Last Friday, while facing the New York Mets, Indians pitcher Scott Kazmir was solid, going six scoreless innings and allowing only four hits while striking out 12. Today, against the Kansas City Royals, Kazmir was just plain bad. On the first pitch of the game, Kazmir gave up a 400-foot homer to Alex Gordon. The next batter, Emilio Bonifacio, tripled, then scored on Eric Hosmer’s single. After finally retiring the next two Royals hitters, he allowed two more singles, the second of which drove in Hosmer, thus giving the Royals a 3-0 lead before the Indians came up to bat.
Royals starter James Shields was coming off one of the worst outings any major league pitcher ever had in 2013. In his last start, against the Detroit Tigers, Shields went 3 2/3 innings and gave up a staggering 14 hits and 10 runs, all of them earned. Shields looked shaky again today, giving up a leadoff single to Michael Bourn, then hitting Mike Aviles with a pitch. Both runners advanced one base on a groundout, then came around to score on a Michael Brantley single, making the score 3-2 Kansas City after one inning.
So the Indians were right back in the game, no?
No. Shields bore down like a boss after the first inning, and did not give up another hit until the ninth, when Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana both singled. He did make two errors in the third, but pitched his way out of trouble. Shields left the game with a 6-2 lead in the ninth and runners on first and second. Greg Holland took over and struck out Brantley, Yan Gomes, and the pinch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera to end the game.
I know, I know. You can’t believe you just read the words “the pinch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera.” I can’t believe I just typed them, either. But it really happened. You can look it up.
The man Cabrera pinch-hit for was designated hitter Jason Kubel, the player the Indians acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks not quite two weeks ago. While it’s still early yet, I think we can agree that the Jason Kubel experiment hasn’t exactly paid big dividends for the Indians so far. In 18 plate appearances over seven games, Kubel has gotten three hits (two singles, one double) and four walks, while striking out eight times. Kubel has yet to drive in a run while wearing an Indians uniform.
Full disclosure: usually your game recaps here at IPL are written by people who either attended the game or watched it on television. As I had to work today, I did neither of those things, opting instead to keep up via ESPN GameCast. But the box score tells me that the Indians struck out ten times—seven by Shields, and the three to end the game by Holland—while walking only once. That, and the low hit total, gives me the impression that the Tribe wasn’t exactly showing great discipline at the plate today.
An impotent offense is a big part of why the Indians lose games. A lackluster performance by the bullpen is usually another factor, and we got that again today too. Bryan Shaw and Clay Rapada pitched well, but sandwiched between them were Rich Hill and Matt Albers, who did not. Hill now has an ERA of 6.51. Now that the roster has expanded and there are about 15 arms to choose from in the bullpen, why Francona put Hill into a game that was still within reach is something only he can explain.
Pending the outcomes of games to be played later this evening, today’s loss has done the Tribe no favors in the wild card standings. As I write this, the Indians are now behind the Orioles, who are 1.5 games out, and are tied with the Yankees at two games back. The Royals are 2.5 games out.
The Indians concluded their home stand with a 5-4 record. They now go on to Chicago for a four-game series against the White Sox.
Note, updated: many thanks to readers Mark and Jay for pointing out some careless errors in my post. They have been corrected. That is the last time I play go fetch with Brody Baum before writing a blog post!