I have this fantasy image in my mind where Johnny Damon rides onto the field on a white horse, shirtless, sometime in the next week. He tosses his hair back (he still has long hair in the fantasy…it just makes it more dramatic), hops off the horse, and proceeds to hit three home runs. This scenario usually goes through my head when I’m forced to watch terrible at-bats from Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham.
So while I highly doubt that Damon will somehow be a savior for the offense, a gal can dream…right? If nothing else, maybe his at-bats will be slightly less awful than a Duncan or Cunningham attempt. While the rest of the offense didn’t look much better today against Dan Haren and Scott Downs, I’m quickly losing patience in Duncan and Casey “Botchman at the plate” Kotchman. Cunningham has made some improvements over the past week, while Duncan and Kotchman just keep racing each other to the bottom. Duncan managed to single today, but had a ton of awful at-bats in the past week including a number of strike outs that came from swinging at balls not even close to the plate. While Kotchman’s spot on the roster is secure, despite his .143/.239/.254 batting line, one of these three are likely to draw the short straw once it’s time to place Damon on the roster: Duncan (.241/.375/.362), Cunningham (.235/.297/.294), or Jose Lopez (.190/.190/.381). If Shin-Soo Choo is forced to go on the DL, it may postpone a decision for the time being. I want to say that Lopez may be released, since he rarely even gets an opportunity to play. If the Indians cut Cunningham, they have nobody that can play center field in the case of an injury to Michael Brantley.
The Indians stranded a ton of runners on base last night, but really didn’t even have that many people on base today. While they were able to drive Jered Weaver’s pitch count up early in last night’s game, it took Dan Haren 8 innings to hit 100 pitches. The Angels bullpen is scuffling, so the sooner you can get the starter out of the game, the better. One of the most frustrating at-bats for me in today’s game was when Aaron Cunningham came to the plate in the 8th. By some miracle, both Duncan and Kotchman managed to get on base with 2 outs. Kotchman had just walked on 5 pitches, and Haren’s pitch count was at 102. Instead of exercising some patience and looking at some pitches, Cunningham swung at the first thing he saw and flew out to left. Other than this, the only real “chance” I felt the Indians had today was when Brantley reached 3rd in the first inning. If I’m going to endure a rain delay, and then sit outside in this freezing weather, I hope to see a bit more from the Indians.
Another unsettling fact about the offense is the fact that they haven’t hit a home run in 10 straight games, after hitting 16 home runs in their first 9 games. While I never like to see a team depend on the home run to score runs, it is kind of nice to hit them every so often.
Even though the offense left something to be desired today, the pitching look great. Gomez managed to hold the Angels to 2 runs on 5 hits through 6 innings, while Joe Smith pitched 2 perfect innings and Nick Hagadone one perfect inning. I think the Angels were a bit overhyped prior to the season, but I still think this is a potentially dangerous offense. Unless he’s hiding some kind of injury, I feel confident that Albert Pujols isn’t going to finish the season with zero home runs. I hope the Indians’ pitching staff is able to contain them in the series finale tomorrow.
Prior to today, the Indians were 6-0 this season in one-run games. Despite that streak’s end today, that’s still a very positive sign at the close of April. While you’re not going to win every one-run game, good teams, contending teams, need to win the majority of them.