Posts By Bob Toth
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has been extremely patient with the slew of slumping players filling his roster this season.
Quiet bats have remained at or near their spots in the lineup. Nick Swisher has stayed at the top of the batting order in the two and three spots, despite hitting .203 on the season. Carlos Santana is marred in another lengthy hitting slump after briefly breaking out of a 3-for-59 skid, all while remaining firmly planted in the cleanup spot. Few on the offensive side of the ball have been exempt from slumps in the early season.
The pitching staff has not been granted quite the same luxury and, on Saturday, Francona made his second significant pitching change of the season when he announced that reliever John Axford had been taken out of his closer’s role.
The position will be filled in the immediate by the dreaded “closer by committee”.
The Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in a far different situation than their last encounter in October of 2013.
The Indians (16-19) will head to Tampa to do battle with the Rays for the first time since their American League Wild Card round loss at home to end their season last year. After struggling throughout the first month of the season, they have now won five of their last seven, thanks to a series win this week against Minnesota, and have pulled themselves out of the cellar of the American League Central.
Cleveland dropped Monday’s series opener, 1-0, in ten innings courtesy of an Eduardo Escobar home run off of John Axford. They rebounded and rode Josh Tomlin’s first start since July 27, 2012, to a 4-2 victory on Tuesday night. A walk-off single by Mike Aviles with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Indians a 4-3 win on Wednesday night. A rare scoring outburst and multi-hit games from four different players in the lineup paced the Tribe to a 9-4 victory in Thursday afternoon’s finale.
A ninth inning rally broke a three all tie in walk-off fashion on Wednesday night, as Mike Aviles drove home Asdrubal Cabrera with the winning run with two outs and the Cleveland Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4-3.
The slumping Cabrera exposed Monday’s hero, Eduardo Escobar, playing out of position in left field for an injury-riddled lineup for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. A leadoff double over Escobar’s head off of reliever Casey Fien (3-1) by Cabrera set up the scoring opportunity for Cleveland. A sacrifice bunt by Lonnie Chisenhall moved Cabrera up to third. A grounder up the middle by Yan Gomes put a second out on the board, but Aviles delivered a line drive to center with the walk-off winner.
It was the first walk-off victory for the Indians this season.
The Cleveland Indians and Progressive Field will play host for the second time this season to the second place Minnesota Twins this week in a four game set.
Cleveland (13-18) ended its six game losing streak by taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox over the weekend and coming within two outs of the three game sweep. The Indians bats woke up on Friday, plating 12 runs in a 12-5 victory. Justin Masterson was sharp again while pacing Cleveland to a 2-0 victory on Saturday night. A three-run home run by Dayan Viciedo off of closer John Axford with one out in the ninth on Sunday spoiled a record-breaking outing by Corey Kluber, as the Tribe fell 4-3.
Any time you lose a former All-Star from your lineup, the roster takes a hit almost impossible to recover from.
The injury to Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, an All-Star last season in his second full season in the Major Leagues, will leave a void in the Tribe’s lineup, even though his .234 average may appear as though it would be easy to replace.
Kipnis has historically been a slow starter in the Majors, spending more than half of the month of April 2012 batting below .200 and not reaching the .200 mark in 2013 until the final day of the month. The pop in his bat (four home runs and 12 RBI this season), his ability to disrupt the game on the base paths (including four stolen bases in five attempts), and his effort in the field, where he is more known as an all-out player, once earning the moniker “Dirtbag” from former manager Manny Acta, are harder to replace.
Enter 21-year-old Jose Ramirez.
After an unproductive and unsuccessful 0-6 West Coast trip, the Cleveland Indians and their fans sure could use a hug.
Both are hoping for more fruitful returns in May, as the Indians welcome in the Chicago White Sox for a three game series starting Friday night as the Indians look to end their season-high losing skid at six games.
The Indians (11-17) and their road woes continued as they lost three straight to the Los Angeles Angels to follow a three-game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. The Angels broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run eighth to claim a 6-3 win in the opener. Los Angeles outlasted Cleveland 6-4 on Tuesday night. They put five runs on Zach McAllister on short rest in a 7-1 win on Wednesday.
Four late response runs in the sixth and seventh innings were too little too late for the Indians on Tuesday night, as the Los Angeles Angels defeated Cleveland by a 6-4 final.
The loss for Cleveland is its fifth straight and its longest streak of the season as the team falls four and a half games in back of division-leading Detroit. The skid is the longest active losing streak in baseball and aided the Indians’ road record falling to an American League worst, 4-10.
It was another tale of missed opportunities for the Indians on a woeful West Coast road trip. They put together ten hits and five walks off of Los Angeles pitching, but struck out ten times, grounded into a pair of double plays, left nine men on base, and hit a combined 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They wasted a 6-for-11 night with four RBI from the four, five, and six hitters, who slumped mightily in the first stop on the road trip.
Phenom Mike Trout gave the Cleveland Indians a glimpse of just how much he can singlehandedly change the course of a baseball game, as his two hits on the night were instrumental in giving the Los Angeles Angels a 6-3 comeback win on Monday night.
Los Angeles broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth off of Indians starter Justin Masterson thanks to an unearned run. J.B. Shuck reached on the first pitch of the inning, as his hit to Nick Swisher at first base was mishandled. It was the 24th error by Indians players in 26 games this season.
Erick Aybar successfully sacrificed him over to second. In an eight pitch at bat, Trout came away victorious. His single to left, his second hit of the game, scored Shuck from second base to give the Angels a 4-3 lead. Trout advanced to second on the throw to the plate, which created an intentional walk situation with Albert Pujols. Raul Ibanez made Masterson pay for the decision as his triple to the wall in right center cleared Trout and Pujols and gave the Angels a 6-3 lead.
The return of the Cleveland Indians to the West Coast for the second time in April could not have gotten off to much worse of a start as the club dropped three straight to begin a six-game road trip. They will wrap up their trip to close out the month with a three game set in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels beginning Monday night.
Cleveland (11-14) was swept right out of the Bay Area by the San Francisco Giants. They lost a 5-1 final on Friday night as Carlos Carrasco allowed four runs in six innings. A four-run fifth inning was the difference on Saturday afternoon as Zach McAllister lost his first game of the season, 5-3. The Giants earned the series sweep on Sunday with a 4-1 win, thanks to a two-out, three-run walkoff home run by Brandon Hicks off of Cody Allen in the bottom of the ninth.
With all of the turnover in the Cleveland Indians bullpen, there were plenty of questions about how the relief corps would look as the team entered the 2014 season.
The concerns were clearly elevated after losing two-fifths of the successful 2013 starting rotation in the offseason free agency period. Looming questions about the potential growth of Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister post-finger injuries, the development of young flame thrower Danny Salazar, the unknown potential of Carlos Carrasco, and Justin Masterson in a contract year all spelled the need for a strong bullpen to complement the rotation arms.
Gone were a pair of mainstays from the “Bullpen Mafia” of years’ past. Closer Chris Perez struggled through injuries and off the field concerns throughout 2013 and ultimately lost his role as the ninth inning shutdown pitcher as the team was racing towards the postseason. He was let go by the Tribe in late October. Late inning righty Joe Smith exited via free agency after a 6-2 record with three saves and a 2.29 ERA in 70 games for Cleveland, his third straight season of 70 games or more.
A hot start from outfielders Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence helped to pace the San Francisco Giants to a 5-1 win over Carlos Carrasco and the Cleveland Indians on Friday night in the weekend interleague series opener.
The Giants wasted no time getting to Carrasco (0-3) in the bottom of the first. Pagan singled to right center to lead off the inning. Pence followed with a triple to deep center to score Pagan and give San Francisco a 1-0 lead. After a strikeout of Brandon Belt, the National League’s leading home run hitter, the slumping Buster Posey walked on four straight. A sacrifice fly by Michael Morse on the first pitch of his at bat to right field scored Pence to push the lead to 2-0.
The Indians struck back in the top of the third off of San Francisco’s Tim Hudson (3-1). Michael Bourn drilled a triple off of the brick wall in right field. Nick Swisher drove him in with a single to the opposite field to the gap in left center to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Cleveland Indians have picked an opportune time to start playing better baseball. Winners of four of their last five while climbing back to the .500 mark on the season, they return to the West Coast for the second time in April, beginning a three-game series Friday night in San Francisco against the Bay Area’s Giants.
Cleveland (11-11) won their four-game series against division rival Kansas City during the week, taking three games. They edged out a 4-3 win on Monday, giving Zach McAllister his third win of the season, on a sixth inning two-run home run by Jason Kipnis that proved to be the difference. James Shields bettered Danny Salazar in Tuesday’s 8-2 loss. The Indians claimed a 5-3 victory on Wednesday night, led by six and one-third strong innings from Justin Masterson and runs in each of their last three trips to the plate. A five-run fifth off of Bruce Chen and a complete game 101-pitch effort from Corey Kluber earned the Tribe a series win over the Royals on Thursday afternoon in a 5-1 final.