The non-waiver trade deadline is just a day away and the Cleveland Indians are what their record says they are. After Tuesday night’s 5-2 home loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Wahoos are 52-54, two games below .500. Just five games out of the second Wild Card spot, yes, but there are now four teams in front of them; six if you include the Blue Jays and Angels who hold the Wild Cards.
A year ago, the Tribe was in the middle of a eight-game winning streak and 10-games over .500. Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Jason Giambi’s first of two monster walk-off homers against the Chicago White Sox. Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, and Scott Kazmir were dealing and one-run wins were the norm. Today, Ubaldo and Kazmir are pitching elsewhere—Kazmir being 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA and WHIP barely over 1.00—and Masterson is such a mess that he was placed on the disabled list to deal with his issues and may not be on this team in two days. The core of the offense is essentially the same, but the results just haven’t been the same, despite what the numbers may say.
Coming off a a disappointing 5-6 road trip where they started off by taking three straight from the first place Tigers, the Tribe seemed to be at a crossroads—they are right in the middle of continuing to play for the Wild Card or planning for 2015. Every game last week and this week have and will have say in which direction they go. The first two games of the series with Seattle, the Tribe had to face a stud duo of arms. First up was Hisashi Iwakuma. This would be no easy task.
One thing you do not want to do is get behind Iwakuma early. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened last night. Trevor Bauer has been the most solid starter after Corey Kluber over the past six weeks. As it happens, he was due for a clunker. The intense right-hander traded zeroes with Iwakuma until the fourth. It all got started with a bunt single by Kyle Seager that beat the shift. Bauer then hit Mike Zunino on the shoulder with a pitch. An out later, Cory Snyder doppleganger Corey Hart doubled in Seager for the game’s first run. Trevor came back to fan James Jones and it looked like he may get out of the inning. But with two out, the Mariners delivered the big blow of the night. Dustin Ackley just missed a three-run homer but settled for a two-run double. Chris Taylor followed with a double of his own which scored Ackley. Just like that, it was 4-0 Mariners and with Iwakuma on the mound, it was all over but the shouting at that point.
Zunino’s fifth inning solo homer chased Bauer, who departed the worst start of his season, giving up five runs on eight hits in four and a third.
“I think I was just behind [in the count] too much,” Bauer said. “When you don’t get ahead, they take more confident swings, so you kind of back yourself into a corner.”
A year ago, the Indians had a knack for winning games 3-2, 2-1, etc. But in 2014, when the offense scores three runs or less, they are now 9-39. That is not a misprint.
The two runs both came in the fifth on a Yan Gomes RBI single and an RBI groundout from Jason Kipnis. Gomes is one of the few offensive bright spots of late, hitting .333/.373/.628 with five homers and 14 RBIs in July. The Yanimal is one of the few who is actually pulling his own weight. On the flip side is Kipnis who, since being named Player of the Week, has crashed back to earth and followed the mini-hot streak by going 3-30.
Losing the series opener and now seven of their last 11 may have put the Indians in sell mode though Nick Swisher thinks otherwise: “We have too good of an attitude, too many good players and too good of a manager to quit on anybody. I hope no one else is quitting on us because we’re not quitting on ourselves.”
Things won’t get easier as they have to face the best pitcher in the AL right now, Felix Hernandez, Wednesday night at Progressive Field. King Felix is in the middle of an unbelievable stretch where he has allowed just 11 earned runs with 90 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 74.1 innings. If you love pitching, then get down to the park and watch Hernandez square off with the Tribe’s ace, Corey Kluber.
As for the trade chips, Asdrubal Cabrera should get plenty of looks with contending teams in need of a middle infielder. Masterson’s struggles may make it harder for him to move for anything worthwhile, but I can’t imagine that GM Chris Antonetti isn’t listening to offers on both. Right fielder David Murphy clearly doesn’t agree my my assessment.
“No, at this point, there’s still way too much time left,” said Murphy. “Have we been through almost 4 months, yes? Have we played inconsistent, yes? Have there been plenty of games we’ve lost that we could have won, yes?”