To honor Father’s Day, my father, cousin, and cousin’s 5-year-old son made the trek to Cleveland to watch the Indians take on the Pirates. It seemed very fitting; when I was a kid my dad and grandfather would take me to both Pirates and Indians games in the pre-interleague days. Now that you have the opportunity to see them both in one place, it seemed like a great idea to take three generations of our family to see both of them. As I mentioned in a piece at the SweetSpot the other day, I grew up roughly midway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh and tended to follow both teams. Paying attention to both of them in the 1980s and 1990s, you were bound to see some bad baseball from one of them. When the Indians were still terrible, the Pirates were having their run of playoff seasons from 1990-1992. When the Indians had their renaissance in the 1990s, the Pirates were just beginning a 19-year run of futility – 19 straight losing seasons. If you looked at today’s game from the perspective of an Indians fan, it was some pretty bad baseball.
Let’s start with Pedro Alvarez. While I don’t know nearly as much about the Pirates as I do the Indians, I go to PNC Park a few times a year and know a fair amount about them. Alverez pretty much hangs at or just below the Mendoza line for most of the time. Sure, he’s got power…he also loves to strike out. In 193 at-bats, he’s struck out 67 times – that’s 35% of the time. He has 40 hits on the year so far, 12 of which are home runs; that means that more than a quarter of his hits have left the park. You also have to consider the fact that he came into this series with just 8 home runs, meaning that 1/3 of his total home runs this season came in the last two days against the Indians. So I have to ask, why did the Indians continue to pitch to him? You get burned once or twice by him…okay, he’s got some power and it’s bound to happen. To get burned 4 times in 2 days is really just inexcusable as far as I’m concerned. When he hit the double off the wall in his last at-bat today, I seriously thought that one was gone off the bat as well. I had made a joke to my dad about it, right before Esmil Rogers threw the pitch – “watch him groove one to Alvarez with the bases empty and two outs.” Sure enough, Alvarez cranked it and it just didn’t have enough.
I also have to wonder what happens with Jeanmar Gomez moving forward. Yes, there were errors and some of those runs were unearned. At the same time, he just wasn’t making his pitches. Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes your defense lets you down. You need to come back strong and shut the door at that point and Gomez just did not do so. You have to wonder if he may have punched his ticket to Columbus, and that Zach McAllister may get another chance in the rotation. Over his last five starts, Gomez is sporting a 7.92 ERA, while opposing hitters are batting .333. I like Gomez a lot, but he needs to get himself straightened out. The other day, Ryan wrote a bit on Gomez’s recent struggles. Even though he’s had his share of problems recently, he’s far from the only pitcher on the staff to struggle. Overall, the Indians pitching staff ranks 13th out of 14 AL teams in ERA (4.55), ahead of just the Minnesota Twins (5.12). Tribe pitchers are 12th out of 14 in strikeouts (415) and is 2nd in walks allowed (232). Opponents are currently hitting .260 off of Tribe pitchers, which is 11th in the AL – only fellow AL Central foes Kansas City (.261), Detroit (.265), and Minnesota (.284) are behind them.
The Indians have really struggled to score runs over the past week; while 2 runs were enough to get the win with solid pitching on Friday night, it didn’t even come close during yesterday’s 9-2 loss. Even though the Indians managed to put 5 on the board today, they once again let the Pirates get 9. This is a Pirates team that only managed to score at least 9 runs two other times this entire season; the Indians helped them double that total this weekend. One of the biggest troubles for the Indians lately has been their inability to get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position. The Indians stranded 7 today, 5 of them abandoned in scoring position. The Indians had Brad Lincoln on the ropes early in the game, and just couldn’t bust it open. Lincoln was doing a great job for the Pirates as a reliever, but when Charlie Morton went down with an injury (he’ll need Tommy John surgery) the Pirates decided to move Lincoln into the starting rotation. He’s really struggled and it doesn’t seem like he feels very comfortable in his new role. The Indians were up 2-0 in the 3rd when they had runners on 2nd and 3rd when Jack Hannahan grounded out to end the inning. Before that point, Jose Lopez had fouled out to the catcher and Michael Brantley flew out. Brantley’s fly ball at least moved Asdrubal Cabrera to third, and Jason Kipnis later stole second. That still seemed like it had the makings of a big inning, with the first two on with no outs. The Indians had nothing to show for it, and Lincoln was eventually knocked out of the game in the 4th inning.
It was also a pretty awful day for Asdrubal Cabrera. Everyone has their bad days now and again, and the usually sure-handed Cabrera will even mess things up every now and again. His three errors today matched his error total for the year – he had three errors coming into today. In fact, the last time an Indians player had three errors in one game was Andy Marte in 2010. To me, these errors just kind of summed up the day, and even this whole week. The Indians just looked kind of sloppy and unfocused; sometimes that just happens over the course of a long season. That doesn’t make it any easier to watch, however. I think Cabrera’s biggest sin was when he got nailed at second in the 9th inning when he should’ve been safe with a double. With one out in the 9th and the Indians down 4, it’s not necessarily like the game was on the line. It still just seemed like a pretty glaring gaffe when you end up getting tagged out at second because you basically started your home run trot after the ball left the bat. I can forgive the errors, but that one is a more difficult pill to swallow.
Even though there were many dark moments during today’s game, there were a few good things that deserve some recognition. Kipnis, yet again, had a pretty good game today, going 3-5 with a home run. Johnny Damon had a solid day at the plate as well, going 2-4. New pickup Esmil Rogers pitched 2.2 innings, allowing 1 earned run on 2 hits. For someone that was released by the Rockies with an ERA north of 8, he’s been a bit better than I expected so far. All of the other good moments from this one went to the Pirates.
A few extra thoughts:
– Today was the Carlos Santana jersey giveaway, but Santana wasn’t in the lineup.
– There was a guy behind me with a sign that read (I wasn’t able to grab a picture so I’m roughly paraphrasing), “Andrew McCutcheon – why don’t you give up the three rivers and come play on one great lake.” I loved it, even though it will obviously never happen! McCutcheon is a very exciting young player.
– After the drubbing from the Reds last week, I’m a little scared to see them come to town tomorrow. Alvarez can probably pass the torch back to Brandon Phillips and he can take his turn abusing the Tribe’s pitchers once again.