The last time the Indians won a baseball game, it was July 26 when they knocked off Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. It took them until today, August 8, against the Minnesota Twins to finally win another game and end their 11-game losing streak. While part of me wants to be happy, or at least relieved, I have to shake my head and give a portion of the credit to the Twins’ second baseman, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Due to Nishioka’s sloppy defense, the Indians were able to put four unearned runs on the board. If you take away those four runs, this becomes a 2-2 game in the late innings and Justin Masterson’s two-run, three-hit performance is potentially wasted. Let’s not forget that a number of those 11 losses were surrendered in the late innings, or even extra innings. So while I am thankful, happy, relieved, and a number of other positive emotions, I see where this game could have easily descended into some of the catastrophic losses we’ve seen over the past two weeks.
Let’s look at the positives from this game, because while I have that “dodged a bullet” feeling, there were a number of good things to take away from this. First of all, the solid pitching performance of Justin Masterson. Until Corey Kluber’s start last night, the Indians lacked a quality start during the losing streak, but now they’ve had two in a row. Since Masterson is the “ace” he needed to step forward and end this. The offense certainly deserves its share of blame throughout this streak, but you can’t deny that if any of the starters would have stepped up and provided a “lights out” performance, this dismal streak may have ended sooner. Vinnie Pestano pitched a perfect eighth, and Esmil Rogers gave up one hit in the ninth before retiring Brian Dozier to end the game. On the radio broadcast, Tom Hamilton claimed that Rogers was quite a find for the Indians, who acquired the right-hander from the Colorado Rockies for cash in June. In 23 relief appearances with the Rockies, he was 0-2 with an 8.63 ERA but averaged 10.2 strikeouts per 9 innings. Since coming to the Indians, his ERA is down to 2.76. He’s had some bad moments (like when he took the loss against the Royals on August 2 in the 11th inning), but overall has proved to be a reliable arm out of the bullpen outside of Joe Smith or Vinnie Pestano.
Despite the assist from Nishioka, the offense showed signs of life today as well (although they’ve had some positive moments over the past two weeks). They pounded out 11 hits, and Shin-Soo Choo went 4 for 4 with 2 RBI. In fact, the only starters in the lineup today that did not get hits were Jason Kipnis and Lou Marson, and Kipnis did reach base once on a walk. If you remember, Marson struggled early this year, but worked his way back to have one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s now tailed off again and his numbers sit at .244/.340/.331. Kipnis has also really struggled lately, and his numbers are down to .259/.335/.386. I’m not sure I understand the logic of batting Kipnis in the leadoff spot, unless it’s due to his speed and the fact that Manny Acta was trying to do anything to jump start the team. When you look at everyone in today’s lineup, Kipnis has the fourth lowest on-base percentage in the lineup, ahead of just Shelley Duncan (.319), Casey Kotchman (.291), and Brent Lillibridge (.215). I should also add that Kipnis has not homered since Father’s Day, June 17, when the Indians lost to the Pirates. Despite that fact, he is still tied for third in home runs with Travis Hafner – both have 11 homers. (Shin-Soo Choo is first with 13, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana are tied for second with 12). So basically when you consider the two players tied for third, one has missed significant playing time, and the other hasn’t homered for almost two months. And speaking of Hafner and missing significant playing time, he sat out again today due to his back. It sounds as if more tests are in his future.
I know that I tend to be kind of bitter and sarcastic toward the Indians. There’s a part of me that really wants to drop all of that today and just celebrate the fact that they finally managed to win a freaking ballgame. On the other hand, it’s not like I think we’re really out of the woods yet. It’s like the slight rash of problems we were noticing throughout the season busted open into a giant flesh wound over the prior 11 games. To act like everything is just swell because they won today, to me, would be like trying to put a band-aid over that giant flesh wound. So while we should acknowledge the fact that it feels pretty darn good to win a game and be rid of that terrible streak (at least for now), we should also be prepared for the fact that the next epic failure could be just around the corner.