Final Score: Orioles 10 Indians 2
- Tribe scores important response run on Asdrubel Cabrera’s homer in the first but continue to struggle with the bases loaded as Damon grounds out to end the inning. Their sub-mendoza effort with the bases loaded is relatively shocking as they are hitting a hundred points lower than the league average with the sacks packed.
- Hannahan grabs a garbage time run with a bomb. The Tribe really needs Hannahan or Lopez to get hot to cover Chisenhall’s absence as Chiz finally looked ready at the major league level. Perhaps the only disadvantage Chiz offered other than defense was his low OBP.
- The Tribe continues its lethargic offensive approach. RISP (1 for 7) L.O.B. (9)
- Lowe leaving almost everything up. Unable to locate both in terms of throwing strikes and the quality of strikes.
- Lowe threw 72 pitches through his first three innings, 34 were strikes (47%).
- Final line on Lowe:9 E.R. 5 BB’s, 2 HR’s
- Allen was wild in his first major league appearance (two walks) but settles down after that. Allen leaned on his fastball with differing results. Location was inconsistent but the kid can chuck. Throwing 95 with relative ease another young Indian arm with some plus velocity.
- Despite an average showing today Esmil Rogers has been an absolute steal since the Indians acquired him from the Rockies for cash considerations. If Allen can translate his success to the major league level, no easy task, this Tribe bullpen would become five deep. Allen, Rogers, Smith, Pestano, Perez. Allowing Sipp to only enter in lefty-lefty scenario’s.
- Nothing big of note early in the game. However I was intrigued when Damon called off Brantley to end the second inning. Rarely do you see a left-fielder call off his center fielder especially when Johnny Damon is the one doing so, I would have liked to have seen Brantley take charge but as I said a relatively irrelevant critique.
- With Damon’s obvious lack of production at the plate it is tough to watch him play left. If any other Tribe outfielder was playing left in the third inning, Jim Thome would have indeed been held to a long single or hosed at second base.
- Cabrera makes an obvious mistake throwing home to try to get Thome. Playing the infield back, less than two outs, I simply don’t understand why A-Cab would throw through without picking up the out. Either he disagreed with Acta about playing the infield back or simply made a poor instinctual decision. Was a big turning point in the game for Lowe as he could have used that out.
- As soon as I condemn Damon he makes a phenomenal effort like the one he made in the third inning. Diving into the stands. you can tell why he is a great clubhouse guy, willing to sacrifice his body down six runs, professional at work.
Much like last season the Tribe has stumbled into the second half. In order for the Indians to contend or at least be an above average team in the second half their starting pitching must settle. Hopefully a rested and talented Fausto Carmona (Hernandez) can serve as depth. I believe that Lowe is either reaching the end of his strong career or needs some rest during the stretch run. Perhaps Lowe should to skip a start or maybe two. Secondly the offense is a lot closer than most think. Their on-base percentage is outstanding and the back end off the lineup while still disappointing has gradually improved. If Santana or Hafner can re-emerge in the middle of the lineup this team looks very different. I have always believed in the aphorism that one run producer expands to a whole lineup of clutch hitters. I suggest that the pitching will inevitably improve so at the end of the day Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, and who ever Chris Antonetti can acquire offensively will decide the Indians fate in 2012.
On a side note my return is complete and I will be blogging about every remaining game as well as a few feature pieces with my thoughts on minor league talent, deadline efforts and so forth.
Ubaldo tries to make a second consecutive quality start:
- Wally Bell’s strike zone was at the least questionable. Costing Carlos Santana the chance to have a chance at driving the run home in the first. Absolutely abysmal call.
- Tip your cap to Beltran got his count and took advantage of a 3-1 fastball. Like that Jimenez still challenged him. And Ubaldo settled after the homer a positive step for him.
- Choo really has been solid and his gap power the other has continued this season although here is hoping his home run power begins to return.
- Kipnis continues his dominance on the road as his road average is significantly higher. Always an odd statistic unless he is uncomfortable with the batter’s eye in Cleveland.
- Brantley extends his streak to 18 games with another pull base hit to right field. Something becoming increasingly more common during his outburst.
- Mr. Clutch. The Jason Kipnis sends a 97 M.P.H. fastball into the seats in right. A three-run homer giving the lead to turn over to Chris Perez.
- This kid has been money and has a little swagger doing it. His strut on the way to first was a lot more like watching a major league veteran than a guy in his first full season.
- Third straight series win and a day off tomorrow. Set up for a good June.
- Once again Ubaldo’s inability to to throw strikes has created an offensive eruption for the Red Sox. Five walks is an absolutely intolerable number if you hope to be efficient. Jimenez has created a type of inconsistency that is downright scary when he goes to the mound. He needs to find a way to stabilize the results in some manner. Just average results would be a positive step right now.
- The bullpen was once again solid covering four scoreless innings and allowing the Tribe the opportunity to get back in the game. The Tribe has done a solid job of getting back in games when down by a lot and the bullpen is the key. The Tribe was able to chip away and had two opportunities to drive in the tying runs in the ninth.
- While I am an absolute fan of the Manny Acta administration his lineup choices of late have been somewhat disappointing.
- First Michael Brantley should be hitting leadoff. Brantley works counts and has continued to drive the ball well. His approach is exactly what you want from the leadoff spot. If Damon continues to struggle throughout the Boston series he must be moved down in the order if not out. His range in left is abysmal and with the bat I feel like this experiment might end quickly.
- Leaving alone the fact that Casey Kotchman should have been pinch hit for at multiple times last evening I am beginning to wonder when Jack Hannahan will be moved up in the lineup. I understand that he may be comfortable near the end of the lineup but at some point his production must move him to the top of the lineup. When the player who is hitting the best with runners in scoring position is hitting ninth you have to change. I would just like to see him moved to the sixth hole for the time being.
- Finally a non-Tribe note. The only Tiger I could stand recently had been Brandon Inge. I always enjoyed his tenacity and the gritty way of playing baseball. Thus it has been just tremendous to see him torch the Tigers offensively with Athletics for the past few days. Kudos to him for getting revenge.
Derek Lowe. The Veteran Returns to Fenway, and a Few Thoughts:
- This was an incredibly important game for the Tribe. Coming off two consecutive losses to an average White Sox team the Indians needed a strong performance. They got one from Derek Lowe. While not magnificent Lowe turned in another quality start. Lowe was crafty and with his stuff sometimes has to be while dodging bases loaded situations and escaping with little damage.
- Lowe has continued to throw strikes and keep the ball down. By managing around a 60% strike rate Lowe was able to manage the game the way a veteran quarterback would. Making key pitches and allowing the offense a chance to score first is very important in order to shelve losing streaks.
- The infield defense was superb as usual for Lowe’s work quick routine that keeps them on their toes. Hannahan and Kotchman both turned in their commonly delightful showings at the corner infield spots while Cabrera and Kipnis did their best to cover what was left.
- Michael Brantley broke loose tonight after having poor luck on balls in play recently. The last two games of the Chicago series Brantley hit the ball well and was not rewarded with base hits. Michael certainly appears to be making his case to move back to the leadoff spot as Damon continues to struggle.
- Hannahan once again provided an immensely important clutch hit. Once again the rest of the offense struggled to drive in runs until Jack came to the plate at which point he promptly jacked a two-run bomb that provided the Tribe with breathing room.
- While many, including myself expected a down year from Asdrubel Cabrera he has looked outstanding in the early season. Which includes already netting his tenth double. If Cabrera can continue to be a 25 homer/40 double guy the Indians appear to have the best shortstop in the American League.
- Lastly to the most popular Cleveland Indian, Jason Kipnis who broke out of his slump a bit with two hits including a home run. Also bringing to mind the streak Kipnis went on last season at Fenway hitting three early home runs in the home of the Sox.
Thoughts on the rubber game with the Rangers:
- Have to give Ubaldo a lot of credit here. Ubaldo pitched today like the man we traded for. I saw the fastball peak at 95 to 96 MPH with solid cut movement. The curveball was phenomenal and was the out pitch for many of his 6 strikeout’s. The only really concerning part of the start was that Ubaldo still walked 5 hitters.
- The starting pitching as a whole has been magnificent against an outstanding Texas rangers lineup. They were constantly under control and veteran Derek Lowe held down the rangers despite below average stuff.
- The defense was extremely solid throughout the series which is a very important piece of the Indians success considering they have a ground ball heavy staff.
- Thus ends the first week of Johnny Damon and his record with the Tribe is at 4-1. However, yesterday, I saw something I had not seen in a long time. With David Murphy on second and one out Mitch Moreland hit a fly ball about two steps in front of the warning track in left field. Because of Damon’s arm Murphy was able to tag and go to third. While Murphy was eventually stranded Damon’s arm is so poor that it can be a handicapping force in left.
- Finally a few thoughts on struggling Tribe players: First Tony Sipp has been terrible this year and is really starting to concern me about bullpen depth. I know that the Rangers are a challenging lineup but he was torched in two-thirds of an inning. Second the middle of the lineup has looked lethargic for the past few series with Hafner and Santana playing horrid baseball against the Rangers.
- Last, just a few things I will be monitoring over the next few days. How Zach McAllister pitches will give us a peak into the ability of the farm system to replace players on the Major League roster. If he does it offers hope as rarely a season goes by that a starting pitcher does not get hurt. The second thing to monitor is how long it will take for Hafner and Santana to wake up in clutch situations. If you are in the middle of the order you have to drive in runs and so far they have not been executing
- Derek Lowe had a heck of an effort last night considering how abysmal his stuff was. Lowe was able to use the double play ball and a little fortune to dodge the Rangers attempts to put up a big number.
- The Indians defense was relatively superb last night with the only mistake being the inability to turn a double play in the eleventh. That mistake however was very costly and soured us on the Indians ability to execute.Hannahan made 2 tremendous play at third and Asdrubel had a heads up double play that kept Lowe in the game.
- I like the Indians approach of seeing pitches and forcing the starter out of the game. This was much like Weaver’s start against the Tribe this year where they stayed in the game until he was removed and then jumped on the relief core. Only this time we were unable to finish.
- Looking at what might of been it is obvious that Santana’s inability to hit a sac fly or even make contact for the go ahead run in the eighth was very costly and showed the flaw in his approach from the left side of the plate. Santana’s swing is much longer from the left side and in that situation he needs to cut it down and put the ball in play.
- Lastly on Ubaldo. This game today is the reason we traded for him. A pitcher with stuff like him is supposed to be a stopper. Today is a very important game for the Indians first half playing against the best team and baseball and having the chance to win the series is outstanding. Now it is his job to execute and get the w.
The Morning After, Thoughts and Concerns:
- A solid outing for number one starter Justin Masterson, the three walks over six and a third innings is concerning but still an improvement over previous starts. If Justin can continue to string improvement together that makes this team very threatening moving forward.
- Casey Kotchman silenced his number one doubter last night. Well maybe just rested my voice for a game. The two hit game and RBI contribution could either be a blip on the radar or a real sign of improvement and beginning of a revitalizing streak.
- At the beginning of the Damon era he has failed to offer anything of value and has basically produced worse than Duncan was prior to is arrival. Granted their has been little time for Damon to get on his feet and see pitches but he is so sub-par in left field that I am really concerned about the choice to add him in the first place.
- Jason Kipnis has quickly become my favorite Indian and not just because of his recent power surge, though that is not totally irrelevant. Kipnis and Hannahan have brought a grinding gamer type image to this team and they are easy to identify with. Kipnis has solidified a position which had in the past had made us pine for Ronnie Belliard.
- First bullpen thought: How is Dan Wheeler still around? With the Columbus bullpen filled with high upside relievers I am beginning to question how long Wheeler’s leash really is. I would be excited if the Tribe would add Chen Lee, a right handed reliever with above average velocity and movement. Another Columbus reliever worth watching is righty Cody Allen, drafted just last year he has flown through the system and continued to get outstanding results.
- I love Chris Perez and his fiery mentality. I enjoy that this Tribe team seems to have chip on their shoulder and is not making friends in the central. Whether it is Jack Hannahan trying to fight every Royal he could find or Perez getting in Rios’ face a little bit, I love the passion.
Three quick thoughts on tonight’s win:
- Josh Tomlin had a very solid outing tonight and his velocity was at the highest I have seen it all year (around 92). Velocity is clearly not the most important thing for Tomlin whose responsibility is to throw strikes. Tomlin will regret the walk in the fifth to load the bases but maintained good control on the whole.
- Every time the Tribe’s situational hitting drives me to the brink of turning off the game Jack Hannahan drives in a go ahead run. The guy is just a gamer, the type of player every winning team needs.
- The power is coming back. After Duncan broke the 11 game streak without a home run the Tribe came out with two big blasts. Carlos Santana mashed a ball out deep to right field when the Tribe needed it most. Hafner having more bad luck with hard hit balls decided to hit it where no fielder could catch it, out of the park.