Remember a week ago at this time we were all so high on our Cleveland Indians? They were completing a three-game sweep of their rival Detroit Tigers, the pitching was great. The hitting was just good enough. Outside of Jack Hannahan, the Indians were healthy. All seemed well in Wahooland.
Fast forward seven days and all of a sudden the Indians look like they could be in some trouble.
Carlos Santana is on the seven-day DL with a concussion. Travis Hafner is going to miss the next four to six weeks after needing a knee scope. Hannahan came back for one game and then was placed on the 15-day DL with a calf strain. Asdrubal Cabrera just returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games. If we know anything about this year’s Tribe, it is that they do not have the depth to sustain a glut of injuries. Without the likes of the aforementioned starters, Jose Lopez became the cleanup hitter, Casey Kotchman was moved up in the order, guys named Juan Diaz and Luke Carlin have been seen regularly. Even Aaron Cunningham got a start.
Yesterday’s 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals capped a really rough six-game stretch for the Tribe. The hope was that they could salvage the afternoon tilt to take the series and temporarily right the ship. Yes, they had to face another lefty, veteran Bruce Chen, but they would have plenty of chances to get to him.
In the second inning, the Tribe struck first. Shelley Duncan opened the frame with a single. Michael Brantley followed with a single of his own and advanced to second when Duncan made it safely to third. The Wahoos were in business. Naturally Johnny Damon popped out to first before the rally kicked in. Kotchman punched one into right scoring Duncan. Carlin made it 2-0 with an RBI ground out. As they have done all series, the Indians ran when the Royals least expected it. Carlin stole second and moved into scoring position. He was driven in on a Shin-Soo Choo single. Starter Jeanmar Gomez was staked to a 3-0 lead heading into the third.
But as we have seen too many times this week, a Tribe starter couldn’t hold things down. Mike Moustakas, who killed the Indians a night before, doubled in Johnny Giavotella with two outs to put the Royals on the board. Jeff Francouer came through with another two-out RBI hit and KC was right back in it.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Tribe seemed to be in business against Chen again. Cabrera and Lopez led off with back to back singles. However, Duncan K’d and Michael Brantley flied out to left. Damon walked to load the bases, but Kotchman struck out to end the threat.
Gomez retired the first two in the fourth but then gave up an infield single and a stolen base to Alcedes Escobar. Alex Gordon drove him in to tie the game at three. Giavotella singled in Gordon and the Royals had a lead they would not relinquish. Once again, these runs all came with two outs. They added another two out run in the fifth on a Brayan Pena RBI single.
Cleveland’s starter once again failed to get past the fifth inning. Gomez allowed five two-out runs on 10 hits.
“I felt good today. I got two outs quickly, but I was unable to get the third one. I made quality pitches, and they hit them,” said Gomez.
The Tribe had another opportunity to get to Chen, but a baserunning blunder blew that up. With two on and two out in the fifth, Chen had Brantley picked off of first. Duncan, sitting on third, took off for home and was gunned out by Escobar at short.
The Royals would add another run in the eighth, but the Indians would have one last great chance to pull this one out.
Royals closer Jonathan Broxton walked Choo with one out. Jason Kipnis followed with a single. Cabrera was walked to load the bases and the Indians were on the cusp of a comeback. You could sense the Progressive Field magic was afoot. Despite the fact that Broxton was having trouble throwing strikes, Lopez, who has been so good since becoming somewhat of a regular, decided that swinging at the first pitch was a good idea.
Looking for a get-me-over fastball all the way, Lopez hit into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play. The week’s worth of frustration came to a head right then and there.
“Jose was trying to ambush them there on the first pitch and win it,” Acta said. “It was just a poor swing. The ball ate him up.”
Meanwhile, Broxton flat out admitted he didn’t have it yesterday.
“I was missing by a good bit,” he said. “It wasn’t even close, and luckily he swung at it right there.”
The second place Indians badly need a day off to get things in order. Some lineup changes are sorely needed, especially against lefties. Acta said after the game that everyone on the AAA roster is a possibility for a call up in an attempt to get the offense going. They’ve scored just five runs in the last two losses to KC, all coming in two innings. Do not be stunned to see the return of Matt LaPorta for the weekend series with Minnesota.
Of more concern may be the starting pitching. It was the sixth consecutive poor start from the rotation. Over the last six starts (five losses), the starters ERA is a sickening 11.89. This isn’t just a Ubaldo problem or a Masterson problem. The entire rotation is underperforming.
“Pitching sets a tone, and right now we’re not setting a tone very well,” Acta said
The good news is, the Tribe has today off to regroup before the last place Minnesota Twins come to town. Derek Lowe (6-3, 3.25 ERA) will face ex-Indian Carl Pavano (2-4, 5.46 ERA)
photo via Chuck Crow/PD