It was a cold, rainy day in Philadelphia, the kind of day where weather can affect the outcome of the game. Sometimes the weather affects the hitters, sometimes it’s the pitchers, and in the case of the Cleveland Indians today, it was both.
The Philadelphia Phillies were looking to complete a three-game sweep against the Tribe, and sent Vince Velasquez to the mound. Velasquez has been as good as any pitcher in the league to start the season, but hewasn’t sharp at first, walking Jose Ramirez and giving up a hit to Francisco Lindor, but was able to get Jason Kipnis to ground into a double play. Carlos Santana then lined out to first to end the inning. Velasquez allowed at least one baserunner in each of the first three innings, but the Indians weren’t able to really threaten. From there Velasquez cruised to six scoreless innings.
Danny Salazar was equally dominant to start the game. In fact, Salazar was perfect through first two-and-one-thirds innings until Velasquez drew a walk on a very close pitch. Peter Bourjos then got the first hit of the day with a single to right to put runners at first and second with one out.
Rain had started falling, and Salazar seemed to lose a bit of control on his pitches as it picked up. Freddy Galvis singled to drive in Velasquez and score the first run of the game. Salazar then slid off the pitching rubber, causing a balk and making it 2-0 Philadelphia before he finally got out of the inning.
The next inning, the umpires came out at the Phillies’ request and had some drying agent applied to the mound. While many saw this as favoritism towards the home team, the truth is that either Salazar or Terry Francona could have requested the same thing at any time. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but it seems obvious that the Indians should have exercised caution and had the mound treated, even if it did feel okay to Salazar at the time.
Meanwhile the Indians couldn’t buy a run. The Tribe had just eight baserunners the entire game on four hits and four walks, yet struck out nine times. To paint a better picture of how bad the offense was, consider this; Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Santana each reached base twice. The rest of the lineup also reach base just twice. When four-fifths of a lineup doesn’t reach base at all, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to score runs. In other shocking news, grass is green. Santana did get the Indians on the board with a solo home run of Hector Neris in the ninth inning, but it was too little too late, and the Indians fell to the Phillies by a final score of 2-1 for their fifth loss in six games.
This was a tough game to watch. The Indians are going through a rough stretch in which they aren’t getting any breaks and every mistake is costly. Salazar’s balk epitomizes that. Despite this frustrating stretch, or maybe because of it, it’s important to remember that the baseball season is full of streaks. I used to coach high school cross country and track, and one thing a veteran coach once told me that always stuck was that “It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems.” Every team has times where they look great, and every team has stretches where it seems like they’ll never win again. It seems like the latter for the Tribe right now, but the tide will turn. The question is not if, but when that will happen.