Jason Kipnis went 5-for-7, but he can’t do it all by himself.
This was one of those days where neither the Indians or the Astros really deserved to win. Indians pitching walked 12, while the offense stranded 10 on base, and went just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. After the Tribe tied the game in the ninth inning, they had chances to go ahead in the 9th and 10th; they left runners stranded at third both times and then only got a runner past first one more time in the game – a Carlos Santana walk pushed Jason Kipnis to second in the top of the 13th. The Astros had a lead going into the 9th and blew the save, and also managed to strand 17 people on base. While Cody Anderson eventually took the loss in this one, I fully blame the offense. Anderson pitched admirably for three innings before giving up a hit to Carlos Correa and a home run to Marwin Gonzalez. Until that point, it seemed like nobody really wanted to win this one.
Let’s zero in on some of the worst offensive performances of the day for the Indians – Rajai Davis went 0-for-7, Francisco Lindor went 0-for-7, and Yan Gomes also went 0-for-7. Every time it seemed like the Indians would have something going, Marlon Byrd (1-for-7) or Yan Gomes would come up and kill any type of rally. For Lindor it was just a bad game and a bad series; everyone has them from time to time, even a great talent like him. I absolutely hate Davis batting lead-off, especially against right handed pitching. While he hasn’t been terrible against righties this year, the Indians are 8-2 in games where Carlos Santana leads off against a right-handed pitcher.
As for Yan Gomes, he’s an absolute mess – he’s now hitting just .158 with a paltry .204 OBP. Gomes literally swung at everything today, it’s like he didn’t realize you were allowed to take pitches. In the top of the 16th, I thought to myself “he’s going to swing at the first pitch and pop it straight up.” Gomes swung at the first pitch all right, but it was about a foot outside so he never even came close to it. He proceeded to strike out on three pitches. I understand that you need Gomes’s defense, and that sometimes you can swallow a bad offensive performance in order to have someone that works well with your pitchers and can throw out runners. But he has become a serious liability in the lineup, and Francona cannot continue to bat him 6th or even 7th at this point.
Some of Gomes’s troubles can be attributed to bad luck; his BABIP is down to .190 at this point. I’m sure frustration eventually begins to impede your performance as well. However, last weekend someone pointed out to me on Twitter that Gomes’s instances of hard contact are down, while soft contact is way up from last year. Last season Gomes was at 27.9% hard contact, while this year it’s at 22.7% (and 2015’s 27.9 rate was down from 2014 where it was 31%). Last year, his soft contact was at 16.6%, the highest total of his career; this year it’s up to 22.7%. So if this was just an issue of bad BABIP/bad luck, I don’t think I’d be that concerned. But the fact that he’s definitely not hitting the ball as hard as he usually does is quite a concern. If there’s an injury here that they’re keeping under wraps, it could at least explain some of this. But if there’s no injury, and this type of performance continues, the Indians are going to have to do something. They can’t give regular at-bats to someone who is hitting well below .200 and whose OBP is barely above .200. The easy answer would be to give Roberto Perez more playing time, but his injury means they can’t even attempt that experiment for a couple of months.
Two of the worst teams in the American League so far this year, the Astros and the Twins, have each managed to take 2 of 3 from the Indians. In 3 of those 4 losses, the Indians lost via a walk-off. While the bullpen deserves more of the blame in the games against the Twins, this loss today is on the offense. The only thing that may have made a difference as far as pitching is concerned, is if Francona left Dan Otero in for a second inning. Otero threw just 10 pitches in the 12th inning, but Francona already went to Anderson in the 13th instead of sending Otero back out. If you delay Anderson’s entrance into the game, that means he’s just seeing Correa and Gonzalez for the first time in the 16th inning, rather than the second. It may have made no difference, but it could’ve prolonged the game and gotten him through the bottom of the 16th unscathed.
However, if the offense never scores, it really doesn’t matter, does it? Someone had to win this one, and after five hours the Astros decided to end everyone’s misery.
Me, circa the 15th inning