I have written this many times before; the Indians are a streaky team. They are as volatile as the stock market. They can win 18 of 22 and can lose 10 of 12 right after. The bats can club 12 homers in six games and follow that up by going homerless for five.
The sky is not falling. This is just what this team is. They get hot. They get cold. Unfortunately, during this difficult portion of the schedule, they aren’t playing their best baseball. The bullpen issues aside, the Indians aren’t coming through with the clutch hits all of a sudden either. Oh, and defensive mistakes are starting to pop up at inopportune times.
Take last night’s game for example. Terry Francona’s club was in desperate need for a win. Yet despite being in the game into the seventh inning, the Tribe was just 2-12 with runners in scoring position. One of those hits was Michael Brantley’s eighth inning RBI single with the Indians down by six.
How did we get there?
Zach McAllister got the start for the Indians and from the first inning, he was having real command issues with his fastball. When that happens, its obviously not a good sign. Shin-Soo Choo, who has played like an All-Star this season, kept his hot bat going this series with a leadoff double. Zack Cozart, who seems to be laying down a bunt every time he is up, placed one in front of McAllister, who couldn’t get a good grip on the ball. Cozart was safe with a single. Joey Votto drove in Choo with an RBI single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. McAllister looked like he may get out of it no worse for the wear, but with two outs Xavier Paul blooped a single, bringing home two more runs.
The thing I like most about The Zach Attack is the way he battles through, even when he isn’t on his game. Into the sixth inning, the Reds were putting men on base seemingly every inning, and each and every time, McAllister came through unscathed.
In the third Cozart doubled and Votto walked to open the frame, but neither would advance. In the fourth Devin Mesoraco and Choo both singled, but were stranded as Cozart flew out. In the fifth, Votto singled and Phillips was hit by a pitch with nobody out. The bases were loaded with two outs on a Paul infield single, but McAllister got out of another jam as Mesoraco lined out to right.
Said Francona about his starter: “He was struggling with his fastball command and he pitched behind in the count more than he has. The first inning was a tough inning. Saying that, he made a 2-0 pitch — a really good pitch — that got fought off [by Paul] for that base hit that drove in two. After that, [McAllister] dodged traffic for every inning it seemed like. But he never gave in and he competed his [butt] off and gave us a chance.”
All of what Tito said is true. The problem was the offense couldn’t get anything going against Mat Latos. It wasn’t until the fifth that the Tribe got on the board. With one out, Drew Stubbs singled and stole second. After McAllister struck out, Michael Bourn came through with a two-out RBI single.
SIDE NOTE – I despise the NL rules in interleague play. It is absolutely ridiculous to have AL pitchers be forced to bat. AL teams are constructed in a completely different way. It is a complete disadvantage for them. Having two sets of rules for the AL and NL is at this point a relic. Imagine if the AFC was allowed to return kickoffs while the NFC started each offensive series after a score at the 20 yard line. Ridiculous, right?
We entered the seventh inning with the Reds leading 3-1. With one out, pinch hitter Ryan Raburn worked Latos for a walk. Latos then walked Bourn on four pitches, prompting manager Dusty Baker to call for lefty Manny Parra. The Indians had their best shot to get this game tied with Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera due up.
Kipnis swung at Parra’s first two pitches – both balls – and missed. He then looked at strike three. Baker emerged from the dugout again and called for righty Sam LeCure, who struck out Cabrera with relative ease. It was the second consecutive inning the Tribe had two one with one out and didn’t push a run across.
Things would escalate quickly after the seventh inning stretch. With Bryan Shaw now on to pitch, Phillips got things started with an infield single. An out later, Paul singled moving Phillips to third. Mesoraco then tapped a dribbler in front of the plate. Carlos Santana, who has really looked bad behind the plate lately, took a bad route to the ball, picked it up, and fired it widely to first, allowing Phillips to score.
“[Santana] jumped out after it really aggressively like he’s supposed to,” Francona said, “and it spun backwards. And then he kind of got in no-man’s land. Once we threw it away, that ends up being a big inning.”
Jack Hannahan, a fan favorite in Cleveland the past two seasons, laced and RBI single to center – his second hit of the night. Pinch hitter Derrick Robinson kept the line moving with another RBI single of his own. That was it for Shaw, who had his worst outing of the season. The Reds added a sixth run in the inning on a Cozart RBI single off of Scott Barnes.
It was not the Indians night….again.
McAllister said after the game that there is no panic in this team, despite the losing streak. “This is a completely different team from last year,” McAllister said. “There’s a completely different attitude. This is an exciting team. We’ve lost some and it’s been a rough stretch, but it’s exciting right now. I think everybody out there is encouraged with the way we’re playing.”
There was also some other business to tend to in this one. Someone on the Reds was going to get hit in retaliation for closer Aroldis Chapman throwing a 100 MPH fastball at the head of Nick Swisher. With first base open in the fifth, McAllister hit Phillips in the side with a 2-0 pitch.
“You know that it’s retaliation because they have to stand up for their player,” said Latos, the winning pitcher. “Price (pitching coach Bryan Price) came up to me and basically said, ‘Look, we feel what happened Monday, they were protecting their player today.’ It is what it is. You take it in stride. We got a W. We’re even. We’re Switzerland I guess. We’ll let it go.”
The Tribe has now lost seven of eight and return home for a two-game set with these same Cincinnati Reds. Despite the fact that they have lost five straight, the Tribe is still just two and a half games back of first place Detroit. Justin Masterson (7-3, 3.20 ERA) looks to stop the bleeding as he takes the hill for the Indians. Veteran Bronson Arroyo (5-4, 3.39 ERA) goes for the Reds.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)