July 24, 2014

Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

Nick Swisher

The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

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The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

Indians News: Masterson to the DL, Hagadone, Perez Up, Holt down

Justin MastersonWell, we finally have our answer.

Justin Masterson, who has struggled terribly all season long, has been placed on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation. The knee may be bothering him, but it is clearly a mental issue. In his last 11 starts, the Indians’ Opening Day starter has turned into one of the worst in baseball, posting a 7.16 ERA in 49 innings, giving up 60 hits and 36 walks.

Last night’s two inning debacle was clearly the last straw with Masterson, whom the Indians just couldn’t afford to trot out again in five days. The 15 days hopefully will give him a nice mental break. As for now, it is hard to see how Justin can get be trusted.

As I said earlier today, this complete collapse of his game couldn’t have come at a worse time for the big right-hander who is in his contract year and has been losing millions by the start.

Replacing Masterson on the roster will be an extra bullpen arm in Nick Hagadone, who is making his fourth appearance in Cleveland. His stay will be short with a starter needed for Saturday, which is expected to be Zach McAllister.

In addition to these two moves, the Indians have sent OF Tyler Holt back to AAA Columbus after his two-day stint and have purchased the contract of catcher Roberto Perez. Reliever Mark Lowe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Perez.

The 25-year old catcher is having a banner year in Columbus, hitting .305/.405/.571 with eight homers and 43 RBIs. Perez is also considered a plus defender. He is a legitimate Major League backstop who should be in Cleveland for years to come.

The call up of Perez also signals once again that Carlos Santana’s future is as a first baseman and DH.

Yankees 5, Indians 3: The Justin Masterson Conundrum

Justin MastersonJustin Masterson is an absolute mess. The Indians can tell us all they want that nothing is wrong with him physically, but something is clearly off. Mentally, we know he is in a bad place. His command is not just bad, its brutal. Even pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the genius who turned Ubaldo Jimenez from a DFA candidate to a $50 million man, has no answers.

“You’re always frustrated when you don’t do well,” said Masterson after his team’s 5-3 loss. “When you’re not doing a good job at your job it’s always a tough thing. But a bigger disappointment is that the 24 other guys are coming out to fight for me. Even though I’m putting out as much effort as I can, I feel like I’m letting down the guys.” [Read more...]

Dr. Smooth: All Star; #VoteKluber, and gauging the trade values of Masterson and Cabrera

Corey KluberThese are interesting times for our Wahoos. While most of you were on LeBron and Dan Gilbert Plane Watch or worrying about Johnny Manziel’s July 4th in Las Vegas, your local nine was taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Big crowds came out Friday and Saturday as the Tribe split the first two. They recovered nicely to take Sunday’s rubber match 4-1.

The team is kind of in limbo right now. Where are they? Who are they? Is this a contender or a team that should start selling off veteran pieces? 2013 proved you shouldn’t count a Terry Francona managed team out, but the defensive issues and the sluggish bats make you think this isn’t “the year.”

Nevertheless, there is a lot of baseball to be played and the Indians just won a big series against a team they are chasing in Kansas City. There was plenty more going on not just on the field, but off of it as well this weekend. So as we do every Monday morning, let us dive into the weekend that was in Wahooland. [Read more...]

Luck, Lonnie and the ever-elusive 7-2-4 Triple Play

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The Cleveland Indians took to Dodger Stadium hoping to avenge their history-making back-to-back nights of amassing just one hit—and did they ever. While starting pitcher Justin Masterson was yanked after three-plus (wildly lucky) innings and the Dodgers had runners on base throughout the night, the Tribe bats logged 13 hits on the night, finishing with a score of 10-3.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Video: Behold Justin Masterson’s “Immaculate Inning”

Masterson

In the fourth inning of Monday night’s win over the Boston Red Sox, Tribe hurler Justin Masterson decided that the best course of action would be to strike out the side—on nine pitches.

Jonny Gomes, Grady Sizemore and Stephen Drew. All three men attempted. Some swings even made contact. It would all be for naught.

Check it out here:

This feat is apparently called an “immaculate inning.” Nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs. The sliders Masterson threw were borderline unfair. The one that Sizemore took a cut at—just like old times—was careening toward his feet. Interestingly enough, this is already the third immaculate inning that has been pitched in the majors this year. Cole Hamels did it in the third inning of a game against the Reds on May 17, and Rays reliever Brad Boxberger did in in the sixth inning against the Royals on May 8.

Including the fourth inning, there was a stretch where Masterson tossed 25 consecutive strikes. While it was a lot cooler before finding out that others have done it within the last few months, it was still an incredible accomplishment from a pitcher who was much in need of an outing like the one he had.

Indians 3, Red Sox 2: Tribe climbs out of last place with Masterson’s great start

Asdrubal Cabrera, David OrtizTeam Streak Midwest outdueled Team Streak East on Monday night in Cleveland.

The Indians won their fourth straight in a fast-paced 3-2 game against the Boston Red Sox, and in process, climbed out of the cellar of the AL Central. The loss snapped Boston’s seven-game winning streak.

Justin Masterson recaptured his 2013 form with seven shutout innings, battling the Boston lineup after a laborious start to the game. The three Cleveland runs all came early against red-hot starter John Lackey and proved to be barely enough, despite an eighth-inning scare.

Overall, this was another one of those fun wins that should remind fans of last year. This series is an intriguing test to see if the Indians might be for real … and if they can perhaps climb back to .500. [Read more...]

Indians can’t muster offense again, lose 2-1 in Chicago

Masterson

A rain-drenched game was not what the doctor ordered for the Indians.

That’s what they got in Chicago last night however. The game was delayed from starting because of the threat of rain, which eventually came, but not prevalently during the 41-minute delay.

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Indians 8, Orioles 7: Wahoos win another marathon

Lonnie ChisenhallThese last two games may have taken two years off of my life.

The Cleveland Indians, who can resemble the Bad News Bears at times, have come back from the dead with a vengeance. They improbable sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field may have kicked started their season, which looked all but dead on Sunday night. The series finale was a 13-inning stunner that had everything. The bullpen was so completely fried thanks to a two-inning start from the since-DL’d Zach McAllister that reinforcements were needed. But it wasn’t just as simple as recalling a guy or two.

They had no starting pitcher for last night’s game in Baltimore. Justin Masterson had to be called upon on short rest because the Columbus pipeline didn’t offer an immediate solution. Veteran journeyman Mark Lowe was summoned as well and would no doubt be the first guy out of the pen no matter the situation. The obvious call up – C.C. Lee – was sent down within the last 10 days and could not come back up. Rookie leftyKyle Crockett, whom the Indians wanted to have stay up for the long haul, was the only real option to send down, had to go as well. A starter would be needed for Friday night’s game and that would be T.J. House. Who knew that House almost would have to come on in relief Thursday.

It was a gigantic mess. The Indians desperately needed a strong and potentially deep start from Masterson on three days rest. Early on it looked as though they may have gotten it. But by the end of another 13-inning marathon, Justin’s efforts would be long forgotten as the Tribe pulled out another crazy extra inning win 8-7. [Read more...]

‘Bauer Outage’ could spark subpar Tribe starters

bauer acab

Trevor Bauer finally looks like he’s getting his pro career on track and living up to the expectations that come with being the No. 3 overall draft pick. Ranked as the ninth best prospect by Baseball America after the 2011 season, Bauer sank to 83rd after a disappointing 2013 campaign in which the re-tooling of his windup made many scratch their heads over the acquisition of the former UCLA phenom from the Arizona Diamondbacks two winters earlier.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Can it get much worse?

Nick SwisherI really don’t even know what to say about this team right now. I have been searching for positives from this horrific weekend series where the Oakland Athletics did their best Harlem Globetrotters impression while the Cleveland Indians donned the uniforms of the Washington Generals. They didn’t hit. They committed more errors (7) than runs scored (6). The pitching was for the most part awful. If it is possible to hit rock bottom in the middle of May, the Tribe certainly was attempting it with this series.

Said manager Terry Francona, who has been as off of his game as his players this season: “What we’re doing, right now is not good enough. We’ve got to play better, and we’ve got to have these guys more prepared.”

The A’s swept the Indians with complete and utter ease, outscoring the Wahoos 30-6. By Sunday, Francona was left searching for answers, so he reluctantly did what he didn’t want to do — moved things around in the batting order. It didn’t work.

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Unsolicited observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems and more

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP

These observations may be unsolicited, but it probably doesn’t take much to get an opinion from Tribe fans on the play of Carlos Santana. The Indians’ unexpected third baseman managed to get his OPS back over .600. In the stat world, we call that trending upward! One can hope, anyway.

Watching Santana at the plate has been frustrating on all fronts. That’s why it was refreshing to see him unleash a two-run homer against Toronto Wednesday night. Santana has now collected five hits in his last four games, enough to bring his average to .154 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s a switch hitter who’s not getting it done from either side of the plate (.149 as a lefty, and .163 from the right side). He’s also making weak contact, as pointed out in this WFNY feature. [Read more...]

Blue Jays 5, Indians 4: Masterson’s hole too deep for offense to dig out

Carlos Santana

Justin Masterson is a nice guy. By all accounts he is a great teammate and rarely in a bad mood. But you know what I want to see from him? More nastiness. More intensity. More domination. But here is the thing: I expect too much out of Masterson. Justin is what he is—a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter. At his best, he is a No. 2. And therein lies the problem. I want him to be something that he isn’t.

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Indians 9, Twins 4: Asdrubal explodes as Tribe takes third straight

Asdrubal Cabrera

See, this is why Terry Francona is the manager and I just sit here and write about the Indians.

For weeks I have watched Asdrubal Cabrera flounder at the plate, looking seemingly worse and worse each day. Then the next day, his name is right there in the lineup card. Riding in the middle of a 4-21 slump while playing sloppy defense, I begged and pleaded for Asdrubal to get a day off. And there he was again, right in the six hole on Thursday afternoon.  [Read more...]

Hey, Cleveland — Meet your new ace

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He can’t touch triple-digits like Danny Salazar. He wasn’t the subject of an offseason contract debate. But don’t let the inflated ERA fool you—Cleveland’s Corey Kluber has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Rick Manning wanted a walk. As Corey Kluber toed the rubber—his face as stoic as ever, the baseball held at his side—he stared toward second base. Leury Garcia was bouncing around, extending his lead towards third base in the ever-distracting will-he-or-won’t-he manner, the Chicago White sox second baseman having recently been advanced by the way of the bunt. At the plate was José Abreu, Major League Baseball’s home run and RBI leader. The big swinging, 255-pound first baseman had already bitten off a piece in the first inning, clubbing his 12th home run of this still-young season. One misstep by Kluber this time around and his Cleveland Indians would be staring at a crooken number deficit in what was just the third inning.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Injuries change dynamic, a starter revival, freeing Lonnie, and three outs shy of a sweep

Justin Masterson

A weekend that should have been spectacular turned out to be just good with a bitter aftertaste. Home from a brutal west coast swing, the Tribe was back on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Following back-to-back wins to open a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, the Indians led 3-1 heading into the ninth inning Sunday afternoon as closer John Axford came on to face the White Sox 2-3-4 hitters.

They say walks will kill you and in this instance, the old adage came to fruition. With a two-run lead, Axford should have fed the ball to the slumping Gordon Beckham. Instead, he walked him on four pitches. Hard-hitting first baseman Jose Abreu had already homered twice in the series, but the Tribe’s closer came back with a big strikeout. Unfortunately, Axford did what he just cannot do: He walked the tying run, strikeout machine Adam Dunn. This brought Dayan Viciedo to the plate, one of the hottest hitters in the American League. You know what happened next.

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Pics: Tribe pitchers break out deep v-necks and headbands for bowling outing

Male Victorias Secret Indians

You know those nights where you don’t have to go into work, you round up a few of your closest friends and decide to grab a few frames of bowling? Then once you figure out where you’re going to bang out some strikes and what time said damage will take place, you all decide to wear the same women’s-cut shirts (complete v-necks that dip down below the sternum) and headbands?

Well, a few members of the Cleveland Indians pitching staff completely stole your sexy routine during a night out at Parma, Ohio’s Freeway Lanes where they gathered (with members of the Browns) to help benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters in “Bowl For Kids’ Sake.”

Impressive guns on John Axford. Impressive cleavage on Justin Masterson. And if anything is going to get Corey Kluber to smile in the midst of a six-game losing streak, it’s this.

Santana bombs, but Swisher’s boot buries Tribe 6-3

The only good news about last night’s Tribe loss in Anaheim is that most of you probably missed it. Those West Coast games are tough. Thank goodness for the MLB App’s condensed game functions. I was able to watch the Indians’ fourth straight loss twice in 20 minutes. Even after the second viewing, the Tribe still dropped their fourth straight game on the trip, this time to the Angels 6-3. So, where did it all go wrong? [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Masterson’s ill-timed stinker, the Carrasco conundrum, Asdrubal’s impatience, and roster decisions

Jason Kipnis

The Cleveland Indians took two of three from the San Diego Padres and headed to Chicago for a four-game set with the team they owned last year, the White Sox. A 17-2 season-series was never going to happen again, especially with the off-season improvements the South Siders have made. We saw a lot of that this weekend with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu looking like potential thorns in the side of the Indians for years to come.

After losing the first two, the Tribe took a see-saw affair Saturday 12-6 and looked to leave Chicago with a split Sunday. Corey Kluber gave the Indians a solid performance, but was touched up for an eighth inning solo homer to Marcus Semien which broke a 1-1 tie. But this Tribe team doesn’t quit. They came right back to get two off of closer Matt Lindstrom with the key hit by the hot-hitting David Murphy. But you have to get 27 outs to win a game, and the Tribe couldn’t close. [Read more...]