Sunday, July 5

Coupla serieses

Having visited with my esteemed colleague John Hawkins this weekend, I'm fully aware of how pressed he is for time. Thus, I'm bringing you short recaps of the two three-game series played this past week in Progressive Field.

Chicago White Socks
Wow, this series sucked. Uneven weather and a totally lifeless, hapless Tribe club made me realize on Tuesday night just what a bad product the organization is putting on the field right now. The value of a night or day spent at the ballpark has rarely been lower than it is now. How's that for an intro?

I was fortunate enough to be seeing No Doubt instead of Game 1 of the series, a 6-3 loss to the Socks. Carl Pavano turned in a strong start, yielding just 2 runs over 7 innings; unfortunately, the punchless Tribe offense was kept off the board by White Sock starter Gavin Floyd. Newly-acquired reliever Chris Perez came on in the 9th to try to keep it at 2-0, and, in a rather transparent effort to "fit in" with the bullpen and be regarded as "one of the guys," walked a guy, hit a guy, and gave up 4 runs while recording just 2 outs. Welcome to the worst bullpen ever, Chris!

The Indians actually managed a bit of a rally in their half of the 9th, cutting it to 6-3 on a solo shot by Shin-Soo Choo and a two-run job from Ryan Garko, but they would get no closer. Two of the runs were charged to Matt Thornton, who was still awarded a "Hold," the dumbest stat in the land. Tribe manager Eric Wedge was ejected for arguing (incorrectly) that a squibber hit by Ryan Garko should have been called foul. Blah.

Game 2 of the series was even worse, as the Tribe parlayed a rare bad outing from staff ace Cliff Lee into a rain-shortened 11-4 loss. Lee gave up 4 in the 1st, which reminded me of the part in Airplane! where Robert Stack is telling everyone in the control tower how they need to build up Ted Stryker's confidence and then after the first thing Stryker tells him he freaks out, starts swearing, and declares it hopeless. If we can't even depend on Lee, then things are worse than we suspected.

Not much to say here. Lee was the real story, smacked around for 7 runs in just 3 innings. Lest fans might worry that his outing might have interfered with another horrible bullpen outing, Mike Gosling allayed any such fears by yielding 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings to bring Chicago's total to 11 runs. The Wahoos touched Clayton Richard for 4 runs in 6 innings on a Travis Hafner solo home run and a three-run double by Asdrubal Cabrera, but it was far too little for the home team.

Game 3 was what they mean when they talk about a team "mailing it in." The Tribe lost 6-2 in a game where it never seemed like they had any interest in playing. Jeremy Sowers took the loss, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings while the bulllpen actually kept the Socks to just one more over the final three frames. Jose Contreras stymied Tribe bats all night, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits over 8 innings to earn the W. That guy kills us.

The key to this game was Sowers; more specifically, him once again being left in the game too long. I rarely fault managers for losing games and prefer to seek out the logic behind their decisions; this one, however, is largely on Wedge. YOU CAN'T LEAVE SOWERS IN TO FACE A LINEUP A THIRD TIME!!! It's logically incoherent to play all the percentages with lefty/righty matchups and lineup construction, and then ignore the fact that Sowers' batting average allowed numbers look like this (approximate):

1st time through: .220
2nd time through: .256
3rd time through: 2.567

This guy gets killed the third time through, over and over again, and we don't make an adjustment. I know our bullpen isn't strong, but this is flatly unacceptable. An organization that puts such an emphasis on research and data analysis should not tolerate ignoring this fairly obvious and well-established trend.

The sweep at the hands of Chicago left the Indians at a season-worst 31-49. But hey, off-day! Not only did I not have to watch the Indians lose, but no Tomo Ohka start! I very nearly titled this article "Looking Forward to Off-Days," and would have had they not played a little better against Oakland.

Oakland Athletics
The A's came to town over the Independence Day weekend, and the Erie Warriors fared significantly better. Game 1 was the Shin-Soo Choo show, as the Cleveland right fielder had a carrer night by going 4-5 with 2 home runs and 7 runs batted in to lead the Tribe to a 15-3 rout over Oakland. David Huff got the win with a Bare Minimum Quality Start (6 IP, 3 ER), and the Indians' bullpen shut down Oakland for three innings when it didn't really matter.

The Tribe hitters just battered the A's staff, notching runs against the first 5 pitchers that faced them. Though Choo was the undoubted star, other Tribesmen chipped in as well: Cabrera had 2 hits and drove in three runs; Grady Sizemore reached base 5 times and scored thrice; and Ben Francisco reached base four times (3-4 and a walk) and rounded the bases all four times.

Game 2 was a surprisingly well-played affair that saw the Indians claim a 5-2 victory. Pavano delivered his second good outing of the week, yielding just 2 runs over 6 2/3 innings for his 7th win on the year. Relievers Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, and Kerry Wood allowed just one baserunner for the next 2 2/3, and Wood even did this bizarre thing where he simply got out three opponent batters in a row and the game ended. I kinda liked the new approach. Trailing 1-0, Cleveland struck for three in the 3rd on a Luis Valbuena RBI single and a two-run shot from the suddenly-hot Ben Francisco. Grady Sizemore plated the final two Tribe tallies with a solo home run in the 6th and an RBI groundout the following inning. This is the kind of games this team was supposed to be winning all year, but the bullpen so often turned them into 9-5 losses.

Game 3 was basically the same thing as Game 2, only it was the A's taking home a 5-2 victory. Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez played the Pavano role, yielding only 2 runs through six innings. The only Indians markers came on a two-out RBI double from Sizemore to score Jamey Carroll and a solo home run from Jhonny Peralta. The A's never put together a big rally against Tribe starter Cliff Lee (another BMQS of 6 IP, 3 ER), but were consistent throughout the afternoon, adding a single run to their total in each of 5 different innings, including insurance markers in the 8th and 9th. In avoiding the sweep, the A's dropped the Tribe's mark to 33-50.

So, another week remains before the All-Star Break in this so-far disastrous season for our club. If I'm available, I'll post some first-half thoughts; in the meantime, congratulations to Victor Martinez on his selection to the American League All-Star team. It's too bad we never score any runs for Lee, or he might be headed to St. Louis as well. Choo also deserves a mention, as his .407 OBP puts him 3rd in the AL behind Boston's Kevin Youkilis and Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who's reaching at a remarkable .464 clip. Anyway, there's time for that later; here's the lefty-loaded rotation with which we'll be exacting revenge from the White Socks in their park this week:

Tuesday: Sowers, L, (2-6, 5.68) vs Buehrle, L, (8-2, 3.09)
Wednesday: Laffey, L, (3-1, 3.93, welcome back!) vs Contreras, R, (3-7, 4.84)
Tuesday: Huff, L, (4-3, 6.06) vs Richard, L, (3-1, 4.42)

Go Tribe!

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