In what has become a disturbing trend, the bats continued their drought as the Indians were shut out in Atlanta 2-0 by lefty Alex Wood and four relievers. It is not like they didn’t have their chances. Wood walked four and gave up five hits in five and tw0-thirds, but the Tribe never could come up with a single big hit to change the game. Let us count the missed chances, shall we?
Michael Bourn singled to open the game and with two outs Carlos Santana walked. Both were stranded when Mike Aviles popped out.
Asdrubal Cabrera led off the second and was quickly erased on Michael Brantley’s double play ball. Drew Stubbs then walked but pitcher Danny Salazar was due up so naturally that inning fizzled. I want to say once again for the record how absolutely ridiculous it is to have American League pitchers hit in National League parks during interleague play. Here we are fighting for our playoff lives and Salazar has to bat for the first time in years? Makes a ton of sense!
With two outs in the third, Wood walked both Kipnis and Santana but both were stranded when Aviles grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Cabrera started the fourth with a double and was moved to third on Brantley’s fly ball to right. Stubbs couldn’t bring the run home as he grounded back to the mound for the second out and of course there was Salazar up again with a man on and two outs. He K’d.
Did I mention how much I despise AL pitchers hitting?
Kipnis doubled with two outs in the fifth but never got any further as Wood got Santana to ground to shortstop Andrelton Simmons who made a terrific play to end the inning.
Again with two out an inning later, Brantley singled and stole second. Wood was replaced by reliever Luis Ayala who walked Stubbs. With the pitcher’s spot up yet again, Manager Terry Francona called for pinch hitter Jason Giambi. Braves manager Freddy Gonzalez countered with lefty Scott Downs. Tito had no counter move with Ryan Raburn still nursing the sore calf and despite being 5-15 against Downs lifetime, Giambi struck out to kill yet another scoring opportunity.
The seventh was the first inning the Tribe went in order all night.
Meanwhile, Salazar essentially made one mistake, and it easily could have been taken care of by his defense. With runners at the corners and two out, eighth place hitter Elliott Johnson stepped to the plate. The pitcher Wood was on deck and Francona could have called for an intentional walk to load the bases. However, Johnson came in hitting below the Mendoza line. Salazar made a mistake by shaking off his catcher Santana, leaving a fastball in Johnson’s wheelhouse and he sent it deep to right field.
Stubbs looked like he would make the play, but as he raced to the fence the ball glanced off of his glove for a two-run triple. It is a play Stubbs makes 97 out of 100 times with his speed. Instead, it turned out to be the biggest play of the game and the only hit that scored runs for either club.
“I was a little bit disappointed in myself,” Salazar said. “Santana was calling for offspeed pitches. I just didn’t trust myself to throw it and I just tried to throw the fastball away.”
After the game, Francona was asked why he didn’t walk Johnson to face the pitcher Wood.
“The idea is you really have an advantage when you have an eight-hole hitter and you have the pitcher up behind him. Second and third, maybe [you walk Johnson]. But a guy that’s hitting .180-something, that’s a real good time to pitch. You set up the next inning also.”
Salazar was worked over in the second inning for 29 pitches, which essentially killed any chance for him to go deep into the game. With his workload being monitored, he departed after four innings and 77 pitches. He allowed those two runs on three hits, striking out three and walking two.
The Tribe pen took over from there. Marc Rzepcynski, Matt Albers, and Carlos Carrasco retired the final 12 Braves, giving the offense a chance to tie things up. It just never happened. Atlanta lefty Luis Avilan and closer Craig Kimbrel closed things out as the Tribe suffered a loss on the first of their brutal nine-game stretch of playoff contenders.
Said last night’s third baseman Mike Aviles: ”Danny did his job. . .he gave up two runs and I’ll take that from a starter. The bullpen came in and put up zeroes. We, the hitters, especially myself, didn’t do the job. There’s no sugar coating it.”
The offense has been offensive during this month. They rank dead last in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS (h/t to IBI’s Tony Lastoria) in August. Last night was an extremely winnable game that the Indians just couldn’t take. They went 0-7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.
They look to somehow find themselves again tonight in Atlanta as Justin Masterson (14-9, 3.50 ERA) takes on Atlanta lefty paul Maholm (9-10, 4.51 ERA).
(photo via Curtis Compton, MCT)