Prior to tonight’s game, Jason Kipnis had not homered since June 17 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. When he led off the ballgame with a home run that banked off the foul pole, it seemed like maybe things would be different tonight for both he and the Indians. For much of the season it seemed that as Kipnis goes, so goes the rest of the Tribe. Kipnis has been struggling since the All-Star break, and so has the rest of the team. Not that the Indians’ woes should be solely accredited to Kipnis; these problems could be traced back to most of the players on the 25-man roster. I just mean that when Kipnis has a good game, it seems to spark the rest of the team accordingly. He ended the game by going 2 for 5, and was responsible for two of the Indians’ three RBI. As Kipnis came to the plate with the bases loaded and just one out in the ninth, the Indians down 5-3 to the Mariners, it was his opportunity to shine once again. He could put the team’s bases-loaded woes behind them for just one night with a clutch hit. In what has become true Indians fashion, he grounded into a double play to end the game. Unfortunately, I feel like I saw this scenario coming a mile away. Even my cable box tried to save me the agony of this situation as it shut itself down for scheduled updates in the eighth inning.
A small, diabolical portion of my brain hoped that the Indians tied it up, or went ahead in order to accommodate an appearance by Chris “Kenny Powers” Perez in the bottom of the ninth. After his most recent publicized incident, I was curious to see how he performed in a tight game the Indians had a chance to win. As for the pitchers we actually saw tonight, they weren’t great, but it certainly wasn’t the worst performance Indians fans have seen recently. Ubaldo Jimenez was a bit all over the place and didn’t pitch very well from the stretch, but he did manage to hold the Mariners to three earned runs over 5.2 innings. I think it’s kind of sad when I’m praising a pitcher for only giving up three runs, but unfortunately that’s what it has come to with this team. Joe Smith got into some trouble, and then Tony Sipp threw gasoline on the fire as he gave up the go-ahead home run to Michael Saunders. Before Saunders took him deep, Sipp had been better lately and had lowered his ERA by nearly two points over the past month or two. I have to question why the Indians have let one person do such significant offensive damage over the past two days. Yesterday, the slumping Coco Crisp (.252/.314/.385) went 3 for 5 with 5 RBI. Today, the rather light-hitting Saunders (.243/.295/.395) went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI. I can understand why you may not want to pitch around someone when you’re facing a formidable lineup, but I wouldn’t exactly call Seattle’s lineup “formidable.” A number of guys may have some pop, but only two people in the starting nine tonight even had averages over .250.
The Indians left seven men on base tonight, and were 2 for 6 with runners in scoring position. When they managed to put those two runs on the board through back-to-back singles in the fifth inning, I felt like I’d never seen anything quite like it before. The Indians have gotten so dismal with runners on base, and runners in scoring position, that I’m actually shocked and impressed when they actually manage to get hits in pivotal situations. The Indians’ eight hits were all clustered between five players – Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Ezequiel Carrera each had two hits a piece, while Carlos Santana and Casey Kotchman each had one hit a piece.
It does not get any easier for the Indians as this series progresses. They will face Felix Hernandez tomorrow night, as the Indians counter with Roberto Hernandez. King Felix is coming off a perfect game, while Roberto is coming off a perfect disaster against the Angels. The only player to ever pitch back-to-back no hitters was Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer, who did so on June 11, 1938 and then again on June 15, 1938. Nobody has ever pitched consecutive perfect games, although with the way the Indians’ offense has performed of late you have to wonder if King Felix could at least pull off a no-hitter tomorrow night. Of the six no hitters and perfect games so far in 2012, three of the six have taken place at Safeco Field – Philip Humber with the White Sox on April 21, the combined six-person (Kevin Millwood, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, and Lucas Luetge) no-hitter from the Mariners on June 8, and the perfect game by King Felix on August 15.
In other news:
– You may have heard that Derek Jeter passed Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie (this blog’s namesake) on Monday night to take 12th place on the all-time hits list. An interesting fact that was brought to my attention recently – Lajoie’s total is often listed as 3,252, because that’s the figure provided by MLB’s official statistician, the Elias Bureau. Jeter was officially credited with passing Lajoie when he got hit number 3,253. However, Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com place Lajoie’s career hit total at 3,242, which would mean that Jeter already surpassed Lajoie less than a week ago. SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) relies upon the Pete Palmer database, as does Baseball Reference and the Hall of Fame; as the linked article states it’s considered “the most authoritative set of player statistics available.” In fact, due to a correction in Lajoie’s 1907 stats he has one additional hit, placing him at 3,243. Even though most media sources gave Jeter credit on Monday night for taking the twelfth spot, he actually did so last week.