Danny Salazar experiences some discomfort after he his hit by a line drive off the bat of Hanley Ramirez in the first inning of Sunday’s game.
With the Indians offense this season it often seems to be all or nothing. They’ve scored 5 or more runs 19 times this season, and 2 or fewer runs 11 times this season. Unfortunately for them, 2 of those 11 times came this weekend in Boston, against a team that averages 5.8 runs per game. This one could’ve been much worse than its 5-2 final score, as Indians pitchers danced their way out of serious trouble in multiple innings (stranding 12 Boston runners on base in the process). In the early innings, the Indians had opportunities as well; Rick Porcello had some major command issues and was already up to 50+ pitches by the second inning. However, they blew most of those opportunities, going just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Overall, the Indians haven’t been as dreadful with runners in scoring position as they were in 2015; coming into today’s game, they were hitting .268/.340/.437 with RISP. Over the course of this weekend, the Tribe collectively hit .167 against the Red Sox. It seems like Indians hitters have been striking out an awful lot this year (they struck out 9 times today) but the’re currently 12th in team strikeouts across MLB with 341. Three of those strikeouts today belonged to Mike Napoli, whose batting line is down to .220/.287/.420. What concerns me about those numbers isn’t the strikeouts, or even the low average; it’s the on-base percentage. Napoli always has a very high OBP, his career average is .353. Even during some of his rougher seasons, it never dipped below .300.
Like with Yan Gomes’s struggles, I’m not sure what the answer is for Napoli. Perhaps they should drop him out of the cleanup spot though, because his performance this weekend killed any potential rallies. For example, in the first inning on Sunday he came to the plate with just one out and runners on first and third. A fly ball gives the Indians a 1-0 lead, but instead Napoli struck out. Napoli has always had fairly high strikeout numbers, but at least he made up for that with a relatively high number of walks. That is something he is not doing so far this year. The problem of moving Napoli out of the clean-up spot is that you don’t really have anyone else to take his place. We just have to hope that he is able to turn this around.
Danny Salazar got knocked around a bit on the mound, at one point literally – Hanley Ramirez hit a sharp single that ricocheted off of Salazar’s leg in the first inning. He seemed to be in a reasonable amount of pain, but managed to stay in the game and minimize further damage. While the pitching performances were less than satisfactory yesterday and today, I’m more inclined to cut them some slack. Boston leads the majors in runs-scored (251), hits (452), doubles (111), RBI (240), team batting average (.295), and OPS (.843). They have one player in the midst of a now 27-game hitting streak (Jackie Bradley, Jr.), and another in the midst of a now 16-game hitting streak (Xander Bogaerts). They’re going to get a lot of hits and score a lot of runs, especially at home. They’re almost impossible to shut down, but they do have some Achilles heels where their starting pitching is concerned – that’s where you needed to get to them.
Just for fun, here’s the Indians’s offensive stats in those same categories – runs scored (191- 9th in MLB), hits (351 – 18th in MLB), doubles (74 – 9th in MLB), RBI (184 – 9th in MLB), team batting average (.254 – 12th in MLB), and OPS (.723 – 15th in MLB). Definitely not as good as Boston, but they have been able to attack weak pitching at times this season, as they did with Cincinnati.
The Indians head to Chicago tomorrow for a doubleheader against the White Sox. Mike Clevinger will square off against Mat Latos in game 1 (and Latos has started to struggle recently, as many expected) while Cody Anderson will face Erik Johnson in game 2. I got cranky when I noticed the Anderson start, and said that perhaps they should just forfeit game 2 instead. However, Johnson has only pitched 5 innings at the major league level this season, giving up 4 ER against Boston on May 5. He had more respectable numbers last season in the majors, but he’s never faced the Indians. I almost preferred to see the Tribe give the ball to Ryan Merritt, who is having a good season in Columbus so far. However, after calling up Clevinger, perhaps they didn’t want to rush anyone else to the majors.