Mariners 2 Indians 1: Is team streak headed south again?

Asdrubal CabreraWe have watched all season as the Tribe has acted like a volatile stock.  They can get hot and win eight of 10 just as quickly as they can lose eight of 10. The schedule coming out of the All-Star break set up nicely. If you have to start on the road, might as well do it against two of the AL’s worst – the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners.

Over the weekend, the Indians had a sweep in their sights, except they lost two of three despite their starters allowing just one earned run combined. Last night in Seattle, it was Ubaldo Jimenez’s turn to continue the quality starting pitching run. The offense has been the real problem out of the break. They scored two runs in each of the two losses in Minnesota. Yes, they busted out for seven on Sunday, but five of those run came on two hits – a Michael Brantley bases loaded triple and a Jason Kipnis two-run homer. Other than that, it seemed to have been one missed opportunity after another.

I will say it again, it is these kinds of games that you have to win if you plan on taking the division away from the Detroit Tigers.

To try and get the slumbering offense going, manager Terry Francona moved Nick Swisher up from the cleanup spot to the two hole, flip-flopping with another cold Indian, Asdrubal Cabrera.  “I talked to Swish about it last week before the All-Star break,” said Francona. “I just wanted to see if he could come out of the break and get hot. I’m thinking about a couple of things: No.1 on his worst day, Swish sees a lot of pitches and has a good on-base percentage. No.2, with Michael Bourn in front of him, every pitcher slide steps when Bournie gets on base. So maybe Swish gets some mistakes and more fastballs to hit.”

In the first inning, Tito looked like a genius as Swish hit a solo homer to left-center against veteran Aaron Harang. In the third inning, after a Bourn single off of Harang’s foot, Swish blooped a single to left for his second hit advancing Bourn to third. But as we have seen so many times lately, the Indians couldn’t bring in the run. Kipnis struck out and Cabrera grounded out. It is these early blown opportunities that they always seem to be lamenting.

An inning later, Carlos Santana hit a one-out double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He was stranded there as Jason Giambi popped out to short and Lonnie Chisenhall grounded out. Like they did with Mike Pelphrey and Kevin Correia over the weekend, the Indians were letting an average starting pitcher off the hook.

On the other side was Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been a far more successful pitcher on the road than he has been at home. Once again, Ubaldo was being Ubaldo – walking guys, throwing a lot of pitches, but limiting the damage. He essentially made two mistakes – solo homers by Kendrys Morales (who would look real good in the DH spot for the Indians instead of the Mark Reynolds/Jason Giambi duo might I add) in the fourth and Mike Zunino in the fifth.

“The main thing is you want to minimize the mistakes. You don’t want to be making mistakes, especially with a hitter like Morales. He has a lot of power. If you make a mistake, like I did with that pitch, he’s going to hit it a long way.”

Other than that and his four walks, Jimenez did what he does. CC Lee came on in the sixth to get the final out and close the book on Ubaldo who threw 110 pitches in five and two-thirds, allowing those two runs on five hits. He struck out six.

The Tribe’s starters have been masterful since July 7th, posting an ERA of 1.99. If only the bats could match this output.

As the game grew longer, the Indians continued to scuffle against Harang. Through seven innings, the Indians had just four hits, none coming after the fourth. Harang retired the last nine in a row before exiting in favor of lefty Charlie Furbush. The first batter he faced in the eighth was Bourn, who he hit with a pitch.  Swisher struck out and failed to move Bourn to second. Now with one out, the speedy Bourn needed to get himself into scoring position. These are the spots that beg for him to steal. Unfortunately, Furbush picked him off on his first move.

“I messed up,” Bourn said. “I felt like I thought I had [Furbush] read right. I didn’t. He guessed right on me and was able to pick me off.”

They still had one more chance to tie the game against shaky Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen. With one out, Michael Brantley doubled, giving the Tribe two shots to get him home from second. Santana grounded out for the second out with Brantley moving to third. Giambi then worked a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Mike Aviles. It was up to Chisenhall. He swung at a 1-0 pitch and flew out to right to end the game. The loss was another one the Indians will be kicking themselves over when the season is over of they don’t win the Central.

This one was on the offense.

Said Swisher after a 2-4 night: “It’s frustrating not being able to score any runs. Ubaldo did a great job. The bullpen comes in and does a great job. For a team that’s been hot as a firecracker over there, for us to hold them at two runs, we’ve got to score more runs than that. We’ve got to pick up that win.”

Bourn agreed.

“We missed some opportunities early in the game. These games, from here on out, they count. Ain’t no way around it. Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes, but we’ve got to be able to press for nine innings. That’s the way the second half is played. That’s how good teams get into the playoffs. They play the game within the game and every inning counts.”

Tonight’s tilt will be the return of Zach McAllister (4-5, 3.43 ERA) to the mound. He has been on the DL with a finger problem that has cost him six weeks. Seattle will counter with Erasmo Ramirez (0-0, 13.50 ERA), who will make just his second start of the season.

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

  • boomhauertjs

    Bourn’s baserunning’s been a little disappointing.

  • mgbode

    losing all of these 1 run games is going to come back to bite us, yes. it is so frustrating to watch us do so poorly at the basics. if we are in a game that requires small ball, then we need to execute it. we definitely haven’t been lately.

    anyways, the tide will likely turn, Miggy’s got hip issues now, and all the like, but this team has been frustrating. not agonizingly frustrating like last year, but frustrating because you can see the makings of a real team and they just don’t seem to quite put it together.

  • BenRM

    With the exception of that last game against the Twins, the offense has been pretty icky (that’s a technical term)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    The Indians have been good at home and bad on the road this year… I hate expecting to lose to the lowly Mariners, but that’s kind of where I’m at right now.

  • Adam Copeland

    It’s death by a bunch of little cuts right now for the Indians since the All Star Break – defensive errors, untimely bad pitching by the bullpen, inability to get runners home from third with less than 2 outs. You just knew that after the Tribe couldn’t do the latter in two straight innings that it would come back to bite them and it would.

    Also, I agree with boom – Bourn’s baserunning has left something to be desired. He sure seems to get picked off a lot for a guy that was an elite base stealer in the NL.

  • nj0
  • Natedawg86

    losing 1 run games when you score 2, 2, and 1 against crappy teams is frustrating. Need to score at least 4. Someone else needs to pick up the slack other than kipnis. Not scoring enough runs to be booting the ball around in the infield either

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    So this is the “easier” part of the schedule that so many of you crowed about huh?

  • Steve

    This is your new crusade now? The fact is the schedule is easier. No one ever said that guaranteed more wins.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Thank goodness for Kipnis, Brantley and to some degree Santana otherwise I’d hate to see this offense. Cabrera, Reynolds and Swisher (until last night) have been haunting the offensive production.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’ll leave the crusading for you I’m just subtly reminding those who were counting their victories before they were hatched. I agree with you. Ciao!

  • JeBron_Lames

    It’s becoming more and more apparent: making a move to bring a stabilizing bat to this anemic lineup is almost a must for this team to compete in the second half.

    Sure, I would love a southpaw bullpen arm but the offense hasn’t shown up in three of the last four games.

    Maybe somehow lure Chase Headley and Joe Thatcher from San Diego to kill two birds with one stone. Their price wouldn’t be that steep, and I’d be willing to trade anyone except Salazar, Lindor, and Bauer (that’s not really saying much, though).

    Thatcher would solve the bullpen problem and Headley would be easier to pry away because he has severely underperformed this year. You could stick him at third if Chisenhall becomes too much of a liability in the field but in the mean time he can bat cleanup DH.

    Just a thought.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I watch alot of MLB Network and reportedly Headley is as close to untradable as the Padres have on their team. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Headley is having a horrible season.

  • nj0

    Anemic? We’re currently the 5th best offense in baseball.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Stats can lie!

  • mgbode

    to some degree Santana?

    Brantley is 7pts higher in BA, but 48pts lower in OBP and 67pts lower in SLG. less HR, less 2B, though he has stolen 9 more bases (so, 1 SB more every 10 games).

    There is an argument to be made that Brantley is our 3rd best hitter, but he is behind Kipnis and Santana.

  • mgbode

    you mean 5th best in AL, right? that’s what B-R has our runs scored as currently:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/2013-batting.shtml

    looking across the other AL rankings, it looks like we are about in the 4-8 offense when factoring in everything. not bad, but, as we have seen, it’s been streaky when we get those runs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Is this your impersonation of Steve because for the moment I thought your reply was from him? Thanks for statistical backup though.

  • nj0

    5th in MLB by runs/game

    edit: what team isn’t streaky? it’s part of the game.

  • nj0

    I’ll take stats over arbitrarily arrived upon conclusions.

    Indians go a couple days without scoring much: oh noes!!! We’re terrible!!! Trade the farm for a bat!!!

  • nj0

    Wow. Now you’re against batting average, slugging, and home runs? You’ve become the anti-Steve.

  • mgbode

    Ok, let’s try it this way: Santana hit ball good.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I thought they could use a bat before the current stretch of being unable to score but they’ve done this before earlier in the season. Heck I think they could use another reliever as well as a starter too. I wouldn’t mind seeing either Bauer or Salazar possibly promoted to the bullpen as long men. I think Salazar would make more sense given his age. Let Bauer continue to work in the minors without altering his path.

  • mgbode

    thanks to the NL giving away outs (pitchers hitting), both are correct. yes, I see that now. We jump ahead of TB in runs/game, but StL is the one NL team with an AL offense.

    as far as streaky, it sure feels like this team is exceptionally streaky. maybe it’s just Reynolds helping that feel though (our recent hole in the lineup)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Puhlease. Have a nice day!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Santana walk good, hit not as good as start of season but still much better then Chisenhall, Reynolds and Swisher.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    How’s TB been playing btw?

  • mgbode

    and Brantley. hit ’bout same but hit much more power.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lineup still need bonafide power hitter. See 2014!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Drennan just reported via two sources that the Yankees are discussing a deal for Soriano where the Yankees would only have to give up a mid level prospect while the Cubs would pay most of Soriano’s salary for the rest of this year and next.

  • nj0

    We could be. Not sure how to see if that’s the case.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “we could be”? Instead of burying your head in statistics try watching some actual games.

  • nj0

    All I’m saying is that stretches like this happen.

    I don’t see us making any serious acquisitions before the trade deadline. Getting any serious help would require trading a serious prospect (which I wouldn’t want to do) and what’s left won’t make much of a difference.

    We’re going to have to ride this out. I’ll also say – this is pretty much who I thought we were. Yeah, I thought Swisher and Bourn would contribute more. I also expected the bullpen to be better. But that’s been offset by a starting rotation that hasn’t been completely god awful. I think we’re an 85ish win team. Which is pretty good considering where we were a year ago. I just hope that we can use the money we save on Myers, Reynolds, Perez (hopefully), and Choo/Hafner’s dying contracts to add some quality parts.

  • nj0

    All I’m saying is that stretches like this happen.

    I don’t see us making any serious acquisitions before the trade deadline. Getting any serious help would require trading a serious prospect (which I wouldn’t want to do) and what’s left won’t make much of a difference.

    We’re going to have to ride this out. I’ll also say – this is pretty much who I thought we were. Yeah, I thought Swisher and Bourn would contribute more. I also expected the bullpen to be better. But that’s been offset by a starting rotation that hasn’t been completely god awful. I think we’re an 85ish win team. Which is pretty good considering where we were a year ago. I just hope that we can use the money we save on Myers, Reynolds, Perez (hopefully), and Choo/Hafner’s dying contracts to add some quality parts.

  • nj0

    So if I watched a few random Indians games from the 1500 or so MLB baseball games that have been played this year, I would be able to tell that we are significantly more streaky than the other 29 teams in the league? Huh?

  • nj0

    So if I watched a few random Indians games from the 1500 or so MLB baseball games that have been played this year, I would be able to tell that we are significantly more streaky than the other 29 teams in the league? Huh?

  • mgbode

    the funny part of that statement is that stats can fully show which teams have the most variance in runs/game (streakiness).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Obviously stretches like this happen this isn’t the first time this season that it has happened for the Indians. More like the third or fourth.

    I agree with your belief that no “serious acquisitions” will be made but that doesn’t mean the Indians can’t do something. If not for the immediate future but perhaps the long term. The main impediment for them to make a trade is the fact that they don’t have enough prospects from which to trade. A byproduct of a decade of terrible drafting.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s called sarcasm the funny thing is while we might be on different sides of the stats divide – you and others live for your stats constantly providing one after another – and people like myself who don’t feel every aspect of the game of baseball can be or needs to be quantified – equal out in the end into the won-loss record. I.E. A team for the most part is what it is and their record is usually a pretty good indicator of that team.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know in comparison to other teams but it’s been quite awhile since the Indians have played this streaky, yes. In fact a number of stories have been posted on WFNY covering that very fact. Perhaps you’ve missed them.

  • nj0

    And that’s all I’m saying. I’d like to see how our variance in runs/game (both in terms of scoring and preventing) stacks up to other teams.

    Yeah, we sure seem streaky, but I’m sure most every baseball fanbase thinks of their teams that way. And sure, the writers and posters here like to assert that we’re streaky. But as a sports fan (heck, as human beings), our perceptions are often pretty darn faulty. Is it that controversial to ask for some basic factual evidence to back up a claim rather than just assuming it?

  • nj0

    Yes, losing three out of four is a relatively common stretch for most teams.

  • mgbode

    i knew it was sarcasm, it was the embedded irony in the sarcasm that i found humorous.

    and, I think stats are there to help backup (or negate) the perception that we view on the field. you need both.