Friday, May 8

Headline I stole: "Lee picks wrong night to allow a run"

Well now we've got three games to discuss. Before we get to the postmortems, let's cover the Tribe in general. The Indians currently sit at 11-19 and 7.5 games back of the Kansas Royals and are in last place by a solid 2.5 games. Yeah, things aren't going well. While the Tribe's current position is by no means insurmountable, does this team have life left in them?

Wednesday's game was an awesome win for the Tribe - heck any win is pretty awesome. But the Red Sox at Fenway have played pretty well. The big story of the night was Aaron Laffey in relief, but the real pitcher of note was Carl Pavano. Six innings, six hits, and two earned runs against the Red Sox at home is all you can ask of your starter, at least one like Carl Pavano. While Pavano was a little rough early, he settled in and pitched a quality start. Of course, from there Laffey came in for the old-school three-inning save. Offensively, the Tribe had a good night at the plate with 13 hits scoring nine runs. The bulk of the hits came from our two through five hitters Cabrera, Martinez, Choo, and DeRosa, with each collecting three hits. Actually ,after those four guys only a lone hit by Ben Francisco rounded out the Indians hits on the night. The hitting machine that is Victor Martinez recorded four RBI's on the night. Tribe (11-17) win 9-2.

Thursday night was a different story. Jeremy Sowers was called up to start the game with the original scheduled starter Laffey having gotten the save the night before and all. Sowers looked good through five innings, allowing only a run in the first. However, top of the order and third time around the Red Sox batting order meant that whatever Sowers and Martinez were doing out there stopped working. In the box score Sowers is credited with seven runs - six of those came in the sixth. Kobayashi was then called in and gave up five runs in 0.0 innings. Doing the math, that means that Sowers and Kobayashi allowed 12 straight runs to be scored without a single out. Newly called-up journeyman reliever Matt Herges gave up a run in two innings (and allowed all of Kobayashi's baserunners in), but ended the slaughter that was the sixth inning. Jensen Lewis pitched a scoreless eighth and I imagine the Red Sox were tired and just wanted to go home. Offensively, the Indians didn't have the ability to dig out of that hole they found themselves in in the seventh. No one had more than one hit and the Tribe scored three runs. Indians (11-18) lose 3-13.

Tonight's game was a repeat of last week's Lee/Verlander match up. Justin Verlander came into this game with a 2-2 record and 5.66 ERA. Still, he pitched a complete game shutout allowing only two hits. Lee allowed one run in eight innings. If it's not one thing it's another, the saying goes. Fittingly the two best hitters on the team right now had those hits. Martinez and Cabrera. Hey Valbuena walked twice so that's something. Tribe (11-19) lose 1-0.

You had to figure the Cavs would overshadow the Indians almost no matter what until the NBA playoffs are over, but this isn't helping the team at all. The attendance to Friday's game was 27,000+, but no one is going to be showing up mid-week to watch a team that can't keep a lead or hit. One criticism I may have said and I've heard is that the Indians strike out too much and they did that 11 times tonight. However it has mostly been situational hitting that has hindered the offense. Well, that and the likes of Jhonny Peralta and Sizemore dragging down the team's on-base percentage. Thank goodness Shoppach has already been hit by a pitch eight times this year (11 times all of 2008).

As I said in an earlier post the move of Laffey was your best option for the bullpen. However was it the best situation for the starting rotation? Sure Sowers is a downgrade and Laffey was our second or third best pitcher in terms on consistency. You could point to this team's inability to develop relievers in their system and relying too heavily on old retreads such as Betancourt (that turned out well) and Chulk (already DFA'ed). Yes, they're still trying to capture Bob Howry lighting in a bottle again, but Lewis is serviceable if unpredictable and Perez has been invaluable up until this year. You'll always need starters, but at what point do you take these guys and start building bullpen options in AA or AAA? Was this overlooked in the Indians' system or did a bunch of guys just not work out?

Finally, the one thing this team needs to find is consistency. The bullpen is a mess, the offense is day to day, the starters are finally starting to go enough innings, and the defense has been surprisingly weak. So what can we expect in the near-term? Peralta gets a few days off and Valbuena plays second. Hafner returns in a week or so I imagine. Jamey Carroll returns from his injury and maybe the Indians sign Luis Vizcaino, a 34 year-old RHP DFA'ed and later released by the Cubs on April 23rd. None of those are the big lift this team needs.

My quick recommendation is: don't fire Wedge this season. Look what he did the second half last year. He is a perfect fit for Shapiro and I don't see his firing as being the shake-up this team needs. Hitting coach Derek Shelton usually takes his share of blame but I'm not one for knee-jerk coaching firings to solve a team's problems, especially a baseball team. This is still a team playing beneath themselves and I'm sure those involved in the front office of this team are feeling these shortcomings more than most fans. At least I can turn off the radio and pay attention to something else for a while.

The Tribe still have two more games against the Tigers and I expect better things. How much better? I'll go out on a limb and say the Tribe gets three hits tomorrow.

Game 2: Edwin Jackson, RHP (1-2, 3.08) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (1-3, 6.11)
Game 3: Rick Porcello, RHP (2-3, 4.71) vs. Anthony Reyes, RHP (1-0, 6.84)

Edwin Jackson has the lowest run support in the AL. Porcello has also been good of late. On the surface I don't either of these match ups. If this turns into a four-game skid with a three game sweep at home I wonder what the front office would consider doing then.

Go Tribe!
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

No comments: