In 2011, the Indians played seven 12:05 p.m. “getaway day” weekday games at Progressive Field. Their record in those games? 1-6. After today’s 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox, the Indians have now gone over a year without winning one of these noon games at home; their last victory was 1-0 over Boston on April 7, 2011. They were also outscored by a hefty sum in those six losses in 2011 – 48-15, to be exact.
So while I hoped that 2012 would prove to be a different story, I can’t say I’m surprised that today’s game played out as it did. I was part of the announced 9,072 in attendance today, but I’m pretty certain that there was nowhere close to 9,000 people in the stands. I’ve yet to attend a 12:05 weekday game that the Indians won, even prior to 2011. My friend joined me today and had yet to attend any Indians game at Progressive Field where the Indians lost. It was obvious that someone’s streak was going to come to an end today, and I’m not surprised it was his.
We had seats in the club section, which provided convenient opportunities to get out of the cold. We arrived early, ate lunch inside, and planned to head out to our seats for the start of the game. Before we could even finish and get outside, Justin Masterson had already surrendered 4 runs. I hate to be a defeatist, but with the way the offense has performed lately, an early 4-0 lead in a noon game seemed like the final nail in the coffin…in the first inning. The last time I saw an Indians opponent jump out to a big early lead in a 12:05 game, the Red Sox went on to beat the Tribe 14-2.
Believe it or not, the Indians actually started to fight back. They answered in the bottom of the first with a run scored off a John Danks wild pitch, while Justin Masterson settled down after that dreadful inning. Travis Hafner hit that monster home run in the bottom of the 4th to cut the White Sox lead in half, 4-2. While this was an extremely positive sign, the Tribe’s pitching staff just couldn’t keep Chicago from adding to their lead. After 5 innings, Masterson was already at 94 pitches; with his struggles today, it made sense to get him out before he got into more trouble. However, as soon as I saw Dan Wheeler warming up in the bullpen, I had a sense of dread. Not that Rafael Perez ultimately fared any better; I guess I still just have absolutely no faith in Wheeler.
While the offense was actually much better today (particularly for a 12:05 game), I still can’t let them off the hook. When I noticed that they had accumulated 7 hits by the 7th inning, I joked that they matched their hit total from 16 innings of baseball last Thursday. The problem today involved situational hitting – the Indians kept getting runners on base and leaving them there (11 stranded, to be exact). In the 4th and the 8th innings the Indians had two runners on with less than two outs, yet failed to score (although Hafner led off the 4th with the home run). The 4th inning was frustrating, because with the score still just 4-2, the Indians had a chance to have a big inning. Once Shelley Duncan was on third and Casey Kotchman on second, Jack Hannahan struck out and Michael Brantley grounded out. While Hannahan’s overall performance so far this season has been pretty good, Brantley has been absolutely dreadful. Even though he still didn’t produce today, he at least didn’t look quite as lost at the plate. Just saying that makes me cringe, because it’s something you’d say to a Little League player – “you’ll get them next time champ, at least you’ve made a line-drive out!”
There were some seriously frustrating moments in today’s game, but I think there were also a few positives to take away from this. The offense looked better, and at least the Indians were putting runners on base (Saturday and Monday, there weren’t many missed opportunities because there never were really any opportunities). Jeanmar Gomez came into the game in the later innings to get some work in, and he looked great. You just have to hope that the Indians start to turn things around on this three-city road trip; it’s still just April, but you don’t want to dig a hole from which you can’t escape.