It seems like the Indians always struggle against unknown lefties. Tonight’s Twins starter, Kris Johnson, was recalled just ten days ago, entering the game with a 5.79 ERA and three Major League starts to his name. He is less than three months shy of his 30th birthday, yet he has never won a Major League game. You’d be hard pressed to find a more unknown southpaw to toe the rubber against the Tribe. Ron Gardenhire took advantage of this unusual team-wide struggle, riding southpaws for 7 2/3 innings of a close win.
Terry Francona must have written his lineup card blindly when it came to outfielders as Nick Swisher got his first action in right and Mike Aviles made his first career start in center. Aviles has played over 11,000 innings in his career, only two of which had come in centerfield. With Michael Bourn on the disabled list, Michael Brantley needing a day off, and Chris Dickerson not starting because…no one knows, Francona decided to write 8 next to Aviles’s name in the lineup card. Aviles did not look like a centerfielder, but he made an impressive over the shoulder catch in the first inning to rob Trevor Plouffe of extra bases. That was the only catch Aviles would make in center, as he was replaced by Dickerson in the third inning when Asdrubal Cabrera exited the game due to back spasms.
If I had one word to describe tonight’s outing by T.J. House, I’d probably use “meh.” House’s low arm slot got him in trouble tonight as he allowed three runs on six hits, but he was able to get out of a few jams during the game to limit the damage further. On thin ice for most of his outing, House was able to power through five “meh” innings before letting the bullpen take over. He allowed a 2-RBI double to Kurt Suzuki in the 2nd and a Trevor Plouffe RBI double in the 3rd before settling down for two more innings.
Johnson held the Indians to just two runs in five innings pitched, on a Chris Dickerson pinch hit RBI single in the 3rd and a Yan Gomes RBI double in the 5th. He was replaced by fellow lefty Caleb Thielbar for 1 2/3 shutout innings and the Indians could not touch him.
In-game note: 17 of the Tribe’s 24 runs on current road trip have come in the 7th inning-or-later; don’t give up on this group
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 22, 2014
Unfortunately, this team needed 26 runs on the road trip to topple the Twins tonight in Minnesota. Bryan Shaw entered the 8th inning and hung a pitch to Josh Willingham. The slugger blasted Shaw’s mistake over the wall in left for his 9th homer of the year. Lefty Glen Perkins mystified the Indians en route to a 1-2-3 save. I don’t think fatigue is to blame because the Indians had four days off last week for the All-Star Break.
On the season, the Indians are hitting .261 against righties compared to just .245 against lefties. The team OPS against southpaws is 75 points worse, a significant difference that makes the Kris Johnsons of the world look more like Randy Johnson. That needs to change if the Indians want to make a playoff push.