The Indians are in a rut. A deep rut. And it extends to every portion of the team—the offense, the defense, the starting pitching, and the bullpen. Each had a helping hand in Arlington last night as the Rangers dropped another loss on the Tribe, their eighth straight, to the tune of 6-3. Our boys only have two more chances to make sure they don’t get completely swept on this brutal trip through New York, Detroit, and Texas.
“We can’t make the big pitch, can’t get the big hit,” said Mark Reynolds who went 0-4 with three K’s last night. “There’s really no answer for it. We just have to keep playing.”
Reynolds is one of many slumping Indians, tallying three hits with just one RBI since May 24. This slump has coincided with his shift to third base, where his defense has left a lot to be desired. Yes, he made one unbelievable play on Monday night (and was screwed by first base umpire Mark Wegner in the third) but it came an inning after a brutal error on a routine groundball. This is not to pick on the veteran Reynolds, but his play has been a microcosm of the Tribe’s skid that now has them as losers of 16 of their last 20 contests.
They seemingly caught a break for the second straight game as scheduled starter Alexi Ogando was placed on the disabled list, replaced by struggling right-hander Josh Lindblom. But just like a day earlier against obscure lefty Jose Alvarez in Detroit, the offense just couldn’t knock Lindblom around.
Scott Kazmir took the hill for the Indians and fell behind in the second inning after retiring the first two Rangers. The hated A.J. Pierzynski singled in front of a Jeff Baker walk. Craig Gentry then singled through the hole between short and third to score Pierzynski. I don’t know what it is about the bottom of the opposing teams lineup of late, but the Indians starters can’t seem to get the easier outs when they need to. The issue would pop up again in the fourth after Baker hit a two-run homer off of Kazmir, naturally it was Pierzynski who was on first base after a leadoff single.
“I felt pretty good, it was just that changeup to Baker,” Kazmir siad. “I feel maybe I would throw him the same pitch but in a better location.”
The only time the Indians offense was able to get to Lindblom was in the third. Mike Aviles led off with an infield single. After an out, Jason Kipnis singled as well. Nick Swisher worked a walk to load the bases for Michael Brantley. Brantley has been so clutch most of the season, but he popped out to second for a big second out. It was up to Carlos Santana to deliver, and he did in a big way. ‘Los laced a double to the wall in right-center clearing the bases on a three-run double.
Unfortunately, those were the only runs the Tribe would score in this one. After the Santana double, Lindblom retired 10 straight. We aren’t talking about a young Justin Verlander here either. In the seventh, Lindblom was replaced by lefty Robbie Ross who after walking Jason Giambi, struck out Yan Gomes, Aviles, and Michael Bourn.
The score was tied 3-3 heading to the bottom of the seventh and manager Terry Francona decided to send Kazmir out for another inning. Jurickson Profar greeted him with a double. Elvis Andrus then sent a hard bouncer to Santana at first. The ball hit hit of his glove and deflected towards Kipnis at second. Andrus beat the throw and the official scorer ruled it a hit (laughable may I add). Andrus was able to extend his hit streak against the Indians to 33 games. Francona emerged from the dugout and called for up and down lefty Nick Hagadone to try and stem the tide with runners on the corners and nobody out.
David Murphy stepped to the plate and hit a hard grounder right to Santana who was holding Andrus on first. Carlos stepped on the bag and began to run at Andrus who was heading to second. He threw to Aviles to start a rundown who kept his eye on Profar at third. The rookie second baseman got too far off the bag and Aviles fired a seed to Reynolds at third who tagged out Profar for a monster double play.
Hagadone looked like he would pull another magic trick as he did a week ago in New York when he got Robinson Cano to ground into a bases loaded inning-ending double play. This time Hagadone hung a 1-0 pitch right in Lance Berkman’s wheel house and he crushed it for a back-breaking two-run homer. It was reminiscent of the pitch he grooved to Joey Votto in Cincinnati two weeks ago that did the Tribe in that day. Did I mention Berkman was in the middle of a 3-for-28 skid? Nothing seems to be working for the Indians these days.
“With runners on first and third, we wanted to go with power so we went with Nick,” said Francona. “The way it unfolded it looked like we were going to get out of it, but he threw a fastball that he didn’t locate and paid for it.”
The Rangers added an additional run off of Cody Allen who replaced Hagadone.
The offense went meekly against Taylor Schneppers and Joe Nathan over the last two innings as the Tribe fell for the eighth consecutive time. There has been a lot of soul searching inside the locker room over the past few days, but the only thing that will cure them is a win.
“We’ve got to work and grind because there is no magic potion,” said Francona. “There might be, but you could go to jail. We’re going to find out about ourselves right now. That’s part of why I feel OK about this. I think we have the guys in the that room who will fight through this. It’s not easy. It’s not a lot of fun. But I believe in those guys and us collectively.”
Tonight, Corey Kluber (3-4, 4.56 ERA) is the latest starter who will try to get the Indians back on the winning track. The Rangers counter with lefty Derek Holland (5-2, 2,82 ERA).