The Indians were able to score just two earned runs on 7 hits against a team that is 27th out of 30 in ERA, and has allowed the most walks of any team in baseball. The White Sox are 25th out of 30 in opponents’ batting average, are number 4 in earned runs allowed, and are 26th out of 30 in opponents’ OPS. Basically, they’re in the bottom five of almost every pitching category, yet they still managed to hold the Indians to just 7 hits and one walk. And while every team has a bad night at the plate every now and again, it’s frustrating to see the Indians shut down by a staff that the rest of baseball seems to clobber. Instead of dominating the White Sox, like last year, the south siders seem to have their number. Despite my frustration over the lack of Indians’ offense, this game could have been much worse than 3-2.
Corey Kluber struggled some today, the second straight outing where he looked more like a regular human pitcher than a pitching robot. The fact that Kluber and the bullpen escaped with just three earned runs allowed seemed almost Houdini-like. Take for example, Adam Dunn‘s RBI double in the bottom of the third. Kluber hung a pitch in the dead center of the strike zone; it could have easily been a two-run home run. Instead, the Indians made it out of the inning allowing just 2 ER.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kluber and the bullpen averted a disaster. Carlos Sanchez started the inning with a single, followed by an Adam Eaton ground rule double. That was the first lucky break – Eaton probably would have managed his second triple of the game, and Sanchez would have scored. The next batter, Alexei Ramirez, grounded into a fielder’s choice to third base. Chisenhall threw home and they managed to get Sanchez out by a mile. Out comes Chicago manager Robin Ventura from the dugout to argue that Roberto Perez had blocked the plate. The umpires actually decided to review the play (it wasn’t a manager challenge) and upheld the out call at home. It was one of the dumber replays I’d seen reviewed so far this year. It seemed more an attempt by Ventura to ice Kluber, who was already over 100 pitches, than it did a legitimate complaint about the play. Much like Buck Showalter did against Kluber a week and a half ago when the Indians played the Orioles, Ventura found a way to stall and attempt to throw off Kluber’s rhythm. The whole ordeal took so long, Terry Francona asked if Kluber could have a couple of warm-up tosses; the umpires declined the request. Even though it’s not like the very next pitch dealt the go-ahead blow, it was the very next batter, Jose Abreu, that singled home the go-ahead run. Kluber exited after that at-bat and handed the game over to Marc Rzepczynski. When Adam Dunn grounded into a fielder’s choice at third, Lonnie Chisenhall went home for the second time that inning, and Alexei Ramirez was gunned down at home for the second out. Even though Perez did not appear to be in a dramatically different position at home plate during the Ramirez play, compared to the Sanchez play, Ventura did not come out of the dugout to complain about potential interference. Either he realized his complaint would go nowhere, or he saw no need to try and mess with Rzepczynski’s rhythm. CC Lee entered and got Avisail Garcia to strike out to end the inning, and the threat. Even though the White Sox scored a run and went up 3-2, that inning could have been much worse without their base running blunders.
Overall, I’m not too displeased by the pitching performances. Kluber battled on a night that he did not seem to have his best stuff, and hung in there until the bottom of the seventh inning, allowing just 3 ER. Rzepczynski, Lee, and Kyle Crockett combined allowed just 1 hit and 0 ER. The offense, on the other hand, was rather frustrating. When the Indians last saw Chicago pitcher Hector Noesi on July 11, the Tribe scored 6 ER on 7 hits in 4.2 IP. While he did shut them down earlier in the year, it seemed as if they’d figured him out after their July performance. Michael Bourn and Roberto Perez both got two hits against Noesi, and they were involved in the Indians scoring their first run in the top of the third. The only other run they scored came from a Lonnie Chisenhall solo homer in the top of the seventh inning. The Tribe’s most positive opportunity for a rally came in the top of the sixth inning. Perez reached on a bunt single, while Bourn hit a shallow hit to center, which left runners on first and second with nobody out. Could they finally have Noesi on the ropes? After Jose Ramirez sacrificed Perez and Bourn to second and third, Michael Brantley flied out and Carlos Santana grounded out to end the inning. Even though Ramirez was 1 for 6 in the series so far (at the time of the sacrifice), he’s coming off a great series against Houston last weekend. I would have rather seen him swing away, than go with the sacrifice. However, if he would have grounded into a double play, I guess I’d be complaining now about how I wish he would have sacrificed the runners over.
Jason Kipnis (0 for 3 at that point) singled in the ninth inning, and Zach Walters was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with two outs…but it was too little, too late. One of the last people I wanted to see come to the plate at that point was Chris Dickerson, and he did not surprise me…he flew out to end the game. An additional dig that inning – Zach Putnam securing the final out for the White Sox. Putnam was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft by the Indians; they traded him during the 2012 offseason to the Colorado Rockies for Kevin Slowey. To be fair, both the Rockies and Cubs passed on him before he ended up with the White Sox, but Putnam has been one of the most reliable pitchers for them this season, on a staff full of inconsistency. I complain about the Indians’ inability to draft during much of the 2000s, but I have to give credit where it’s due – the Indians have usually done a good job of identifying and drafting bullpen arms. Putnam could have been another feather in their cap, in that regard.
The Indians try to win the series tomorrow as Carlos Carrasco takes the mound against John Danks. They need to enter a difficult series against the Kansas City Royals this weekend on a high note; the Royals just can’t seem to lose. I guess it could be worse – they could have given up the farm to acquire David Price, only to watch him give up 8 ER tonight against the Yankees.