Southpaws Stall Tribe Offense Again; Astros 7, Indians 1
By Mike Brandyberry
When the Indians embarked on a ten game road trip Friday, the key to a successful trip would lie in getting off to a good start against the lowly Houston Astros. The road just got a lot longer and bumpier.
Derek Lowe pitched well enough to win today, but received little help from the Tribe offense or his bullpen. The Indians lost 7-1 to the Astros, losing the game and the first series on the road trip. They were stifled by another left-handed starting pitcher, dropping the team’s record to 5-15 when southpaws don the hill against the Wahoos.
The Indians jumped on top early when Jose Lopez lead off the second inning with a double to the left center field gap. Michael Brantley grounded to the right side to move Lopez to third and he scored on a wild pitch while Shelley Duncan was at the plate. The Tribe had a chance to score some more when Duncan walked and Casey Kotchman singled to left field, but Lou Marson flew out to center and Lowe grounded to third to end the inning with the Tribe on top, 1-0.
Houston would even the score in the fourth inning with some two-out thunder. Lowe had not allowed a hit to the first eleven hitters, but with two out in the fourth Carlos Lee singled to right field. Brian Bogusevic followed with single to right field to advance Lee to second base. With a full count, and the runners moving, Chris Johnson hit a ball off the end of the bat to center field in front of Brantley to score Lee and tie the game at one run a piece.
Cleveland tried to answer right back when Kotchman reached via an infield hit to lead off the fifth inning. Marson struck out looking before Lowe dropped a perfect bunt down the first base line for a hit. With runners on first and second, with one out, it looked like a prime scoring opportunity. However, Shin-Soo Choo struck out and Asdrubal hit a long fly ball to left field that was caught for the final out of the inning.
The Astros would take the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Jed Lowrie doubled to right field with one out. Lee, who destroyed Indian pitching all weekend, singled to center field to score Lowrie and give the Astros a 2-1 lead. Bogusevic grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Lowe would return to the mound to start the seventh inning, but the Astros would tack on to their lead. Chris Johnson singled to center field to start the inning, then with the hit and run on, Jason Castro singled to left field to put runners on the corners with no one out. Lowe would induce J.D. Martinez to hit into a double play, but a run would score to give the Astros a 3-1 lead.
After Lowe walked Jordan Schafer he was removed for right-hander Joe Smith, who ended the inning. Lowe pitched six and two-third innings, scattering eight hits and allowing three runs. His effort was worthy of a quality start, however, the Indians’ offense could keep the team in the game.
The Indians tried to muster some offense in the eighth inning when Carlos Santana pinch hit for Joe Smith and lined a single off the left field wall. However, Choo struck out again, Cabrera hit a first pitch to left field and Jason Kipnis hit a one bounce ground ball the second to end the inning. It was the Indians last gasp on the day.
The final nail in the coffin to the Indians day was issued in the eighth inning. Nick Hagadone entered to pitch the eighth inning and walked Lowrie. After a passed ball moved him to second, and Hagadone had retired the next two hitters, Johnson hit a two-run home run to right field, extending the lead to 5-1 Astros.
After Castro doubled, Hagadone was done for the day and Esmil Rogers entered. He picked up where the Indians’ relievers left off, allowing a two-run home run to J.D. Martinez to make the game 7-1.
The story of the series though was the Indians continued ineptness against left-handed pitching. The Tribe had only five hits on Sunday and only three left the infield. Both Kotchman and Lowe’s base hits in the fifth inning were infield hits. The Indians mustered only four runs in the three game series against the lowly Astros.
A quality start by Lowe was squandered, while the front end of the bullpen continued to keep the Indians in a game. Anyone other than Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez has struggled to hold leads or keep games close. Meanwhile, it appears Kevin Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox during the game, a player the Tribe was in serious talks to obtain.
The road trip provides little time for the Tribe to feel sorry for themselves, though. Tomorrow evening the Indians will open a three game series in New York with the Yankees. Josh Tomlin (3-4, 5.12 ERA) will be the first to try and right the ship for the Indians. He’ll be opposed by Hiroki Kuroda (6-7, 3.57 ERA). Game time set to begin at 7:05 from the Bronx.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images