I don’t want to take anything away from Justin Verlander. He’s one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues right now, and obviously had everything working for him tonight. At the same time, I feel like the Indians made it easy for him. I’ve been like a broken record lately, “put together better at-bats, bench underperformers, etc.” so I don’t think I need to repeat the same tired criticisms. They lost first place tonight; a position they’ve held since April. If they don’t turn this around soon, Chicago will pass them by as well.
Some things to take away from tonight’s game – the only two Indians that did not strike out tonight were Orlando Cabrera (who also broke up the no-hitter), and Matt LaPorta. Grady Sizemore went 4 for 4 – that’s four strikeouts in four at-bats. Travis Buck and Jack Hannahan had two strikeouts a piece. Verlander had 12 total strikeouts; one shy of his career best. Tonight’s shutout marks the sixth time in the last 18 games that the Indians have been shut out by their opponent. That basically means that once every three games they’re getting shut out. While there’s no shame in getting blanked by a pitcher of Justin Verlander’s caliber, not every pitcher they’ve faced is a Verlander. On any given night, any Major League pitcher can look like Cy Young when they face the Cleveland Indians’ offense.
Tomorrow is a complete crap shoot. Brad Penny pitches for the Tigers, and he’s been very shaky at times for them this season. Unfortunately, Fausto Carmona will start for the Indians. Who knows what Carmona will show up at Comerica Park tomorrow, but I hope and pray it’s not the one that was in Yankee Stadium over the weekend. The Indians need to avoid a sweep against the Tigers; even though it’s only June, you don’t want to leave town three games out of first. The Indians hit Thursday’s pitcher, Max Scherzer, well earlier this season. However, their current offensive state means they’re just a shell of their April 29 selves.
If you’re not feeling completely depressed already, here’s a bit more negative news for you – Jason Knapp, often considered the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade (the Indians claim the trade wouldn’t have happened without Knapp), just had his second shoulder surgery. Knapp was already in extended spring training, recovering from his first shoulder surgery. This second one will effectively end his 2011 season, since he’ll have a mandatory six weeks of rest before he starts a throwing rehab program.
The only bit of positive news – Travis Hafner played in his first rehab start for the Akron Aeros tonight. At this point, I’m starting to think the return of Hafner is the only thing that can turn things around. Not just because his bat is necessary, but because I think his presence may provide a psychological boost to the rest of the lineup at this point. As I’m writing this, the Aeros are down 7-1 at home to the Manchester Fisher Cats in the seventh inning. Hafner was 1-2 with a walk (and the Aeros only have 3 total hits at this point). The Indians are 9-16 since Hafner went on the DL.