Apologies for my absence yesterday, but I'm back with a double loss in this edition of the Morning Rundown.
August 2nd, 2011
Cleveland Indians - 3
Boston Red Sox - 4
W: Jonathan Papelbon (4-0) L: Joe Smith (2-2)
I guess, in a way, it's reassuring that the Indians lost these past two games the way they did. It does not make it easier to swallow though. Definitely not. It's good to know they can hang with a team like Boston the way they are playing.
But these walk-off losses are soul crushing.
"It is tough, I'm not going to lie," said catcher Lou Marson. "Two tough ballgames the last couple of nights."
For what it is worth though, Manny Acta believes that despite losing ground to the Tigers, that the division isn't getting away from them. Essentially, he'll be worried when the team if the team is every officially out of it, but not right now.
Some people are a little disappointed in the Bullpen Mafia, and that is understandable. They've given it up twice the past few nights. But they've been so dominant up to this point, it's hard to fault them for a couple of losses here and there. It's also hard to fault Joe Smith giving up a solo job to Jacoby Ellsbury to dead center. That is something that has to be earned and he certainly earned it. He's a speed guy, so it almost seems unfair that a kid like that could hit a ball that far.
But it is Ellsbury with a walk-off hit two nights in a row. As Smith would say, good for him.
And good for Carlos Carrasco, who really needed to make a start like the one he did on Wednesday against a really potent offense. Not only for confidence sake, but to show people that they are sending down David Huff, but there's a good reason for it.
"I felt different today," said Carrasco, who will drop his appeal and start a six-game suspension on Thursday, a result of his throwing over the head of the Royals' Billy Butler on Friday. "I felt stronger and more comfortable."
Now the Indians can go without a fifth starter because they have a day off on Monday. Essentially, Carrasco can serve his suspension, and be eligible to return a week from now, Thursday against the Tigers. Masterson, who starts today and Jimenez who starts Friday, can start on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
Acta said that when you play a team like Boston, you have to be playing close to perfect. I don't feel like the Indians played perfect, but still almost won both of the past two games. Carrasco was the biggest thing in that. He wasn't perfect, he gave up nine hits and three walks, but he still put in one heck of an effort.
He pitched into the eighth, coming on to specifically face Youkilis before giving way to Tony Sipp, and really, did what your starter needs to do. Kept his team in the game, very likely, only gives up one run in the first inning instead of two, if Austin Kearns doesn't totally botch that play.
One-pitch pop-outs, horrible defense. Kearns is starting to not do the things you expect a veteran of his caliber to do. He doesn't put up a good at-bat and the defense, oh wow the defense from him last night was atrocious.
It hasn't been brought up in awhile because Acta made it very clear he didn't plan on making any switches with Kearns... But we've got to a point where something has to be done. Fukudome is in the fold, Choo is on his way back, and you play Zeke more than you do Kearns, so are you really going to send Carrera down when Choo is ready?
I would hope not. Things need to change with Kearns. He's not as productive of an option for this club anymore and they need to cut ties. Last night, was the final straw.
Ditch him, forget it.
Looking at the two-lineups. The Red Sox first three hitters are all above .300 and their clean-up and fifth hitter are both .275 and above. Compared to the Indians, it's kind of, odd to look at. The Indians had five hits last night, compared to the 10 Boston racked up. Yet still scored just as many runs.
So, I guess that's good. But the offense, just, couldn't capitalize on their opportunities. The chances came early in the innings, so it was a matter of getting those chances (which there were plenty despite five hits) but not getting it done with less than two outs.
Specifically, in the fourth inning when the Indians scored twice. The Jason Kipnis home run was followed by an Asdrubal single and a Hafner double that scored another run. Then with Hafner on third after the passed ball, Santana struck out, Fukudome grounded out to second (no chance for Hafner) and Chisenhall ended the inning with a groundout.
Next inning, bases loaded, two outs, Asdrubal flies out. Six inning, Hafner walks, but gets thrown out at second trying to advance on a ball that got away from Saltalamacchia.
And if not for a two-out double by Zeke Carrera (who Wakefield said he made his only mistake to) in the seventh, the game isn't even tied. So it's hard to blame the offense when they were not directly responsible for the loss, but they didn't contribute in their opportunities.
Kipnis sure did. He was on base two times via the walk and of course, hit his fourth home run in as many games. The first Indians since Hafner in 2006 to homer four straight and first rookie since Al Rosen in 1950 to do it.
"It's nothing I could have predicted," Kipnis said of his streak. "It's nothing I could have guessed would happen, but I'm trying to come down on the ball more and take better swings."
It's really good to see someone like him settling in like that, especially doing it in the two hole. And it's nothing reactionary either on the part of Acta. In fact, it's almost as if Kipnis is reacting to being placed there by going on this run. It isn't just the home runs either, it's the patience to get two walks.
The Kip Show people... The Kip Show...
Back-to-back nights now two Indians relievers surrendered their first home runs of the season. Rafael Perez two nights ago to immediately give away the lead and Joe Smith last night to Ellsbury for the win. Incredible that they've gone this long without surrendering home runs and just now on back-to-back nights they get touched up.
I do have to wonder why Joe Smith was facing the left-handed in that situation, but whatever. Smith has been very good against left-handers this year, just four hits in 44 at-bats, but in that situation, you have to wonder.
The Indians had eight runners reach safely and Rookies (Carrera, Kipnis, Chisenhall) made up five of those. Yeeeeeikes.
The Lou Marson novelty is wearing off.
Anyone want to explain the Joe Maddon glasses that Manny Acta has been wearing lately? He looks very much like he's copying Maddon.
Uh, Indians are .500 right now. Don't know if you noticed that. Gotta make sure you don't fall below that. Erik Bedard on the mound, first start as a Sox, stopper on the mound for the Indians. Better get at it and get a split out of this. Which is good, but when you could have easily won these past two games, a little disappointing. At least the White Sox keep losing, the Tigs, not so much.
He has arrived! Ubaldo Jimenez arrived in Boston to meet up with his new team and with that, the media got their first crack at the new Indians starter. He also threw a small session for Tim Belcher in the bullpen. Jimenez is ready to go.
"I'm excited for any situation," Jimenez said. "It doesn't matter if I have to be a teacher or a student. And there's a lot of things that I'll share with my teammates, but at the same time, I want to learn, too. I'm still a student. I have to be a student."
Jimenez was well aware he was traded and reiterated the shock he had in regards to him actually starting that game Saturday. Clearly, a mulligan. He said he couldn't stay focused and he knew he was no longer a Rockie, and his start was essentially meaningless, so could you blame him?
And seriously, it's something that I believe I brought up, but Tim Belcher, voice of reason on the velocity issue.
"When you go down from 98 to 95, it's not real worrisome," Belcher said. "And I'm not even sure it's gone down that much. I talked to his [former] pitching coach, Bob Apodaca in Colorado, and he said last year, the whole year, he averaged 96. That's setting the bar pretty high. So if it's down a little bit and he's throwing 93 to 95, c'mon. You're splitting hairs, really."
Jimenez went on to say that he's familiar with many of the Dominican players on the team, knowing the likes of Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez, and Carlos Santana. You have to imagine that Santana will catch him in his first game, but never put anything past Manny Acta. Who actually knows Jimenez well and had managed him in Winter Ball before. It's good he has a rotation mate though like Carmona who he can buddy with.
One thing that struck me as absurd as I watched the presser was the thought Paul Hoynes had to ask Jimenez about that 2014 option and if he knew what he'd do about it. Really? Really Paul? I mean, there's some questions as a journalist you have to ask, even though you know the answer to. But that's a question you know the answer to, but makes absolutely no sense to ask.
Because yeah, Ubaldo really does know by now what he's going to do two years from now.
Argahgshgasbflahshootmeintheface. Welcome to Cleveland Ubaldo, well, at least the Indians. We'll let the mania rest until Friday.
Carrying on the theme of introducing some of the other lesser-known prospects since the Jimenez deal went down, every day we'll learn a little more about one of the prospects in the Indians system.
Currently injured, but still very much young, Giovanni Soto could be one of those guys that could make the trade of Pomeranz and White that much easier. Soto has spent the season with Kinston and although he is 4-4 with just 11 games started, he has some really good stuff. To boot, he's a left-hander and after coming over from Detroit in the Jhonny Peralta trade last year, he struck out 31 hitters in 31 innings for the Captains. That added on to his 107 total last year.
Again, he's got injury issues this year, but still was putting up good numbers at High-A Kinston before that. Definitely someone to look forward to as he rises up through the ranks at his young age.
A big reason for Austin Kearns playing, okay the only real reason last night, was due to the wrist injury that has been hampering Michael Brantley. Unbeknownst to us, Brantley has been, according to Acta, "toughing it out" in regards to a sore right wrist.
Like Acta said in regards to him playing through it, it's great that he has, but you can't risk further injury and losing your entire outfield. Brantley will miss today's game at least and could be out for another week or so.
The good news is, the good news with Shin-Soo Choo keeps getting better. Choo took swings in the batting cages and Acta came away sounding like Choo could be back really really soon. Batting practice is next today and from there on out, rehab probably is close to follow.
"I can't believe how quick of a healer this guy is," Acta said. "He seems a lot closer than we would expect at this point by the way I saw him swing the bat, so that's good news to us."
What if he's back next week? How great would that be? It also could end the Austin Kearns era, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
As mentioned, the Indians optioned David Huff to Columbus. The team will not go with a six man rotation and also as mentioned, the Indians can go with four guys in the rotation until Carrasco comes back. They'll work it out quite perfectly actually.
Also of note... Travis Buck cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Columbus. I think Buck is a good guy and he certainly hits when he's down with the Clippers, so why not?
[RAFAEL PEREZ TWEET WATCH]
Today, your Indians Minor League Tweet of the Day. Brought to you by Cole Cook, who teaches us about the manket.
Is it just me or is Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" about 2 steps away wearing the dudes skin as a manket? (that's a man blanket)
I've started tweeting at Rafael Perez, seeing if it will coax him into saying things. You should all do the same. It would be worth it to break the streak.
Days Without a Tweet: 72
You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where swears off tweeting about Austin Kearns. You can also read more Morning Rundown and other features at his blog, The Tribe Daily.