The Indians couldn’t have picked a worse week to wet themselves. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: The only consistent thing about this team is their inconsistency. Just when you want to believe after they take three of four in Detroit, they come out and lose two of three to the Minnesota Twins in front of losing three of four in Kansas City to the Royals. You just had a bad feeling about this series when Corey Kluber’s Thursday gem was wasted in a 14-inning loss. Things just spiraled from there with bad losses both Friday (6-4) and Saturday (7-5). They salvaged the series finale with an offensive explosion in Sunday’s 10-3 win, but it seemed like a hollow victory. The weekend in Kansas City was disastrous.
“Any time that you’re able to do that in Detroit against a team like that,” Tribe starter Zach McAllister said, “you always get in good moods. Sometimes, you can get overexcited about it, a little bit too happy, and take the foot off the gas pedal. But, you know what? We’ve played extremely close games here. Kansas City is a good team.”
The 11-game road trip to start the second half had some much promise, but as the Indians leave Kansas City to come home, more question marks surround them. Why does the offense sputter the way it does and then get smokin’ hot for a game or two? What do we make of a starting rotation that has essentially become a revolving door? What is with Terry Francona and his odd lineup changes and infatuation with certain individuals?
This much is known, entering Monday’s off day, the Indians are 52-53, six and a half games back of the Tigers in the AL Central and three and a half back of the second Wild Card spot. However, there are four teams they would have to jump. I see fools gold in that second Wild Card. I hope I am wrong, but this team is playing .500 baseball and they are what they are. Let us look deeper at the weekend that was in Wahooland.
Winnable games given away. You could look back in October at these last four games in Kansas City and shake your head in disgust. They very easily could have taken three of four. Corey Kluber’s stellar Thursday was wasted. The Tribe battled back after trailing 4-1 in the sixth to tie the game Friday night. Only Francona’s right-left-right eighth inning waltz blew up when John Axford hang a high fastball to Billy Butler, who crushed a game-winning two-run blast. While Axford had been better of late, it is so tough to trust him in a tie-game late. The second Butler made contact, both men knew it was gone.
“It’s obviously tough after the last two nights,” Axford said. “It was just a bad pitch. I let it stay out over the plate. It was supposed to be away and it ended up in the seats.”
A night later, McAllister blew a 5-0 lead. “Whenever you get a five-run lead in a game, you expect to win,” reliever Nick Hagadone said. “When that doesn’t happen, it’s disappointing.”
The feeling in Tribe Nation would be so much different had they turned those two games around, something that could have and should have been done.
Carlos Santana, have a week. Remember a couple a months ago when everyone complained that Carlos Santana couldn’t hit? Those whispers have all been silenced, especially after one of the best weeks you will ever see. The capper was a weekend that was so special, he could win AL Player of the week in these three games alone. After Sunday’s 3-3, two homer, four RBI day in the 10-3 Tribe win, Santana’s season all of a sudden doesn’t seem so bad.
“I feel strong,” Santana said. “The first two months, I wasn’t hitting well and I was struggling. But now, like I keep saying, I’m staying focused, playing hard, and that’s happening now.”
In three games this weekend, Santana was 7-10 with five homers, five runs scored, eight RBIs, and three walks. Here are some other numbers to chew on:
Carlos Santana this week: .609 batting average, .690 on-base percentage, 1.522 slugging percentage, 2.212 OPS, 6 HR, 10 RBI
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 27, 2014
But go back to April and May. Santana was still a walking machine, but that seemed to be the only way he was getting on base. The shift was giving him problems and the old pull happy Carlos was back. Things weren’t going his way. The adjustment to third base was good enough in the field, but it hurt his stick. The DL stint for a concussion may have been, pardon the pun, just what the doctor ordered. Since his activation, Santana has literally been a new man, the type of hitter we had become accustomed to. Take a look on the tear he has been on in his last 49 games:
Santana, in his last 49 games: .313/.435/.648, 26 extra-base hits, 37 runs batted in and 38 walks/hit by pitches.
— Kevin Dean (@kevnbaseball) July 27, 2014
Now if they could get anyone going around him and Michael Brantley (who is in the worst skid of his All-Star season, 5-27)….
[Related: Animated: Carlos Santana’s 5 HR weekend]
What to do about Asdrubal Cabrera. This week was a big week for the Indians. I won’t go as far as calling it a make or break type of time, but it certainly would go a long way towards determining which direction the team will be going in terms of trading off assets. The Tribe shortstop missed five games this week with back spasms, but returned Sunday with two hits. Everyone knows that this is more than likely the last season of Cabrera’s tenure in Cleveland. The non-waiver trade deadline is this week. So what will the Indians do with their free agent to be shortstop?
They have a few options. I look at this team and don’t see one that is going to peel off another 10-game winning streak and make a run to October. But who knows how Chris Antonetti views this particular group. If Antonetti is sharing my opinion, then he would be a fool not to send Cabrera packing for the best prospect package he can find. Should Kid Chris think this squad is primed to turn it on, then he will keep Asdrubal and essentially watch him walk for nothing.
You can stop your qualifying talk offer right here. There is absolutely ZERO chance the Indians tender him the offer after the season, despite how many outside of Cleveland view Cabrera. The QO next season may reach $15 million. Do you honestly think that the Indians would risk Asdrubal accepting the offer, paying Cabrera, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn a combined $43.5 million next season, while keeping stud prospect Francisco Lindor down for another year? Not a chance.
The Detroit Tigers were in a similar position with Jhonny Peralta a year ago. With Jose Iglesius ready to take over at short, they did not tender him the qualifying offer and the St. Louis Cardinals signed him to a four year, $53 million deal. I see the Indians following the Tigers lead and letting the younger, cheaper, and superior defensive player handle shortstop next season. It would be an absolute stunner to see Asdrubal in an Indians uniform next season. Couple that with the qualifying offer that he should not be given, that all adds up to a potential trade. Holding onto Cabrera with the slim chance of a playoff run is just not smart. Deal Cabrera, see what Jose Ramirez can do while mixing in Mike Aviles, and head into 2015 with Lindor.
As for why I can’t see a playoff push happening….. This starting rotation is a mess. I seem to be talking about this every Monday. Essentially the Indians are using eight guys and using the DL, minor league options, and even the “26th man rule” to figure out who can and cannot deliver. Other than ace Corey Kluber, Terry Francona has no idea what he is going to get every other game.
After Kluber’s Thursday gem was wasted, Josh Tomlin looked to get the Tribe back on track. Instead, we saw more of the same from him; lots of strikes, lots of fly balls, and home runs that killed him. Tomlin has made 14 starts and has now allowed 16 home runs. The Little Cowboy is what he is; there isn’t much upside there and he is the quintessential fifth starter. You could live with what he brings to the table if the two, three, and four guys in front of him delivered.
Saturday saw a return of Zach McAllister, who has bounced back and forth from Columbus. The offense came through with a five run second and gave the Zach Attack a big cushion. It took a whole three innings for that lead to evaporate. He lasted just four innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks. By the end of the fifth the Tribe trailed 7-5 after Butler’s second monster home run of the series (he now has five all year) off of lefty Nick Hagadone. It is hard to tell right now if McAllister can be trusted.
Sunday gave fire-baller Danny Salazar another chance to show he belongs back in the rotation. This was his second start in a week after spending the last two and a half months in AAA. The 2013 Salazar showed up for seven strong innings. His last two pitches – numbers 111 and 112 – touched 97 and 98 miles per hour. The command issues that had killed him most of the season, were not to be found, believe it or not. Danny struck out seven and didn’t walk a single batter. This was a far cry from the guy who just five days earlier walked the bases loaded and walked in a run while striking out the side in the same inning.
“I thought early on he made good adjustments,” Francona said, “because they were covering away and then he started making them be honest in, and he threw some real good breaking balls, and he threw some real good changeups. Not every one, but a lot of good ones. They had to earn everything.”
While Salazar looked terrific, despite giving up three on seven hits, who knows what his next start will look like or even when it will come. As of today, the only things that are known are that Kluber and Trevor Bauer will take regular turns. After that, it is a crap shoot. Tomlin will likely stick around as well, but it is not as if he is lighting the world on fire. Since shutting out Seattle a month ago, Josh has given up 16 earned runs in 22.1 innings of work. Justin Masterson, who walked a whopping six batters in six and two-thirds Friday night in a AAA rehab start, will be activated to start Friday night against the Texas Rangers. Judging by his two starts for the Clippers, who have no idea what he is going to give. Lefty T.J. House will remain in Columbus for now, but for all we know, he could be back Thursday in McAllister’s spot.
With all of that said, the future of this rotation lies with Kluber, Bauer, and Salazar. As for who else fills out the rotation long term? Well, that is anyone’s guess.
Up Next. The Seattle Mariners, a team the Indians are chasing for the second Wild Card spot, come to Cleveland Tuesday for a three-game set. It will not be an easy task as the Mariners will send out Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez in the first two games of the series.