While many of us are attending cookouts or just simply enjoying a Monday off thanks to a day to remember the sacrifices of the phenomenal men and women who have admirably served our country in the armed forces, the Indians gave us a weekend set in Chicago that was anything but memorable. After sweeping the Tigers, the Indians got a taste of their own medicine on the South Side.
May 25, 2012
Cleveland Indians 3
Chicago White Sox 9
W: Jose Quintana (1-0); L: Jeanmar Gomez (3-3)
May 26, 2012
Cleveland Browns 7
Chicago Bears 14
W: Jake Peavy (6-1); L: Derek Lowe (6-3)
May 27, 2012
Cleveland Indians 6
Chicago White Sox 12
W: Gavin Floyd (4-5); L: Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4)
Amazingly, the series looked even worse to watch than the final scores look. The Indians offense, missing three extremely key components, Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring), Carlos Santana (seven-day concussion DL), and Travis Hafner (nagging leg/knee injuries) held its own, but pitching and defense, the recipe for success, were nowhere to be found. There a term that gets used in sports, often by bettors, known as a "letdown spot". Generally, these happen the most in college football, where you have teams full of 18-23 year olds who occasionally struggle to put forth a consistent effort. The textbook "letdown spot" setup came this weekend. The Indians had just swept their hated rival Detroit Tigers at home in front of loud, raucous crowds. In all honesty, the Indians got a bit lucky as Detroit left 30 men on base in three games and was one hit away from making any one of those games look drastically different. Anyway, the Indians went to Chicago to play an inferior opponent (yes, I feel like the White Sox are inferior, though maybe not with our current injuries) with a post-Detroit hangover and some overconfidence.
They got brought back to Earth in a hurry.
There are going to be series like this throughout the year. They'll turn playoff talk into questions of if we can actually go .500. No team is immune to stretches where they just play bad baseball. Some teams have a bigger margin for error than others. The Indians, with starters who strike out very few hitters and three big injuries, had no margin for error this weekend. It showed.
Jeanmar Gomez has given up 21 earned runs this season. Fourteen of them have come in two starts against the White Sox. If you take away those two starts, Gomez has an ERA of 1.77. Instead, with 14 ER in 12.1 IP in those two starts, Gomez has a 3.94 ERA. Even with those two starts, however, a 3.94 ERA from the guy who is supposed to be your fifth starter is phenomenal. Eight of Gomez's 17 walks have come in those two starts. Derek Lowe got tagged for eight runs in 2.1 innings, raising his ERA 1.1 runs in one start. Ubaldo Jimenez was the same pitcher we've come to know and despise.
A few plays really stick out from this past weekend set and rather than give you the blow-by-blow of the worst series of the season, I'll just throw the cliff notes version at you.
The first has to be Paul Konerko's go-ahead three-run homer on Sunday. The deeper the at bat went, the more you expected Konerko to send one to the bleachers. Jimenez held his own, throwing 93-95 mph fastballs up above the letters that Konerko was clearly late on and fouling them off down the right side. In the at bat, which you can see here thanks to Pitch F/X, Jimenez threw eight pitches. If you look at the graphic, not one pitch was on the inner half of the plate. Either Jimenez was scared to come inside on Konerko or couldn't command the ball to the inner half of the plate. The end result, as you know, was a hanging slider that effectively removed the Indians from the game.
Good hitters have to be shown fastballs in, under the hands. Sometimes a hitter will get jammed and flare a single, but, more often than not, they won't make solid contact and make easy outs. Big hitters like Konerko, who use the whole field and like to extend their arms to get swinging room, can't hang out over the plate expecting everything away. Jimenez should know that. Apparently, he doesn't. It's bad enough when your stuff is failing you and your command is erratic. It's even worse when you forget how to attack hitters. The guy may be beyond repair at this point.
Another play that stands out in my mind is Jason Kipnis's first two-run homer on Saturday. It was a glorified pop up that just kept carrying. The White Sox are built for their ballpark. A lot of power hitting right handed bats that thrive in the friendly confines of US Cellular Field. Kipnis's HR was just a sign of things to come as the weather continues to warm up. That was a lazy fly ball in most ballparks. In Chicago, it cleared the fence. It got the Indians back in the game and was a good sign for Kipnis who had really been struggling of late. He added a no doubter later in the game, providing further evidence that he loves to hit in his hometown.
This one isn't a singular play, but a growing trend. Jairo Asencio and Jeremy Accardo are mop-up guys. They're here to eat innings and protect the main guys in the bullpen. That said, there is also an expectation of them to keep games close and prevent them from becoming routs. Asencio, and The Dan Wheeler Experience, have done the complete opposite. While Asencio has given up runs in just one-third of his 18 outings, he's given up two or more runs in all six of those games. We have seen sixth and seventh guys in the opposition's bullpen shut us down with ease while ours have really hurt the team when they've appeared in a game. That's a problem, especially because we're heading into the dog days of summer where starters are going to tire quicker and have to have their workloads monitored.
Overall, this is just a series to forget. The Tribe still left the South Side with the lead in the Central Division, while unfortunately giving Detroit back all three games that they got from them earlier in the week. The Indians are tired. They've had one off day this month and have played 27 games in 27 days, with three more to go before getting the final day of May off. It's a brutal stretch for a team that hasn't had the luxury of giving days off. So far, the Tribe has played 47 games. Jason Kipnis has played all of them, Brantley has played 44, Santana 43, Kotchman and Choo 41, and Hafner and Cabrera 39. Cabrera missed a week due to the death of his grandfather, so he hasn't really had "off days". Many of those guys have played all but one or two of the last 27 games. They're tired. They have to battle through it, but the body can only take so much, especially after April had so many off days that it was hard for the players to get into a rhythm.
All in all, unless the Indians get swept by the Royals, they will be above .500 for a pretty grueling month. They're currently at 15-12 and have dealt with some adversity. Even with how bad this past series was, they're still in decent shape in the Central. They just have to get healthy.
Much like I gave respect to Justin Verlander, Paul Konerko deserves some respect as well. Guy has been an Indian killer for much of his career, but he's a borderline Hall of Famer having a ridiculous year. By tattooing Indians pitching all weekend, Konerko raised his average to .399 and has a legitimate shot to finish May batting over .400. He's hitting .415 in the month. He just goes about his business. Konerko could have asked to leave when the White Sox had all kinds of coaching and front office issues and started a pseudo-rebuild losing Buehrle to free agency and trading Carlos Quentin. Instead, Konerko stayed and he has been a huge part of the White Sox offense this season. He even agreed to have part of his 2013 salary deferred to help the team. Again, like Verlander, hate him if you want, but you have to respect the kind of player he is.
Congratulations are in order for Juan Diaz for picking up his first Major League hit on Sunday. Diaz, playing in place of the injured Asdrubal Cabrera, has put up some decent at bats but has looked lost in the field. The speed of the Major League game takes some adjusting and Diaz certainly underestimated the difference. He's very big for a shortstop, standing 6'4" and it'll be interesting to see if that poses any sort of problem for him at this level.
Johnny Damon hit a home run on Sunday. The world momentarily stopped. I (half) jokingly Tweeted that I had to go out and stock up on bottled water, canned goods, and materials to reinforce my basement walls. Again, I was only half joking.
Curious to see how a sweep happens? It starts with a team ERA of 10.33 and the starting rotation posting a 15.75 ERA.
Tony Sipp gave up four more runs in 2.2 innings to bump his ERA to 6.62. The Indians haven't said much publicly, but they have to be worried about Sipp. With Rafael Perez's arm hanging by a thread and Nick Hagadone an unproven commodity, Sipp is a problem.
Lou Marson is on a three-game hitting streak. Repeat that until you believe it.
Shelley Duncan stole a base in the series opener. No, I'm not kidding.
The three RBI Johnny Damon drove in on his three-run HR on Sunday were the first runs he's driven in since May 4, a span of 18 games played.
The White Sox tripled three times in the series. The Indians have seven triples for the season.
AAA: Lonnie Chisenhall was reportedly pulled from Sunday's Clippers game, leading to rumors that he was being called up. The Indians will have roster moves to make because Josh Tomlin needs to be activated from the DL. As for the Clippers, they've won three straight to take a four-game series from Syracuse, scoring nine runs in each victory. Jared Goedert homered on Friday and Saturday to extend his games with a home run streak to four before taking an 0-for-5 on Sunday. If Chisenhall does get the call, he's swinging a hot bat, going 13-for-38 over his last 10 games.
AA: The Akron Aeros lost back-to-back 7-3 decisions to the Erie Seawolves on Friday and Saturday before being rained out on Sunday. They'll play a doubleheader on Monday in Erie. The important thing for the Indians, and the Aeros, is that Bryce Stowell made his second appearance since returning from the DL and had no issues.
High-A: The Carolina Mudcats got swept in a weekend set by Winston-Salem, losing 7-5 twice and 8-3 in the series finale. Despite the ugly series, Jeremie Tice continued his solid season, collecting five hits and a home run over the weekend.
Low-A: The Lake County Captains won on Friday to take a series from West Michigan and then split the first two games against the Lansing Lugnuts. Lakewood, OH product Alex Lavisky is batting .323 over his last 10 games, while star prospect Francisco Lindor has gone into a funk, with just eight hits in his last 42 trips to the plate.
The Tigers swept the hapless Minnesota Twins at Target Field this weekend, getting back all three games in the standings that they lost when the Indians swept them. The scariest part about that is that none of the three games were started by Justin Verlander or Doug Fister. Both guys will pitch against the Red Sox at Fenway this week.
And finally, today, another mention to the great men and women who are serving or have served our country in the armed forces. Some of them paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to continue living the lifestyle that we are accustomed to. We cannot thank you enough for what you have given to our country and, as you pound down that hot dog and wash it down with a nice cold beer, take a moment to think of those still serving abroad who would love to be home with their families and friends this holiday weekend.
-I'm pinch hitting for Nino Colla this week, but you can find my weekly Saturday column, View from the Porch, right here at TheClevelandFan.com.