the save. He went five and a third, allowing one run on four hits. His ability to dance out of trouble is to be commended. He hit 97 pitches and Manny Acta came to get him.
“He didn’t have his best slider or changeup,” Acta said of Gomez. “But the movement on his fastball continues to help him, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.”
In three starts, Gomez has an ERA of 1.56 (three ER in 17.1 IP) with a WHIP of 1.10. Very impressive for a kid who was struggling in AAA most of the season. He clearly has put himself into the rotation the rest of the way.
The same cannot be said of David Huff. I’ve long been a critic of the lefty, but yesterday was yet another example of why he is not a viable long-term option for the rotation. He was handed a four-run lead after the second inning and by the fifth, it was gone and so was he.
After yet another loss, Huff is now to 2-11 with an ERA of 6.37. He continues to nibble and get beaten by the long-ball. Its clear the only reason he is here is because the Indians have no other option with the trade of Jake Westbrook and injuries to Mitch Talbot and Aaron Laffey. Don’t believe me? Look at how his own manager described him after the loss.
“I felt that, even in those first four innings, he was getting away with a lot,” Acta said. “You can only do that for so long up here. He had no command whatsoever of the fastball.”
“You need to make quality pitches and pitch ahead in the count so you can utilize the other stuff you have,” Acta said. “Major-league hitters, when they’re ahead in the count, become a lot better than what they actually are.”
Huff was already on thin ice with the Indians before his ill-fated tweet which caused them to inadvertently stumble into Jeanmar Gomez. His two starts since his return from Columbus have been more of the same; can’t pitch deep into a game, gives up the long-ball, has trouble with is command, etc, etc.
Talbot made a three-inning rehab start at Mahoning Valley yesterday and show no ill-effects with his strained back. The hope is that he can take his next turn Saturday against Seattle, therefore returning Huff to his rightful place in Columbus.
The lineup just isn’t the same without Carlos Santana in it. It’s really such a shame that a key part of the rookie catcher’s development was taken away from him by the nasty collision at home early last week in Boston. The ability to finish out the rest of the season as the everyday catcher, working on his craft with the Major League staff was considered vital to the team’s plans for 2011.
Instead, we are looking at Lou Marson and Chris Gimenez.
It also puts a major hole in the middle of the lineup. Without Santana and the injured Travis Hafner (not like his loss is that meaningful at this point), Manny Acta has been forced to hit Shelley Duncan cleanup, while mixing and matching every single night from the sixth spot down. What we have seen isn’t pretty.
This weekend’s bottom four in the order reads like a guide to 4A baseball:
Friday: Jayson Nix, Trevor Crowe, Jason Donald, Lou Marson
Saturday: Matt LaPorta, Luis Valbuena, Nix, Chris Gimenez
Sunday: Andy Marte, Crowe, Donald, Marson
In a word – Yikes.
What is really the worst part is the fans are robbed of two months of the team’s most exciting young player.
Good to see Michael Brantley back on the big club. I know he has struggled at the plate in his time here, but its time to put the 23-year old in Center field, hit him leadoff, and leave him. He had to be down for 10 days before his recall was allowed, but on Friday he assumed rightful position.
You realize when you watch Brantley play center just how weak of an arm Grady Sizemore has. Brantley doesn’t have a Choo-type cannon, but its pretty close. Now if his bat would just follow suit….
Up Next for the Indians is a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field starting Tuesday night. Justin Masterson (4-10, 5.40 ERA) will open the series for the Tribe. He will be opposed by Jake Arrieta (3-3, 5.07 ERA).
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)