While Joe Smith is on the hook for the walk-off defeat, the Indians were really done in by the little things in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Atlanta, long before Chris Johnson’s game winning hit.

Justin Masterson’s inexplicable two-out, second inning walk to pitcher Paul Maholm set up the Braves to score two runs, all Masterson would allow over six challenging innings. Then there was Asdrubal Cabrera’s … well I don’t know what that was in the eighth as I’ve never seen that play before. With one run already in and Kipnis at third, Cabrera was running on a pitch to Michael Brantley, thought the ball had been ruled dead for some reason, stopped and then was caught in a rundown to end the inning. Not only did no umpire signal the play dead, but that’s basic fundamentals: Run until they tell you to stop. We all learned that in little league, so I have no idea what Cabrera was thinking.

Now, it’s not fair to assume the Indians would have scored another run that inning if Cabrera doesn’t get picked off. But it is fair to say that the Indians offense hasn’t been going well enough lately that it could afford to give away crucial outs with the potential go-ahead run at third. And really, against that outstanding Braves pen, no offense could afford such a brain cramp.

Again, the Indians inconsistent bats – save Mike Aviles whose home run and sac fly accounted for both Indians’ runs – let down a reasonable performance from the pitching staff. Masterson’s six innings – allowing five hits and four walks while striking out six – weren’t pretty (someone on Twitter described them as Ubaldoesque) but he dodged and weaved and stayed out of his own way just enough to keep the team in the game. Heck, he even got a hit, which set aflutter the hearts of those who love watching pitchers hit for some reason.

The Indians were also really hurt by their lack of quality left-handed bullpen options because instead of bringing in a lefty to face Freddie Freeman in the ninth, Francona elected to walk him to set up the righty-righty match up with Johnson, who is challenging for the NL batting title.

Hope from small sample size: Some have called this six-game road trip through Atlanta and Detroit season-defining, and it certainly is off to a poor start. But fortunately, the Indians have one of the weakest schedules to end the season – after the Detroit series they play only nine games against teams currently with winning records, and six of those are against the struggling Royals. But if the Indians are serious playoff contenders, they really do need to emerge with a split on this trip.  And that starts with a win Thursday on the shoulders of … gulp … Ubaldo Jimenez.

12 Comments

  • ThatOneguy says:

    6 innings 2 runs. I’ll take that any day from a starter. I love how one off day and people are screaming how awful he is and how much he sucks(Chris Burnhum’s twitter tonight is hilarious. He can’t be serious, right?). Masterson’s stats speak for themselves. He’s a good pitcher. An ace? No, and he’ll be the first to admit that. I’m sure he’d rather be a number 3 guy on a better team. Who wouldn’t? And Burnhum, He “shrinks” in the biggest moments? Tell that to all the 1-0 starts he has.

    Also, it bugs me that people are mad about his remarks after the Detroit game. Better he shake the game off, move on, and prepare for next time then dwell on the mistakes, which leads to making them all over again the next start. He shows his leadership and maturity when he doesn’t cry and moan about a poor performance. I love him because he acknowledges what he did wrong and knows how to fix it.

    To sum it up, I hate Indian fans.

    • Chris Burnham says:

      1. If you’re going to call me out, please do me the courtesy of spelling my name right.

      2. He does shrink in the moment. These are the games that “aces” (or something close to the sort) are supposed to be dependent upon for; and to not WALK PITCHERS. Sure, you can hang your hat on the two shutouts he has, but those were so long ago that they are generally meaningless at this junction of the season. And yes, he gave up two runs; but Masterson is judged by a higher standard than that of what would be considered party time from Jimenez. And that WALK TO THE PITCHER could very well be one of the final stumbling blocks that could potentially end the Indians’ postseason chase.

      You mean to tell me, or anyone, really, that we can’t be at least , moderately upset about that?

      He’s our ace by default. He’s not that guy. Ideally, for a solidly contending team, he’s a two guy. And you’re misconstruing frustration with hate. I don’t hate him, I really like the guy. But up until this point, he always had some cutesy excuse for his inexplicable blowups. Yes, while the bats have been offensively offensive, he finally gave admitted that he crapped the bed. That’s all I wanted. And that’s what he gave us.

      3. I’m a fan. I’ve seen stuff like this way too often. And I don’t need Sunshiners telling me I’m a “bad fan” because I expect more than what they’ve shown.

      • The Doctor says:

        watching masterson pitch, it is baffling to me how he doesn’t give up 6-7 runs every single start. it seems like an opposing manager could instruct his team to never swing the bat until they had 2 strikes and masterson would walk 11 or 12 guys every game.

    • shaun says:

      hate indian fans or indians fans? ;)

      and btw, just stfu. you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. stats are irrelevant when it comes to certain situations. don’t tell me that a BB is the same with no outs to miggy versus 2 outs to a pitcher. stats are okay if you don’t watch the games.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Well, there is always the tendency to overreact to a bad loss, and I’m as guilty as anyone. But I really get the sense that this is it and will put a stop to the ridiculous playoff talk. The team just cannot deliver in meaningful games when the pressure is on. They could not afford to pull yet another disappearing act at a critical juncture, and that’s what they are doing on this road trip. Beating all those Cy Young winners seems like a lifetime ago, because this offense can’t hit anybody and hasn’t for a very long time. They’ve hit .226 and scored only 82 runs as a team this entire month. What’s more, the performance of Reynolds, Myers, Swisher and Bourn this year doesn’t make much of a case for the Dolans to spend more money on free agents again next year. These guys bombed.

  • DaveR says:

    A couple things… The Braves are the best team in the league, the Indians are not even close, maybe a fringe contender. So losing this series is tough but understandable. To say these losses end the Indians playoff chances in not true. They have 20ish favorable games.

    Then, terrible pitching decisions at the end. 2 outs, ice cold Uggla up, bring in Smith (Uggla 4-8 vs)? If they get the out there and they have the bottom of the lineup in the 9th. Luckily the Indians escape. But to leave Smith in for the 9th then walk the 0-3 Freeman? Huh?

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Yes, they will be mathematically in the playoff race for some time yet. But if recent performance is a predictor of future performance, do you really see a 17-7 finish on the horizon?

    • Swift says:

      I don’t (see a 17-7 finish). I have no complaints about the pitching… I think I heard the staff ERA since early July is like 2.50. In the AL that should get you a heck of a lot of wins. But the offense has been… offensive.

    • Cale Tesch says:

      Funny, I was actually looking at the numbers last night. Say the Indians can pull out the game in Atlanta tonight, and then realistically they can go 3-3 in the next 6 against Detroit and Baltimore. That will put them at 75 wins.

      TB and Oak both have 75 wins right now with 30 or 31 games left. Best case, they play .500 ball the rest of the way, that will give them 90 wins. The Indians would need to go 15-8 during the soft schedule (.650 win %). That basically means win every series. If TB and Oak play at the same pace they are now, they’ll get up closer to 92 wins (it took 93 wins to get a wild card last year), which would require a 17-6 record (.750%). Even with the soft schedule, that’s probably asking too much.

  • Andy says:

    My problem with Masterson (whom I really like) is that he sometimes just randomly loses control and seems incapable of throwing something straight for a strike, thus we get things like walks to the pitcher and what not. He really needs a flat 4 seam fastball that he knows he can hit the zone with every time (at mid-90s you can actually get guys out now with that, which wasn’t the case 5-6 years ago in the PED era).

    Having said that, our offense is terrible. Asdrubal seems to find new ways each game to hurt the team on offense and we have a bunch of well-below league average guys on our roster. It is kind of sad when you have the #14 and #18 guys in all of MLB in OPS (Kipnis and Santana) and yet still cannot score.

  • The Doctor says:

    it is truly impressive how many different ways cabrera has sabotaged us this season. i don’t even care about his trade value any more, i just want him off this team. he is unbearable to watch.

  • Tuck11 says:

    It is frustrating. As a fan it’s not fun to see some of the stuff mentioned. Things that cost the Tribe wins. While the chances of a wildcard birth are slim I think they’ll hang around if the starting pitching and the bullpen continue to have success. They give themselves a chance to win every game when the pitching is good. As for Masterson, too many players and media members continually refer to him as the “ace” when he’s really not. I think it’s a shame that title is hung around his neck.