It felt like they were on the road, but the Indians actually were the home team as they welcomed the New York Yankees to Yankee Stadium Midwest……errrrrrr…..Progressive Field over the weekend. Yes, the Bronx Bombers won the series, but hey, the Indians actually won a game! The nine-game winning streak came to end Saturday night thanks to stellar pitching from Justin Masterson, but overall, the weekend was just more of the same from our Wahoos. Not enough clutch hitting with average starting pitching for the most part. That and a lot of Yankee fans. So lets take a look back at the weekend that was in Wahooland.
All of you who pined for Matt LaPorta all season, how did you enjoy your weekend? I have been trying to warn all of you all year. LaPorta is not a Major League player. His AAA power stats are a mirage. LaPorta has had plenty of opportunities to prove himself at the Major League level and hasn’t. At 27, he is now getting his last chance. Manager Manny Acta said on Friday before the game that LaPorta would be getting regular playing time at both first base and DH the rest of the way. This is what I refer to as “The Andy Marte Technique.” They are handing him at-bats when the games essentially don’t matter in order to give him enough rope to hang himself.
This weekend he got two starts and went 1-8 for three K’s. It wasn’t just the lack of hits, it was how silly he looked at the plate in big spots. Take Friday night for example. In the bottom of the ninth, with the tying runs on second and third with nobody out, LaPorta had a chance to be a hero. Instead, he was MaTola just being MaTola. He struck out swinging and looked bad doing so.
The picture above from Sunday’s 4-2 loss really says it all.
So while so many of you want LaPorta so badly, what you will see is the same guy you have watched flail away at low and away pitches for the past three years. Be careful what you wish for.
The offense continued to show little and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The Tribe scored six whole runs in three games. Three hits delivered all six run, one in each game. Asdrubal Cabrera’s solo homer Friday night, Michael Brantley’s three-run blast Saturday night, and Carlos Santana’s two-run single Sunday. They were 2-22 with runners in scoring position, included in that was a 1-11 run on Sunday. It is not news that the Indians have trouble scoring, but to go 2-22 with RISP and to score all of your runs on three swings of the bat in three games is especially disturbing.
After Sunday’s loss, Acta said ”Offensively, we just didn’t execute very well early in the game. We had a couple of opportunities with runners at second with no outs, and we didn’t end up taking advantage of it.”
That’s an understatement. Manny has to be so tired of finding creative new ways to talk about his struggling offense. The fact of the matter is they don’t have the horses.
Speaking of not having the horses, the lack of a quality left-handed reliever has been a real killer this season. Tony Sipp, who has been the Indians #1 lefty out of the pen over the past three years really hasn’t performed in 2012. Sunday was just another example of his issues with the long ball. After the Tribe clawed their way back to within a run in the bottom of the fifth, Acta summoned Sipp from the pen to start the sixth against lefty Curtis Granderson. He served up a gopher ball and gave back one of those runs before he even recorded an out. It was the eighth he has surrendered this season, five of which been hit by lefties!
Rafael Perez has been out since April and we may have seen him throw his last pitch as an Indian. Scott Barnes gave it a shot earlier in the year, but was largely ineffective and sent back to the minors. The key guy here is Nick Hagadone. It is of the utmost importance that he comes back in 2013 and finds his April/May form. When he was on, the Indians pen was deep and unhittable late in games with righties Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez to go with Hagadone. They sure could have used him in this series over the weekend.
The Indians brass will tell you they drew well over the weekend, but anyone with a brain knows why they did. As I said earlier, it was like Yankees Stadium Midwest Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Close to 88,000 people came out to watch the Yankees take two of three from the Tribe, but who knows what that attendance would have been if any other team was in town. The real figures to watch will be this week during the four game set with Oakland. I’d be stunned if they got more than 15,000 paid for any of these games. It could be a real ghost town at Progressive Field the rest of the way.
On the good news front, Lonnie Chisenhall is expected back sooner than anyone expected. The Indians third baseman, who has missed a key stretch of development on the major league level, has been taking batting practice and ground balls in the field this past week and will be sent out on a rehab assignment in the near future. Unless he has a setback with his broken forearm, expect to see Chisenhall at third over the final three weeks or so of the season.
(Photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)