I admit that when the season started, I was worried primarily about the rotation, but I still thought the Indians were in line to win 83 games, I just thought they’d win a lot of 7-6 affairs with the starters going five and the bullpen slamming the door. I never dreamed a month into the year I’d be wondering if the Indians are going to hit enough to avoid an 85 or 86 loss season … but here we are.
After dropping game one of Sunday’s day night doubleheader 9-0, the Indians have now scored three runs or less in 13 of their 21 games and have dropped three in a row. It’s their third such losing streak so far this year. In fact, the Indians have yet to sandwich a loss around two wins, with all 13 of their defeats coming in bunches of three, two, five and now at least three.
They’ve been shut out three times this year (their third shut out last season wasn’t until June 9) , already a quarter of the way to their 2012 total (h/t Stephanie for those depressing stats).
The Indians continue to make the starters work, they had a baserunner in every inning and Jeremy Guthrie was at about 100 pitches in the sixth, but they couldn’t string the hits or walks together, and if they had anything resembling a threat, the offense rolled over and put those thoughts away quickly.
Going into Sunday’s action, the team was batting .247 with runners in scoring position, and had hit into nine double plays with 47 strikeouts in 201 plate appearances with RISP. Despite being in the bottom third in plate appearances with runners in scoring position (partially attributed to the fact they had played only 20 games before Sunday), they were still in the top ten in strikeouts and double plays in those situations. Again, it’s still too early to give these stats too much meaning, but what few opportunities they are cobbling together they aren’t taking advantage of.
Maybe things will get better when Michael Bourn returns and Francona can then drop Kipnis and his .250 on base percentage lower in the order – not that it’s solely Kipnis’ fault, but he can’t keep hitting that high and creating that many outs. I don’t want to go crazy over 21 games, but the longer this goes the more I worry about the offense’s actual ceiling. When the Royals scored twice in the second, I tweeted that it felt much closer to 10-0 than 2-0. And really, once Bourn is back, this is it. These are the guys the Indians are counting on day-in, day-out, minus a Yan Gomes appearance here or there.
Justin Masterson’s line looked ugly (6.1 innings, 7 runs, 9 hits, 4 walks), but he wasn’t quite as bad as that sounds. He missed a lot of bats and piled up 9 strikeouts. He was really done in by two four-pitch, two-out walks in the second and fourth innings to Mike Moustakas, he of the .164 average and .263 OBP, which led to a Jeff Francoeur RBI double and a pair of Jarrod Dyson RBI singles. By the time Alcides Escobar homered and the Royals nickeled and dimed Masterson and Matt Albers for three more in the seventh, the game was already effectively out of reach anyway. Unfortunately, this team needed an A-plus effort from Masterson with the offense stuck in park (neutral would be an improvement).
With Corey Kluber on the hill for game two and Ubaldo set for Monday, I fear the Indians will be looking at a pair of five-game losing streaks before April is over.
I will be back later tonight to recap game two, and you can share the pain with me on Twitter (@mhutton722)