I was pretty pumped about today’s Joe Carter bobble head. When I was a kid, Carter was one of my favorite players along with Brook Jacoby. I’m not sure why I liked them both so much, but I was 9 and that’s who I wanted to cheer for when I watched the Indians. Another exciting surprise when I entered the ballpark today were the free magnets they were handing out at the gate; I got Shin-Soo Choo and I stole my dad’s Carlos Santana.
You may ask, why am I spending so much time talking about a bobble head and some free magnets? Because that was my high point for the day. I could have just gone home and gotten some work done before Mad Men comes on at 10. Alas, I sat through all 9 innings and have nothing but a sunburn and an unquenchable thirst to show for it (not to mention that I smell like a farm…it was really hot in the sun).
Josh Johnson struggled early in the 2012 season as he made his return from an injury-shortened 2011 season. Against the Indians today, he pitched his third straight solid game of at least 7 innings pitched and 2 or fewer earned runs; he dropped his ERA from 5.36 to 4.85 as he mowed through the Indians lineup. I should add, however, that his most recent start before today was against another offensively challenged team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (they rank last in most major league offensive categories).
Johnson held the Indians hitless until Shin-Soo Choo’s single in the bottom of the third inning. The Tribe didn’t get their next hit until the bottom of the 5th inning, which is when they also jumped on the board to make the score 2-1. They had a chance to get more runs, with Jose Lopez on second and Lou Marson on first with only one out. Unfortunately Choo grounded into a double play in the next at-bat and put an end to any threat. The next chance the Indians had to score was in the bottom of the 7th, when Carlos Santana opened the inning with a single. Johnny Damon hit a long fly ball that just missed making it over the right field fence by a few feet. Jose Lopez came through again with two outs though, and his double put runners on second and third. I had absolutely no hope that Lou Marson would do anything (except possibly walk) at this point. Manny Acta decided to pinch hit Casey Kotchman, who predictably grounded out to third. While part of me wants to scream, “Casey Kotchman…really?” there weren’t really any alternatives at that point. Your bats on the bench are Kotchman, Jack Hannahan (battling an injury), Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham – none of these guy are going to necessarily strike fear into the hearts of pitchers. Picking one of them at that point, to me, is akin to reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.
After that, it was as if Miami said, “well, if you don’t want those runs, we’ll take them…” Jeremy Accardo filled the Dan Wheeler role quite nicely, as he came in after Nick Hagadone gave a leadoff double to Greg Dobbs and allowed Dobbs, Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison all to cross the plate in the first half of the 8th inning.
In the 9th, I had a bit of hope that Heath Bell may let the Indians score some runs. He’s had a lot of trouble so far this season, and was even briefly removed as closer. My friend started a “Razzball” fantasy league, where we try to pick the worst players…Heath Bell is my closer. Even though the Tribe added two runs, it was just too little, too late. (Bell did earn me 11.33 points for that, at least).
It was another day that the offense really seemed to sputter. Yes, the Indians faced some strong pitching this weekend, but sometimes I wonder if that’s always the problem. After all on Thursday, Hector Noesi really seemed to baffle the Tribe’s hitters and he’s had his share of struggles this year. The Indians supposedly have been keeping tabs on Kevin Youkilis’s rehab assignment; since Boston has Adrian Gonzalez at first and Will Middlebrooks at third, there isn’t really a spot for Youkilis once he returns. According to this report on MLB Trade Rumors (which cites Ken Rosenthal) the Indians don’t have the flexibility to take on more payroll at this point. That means that any trade would have to involve more valuable prospects, since a potential trading partner would have to absorb some of a player’s salary.
The Indians can help their cause by finding a way to win against their AL Central foes, the Tigers and the White Sox, this week. It won’t get any easier for the offense as the Tribe faces Detroit’s two toughest starters, Doug Fister and Justin Verlander, and Jake Peavy when they’re in Chicago next weekend. Zach McAllister (vs. Fister), Justin Masterson (vs. Verlander), and Derek Lowe (vs. Peavy) will need to bring their best stuff in anticipation of a low scoring game.