By Craig Gifford
After the Indians opened the season losing two of three, both losses in extra-innings, one prevailing thought was they could turn things around with the Chicago White Sox coming to town. A win on Monday and subsequent series victory would make things all the better as the Tribe could get a let up against division foes.
It was not to be, however. Cleveland fell to 1-3 on the young season, falling 4-2 in front of a scattering of 9,473 fans at Progressive Field. For the fourth straight game, Cleveland struggled to hit. For the fourth straight game, the Tribe, overall, pitched well.
The pitching is keeping manager Manny Acta hopeful in an early, rough start.
“You just have to stay positive and continue to encourage the guys,” Acta said. “Four games is not going to define the offense of a ballclub. That’s all there is to it. It’s kind of early still. We’d rather have six or seven runs every day on the board, but it hasn’t happened. We’re pitching good, so that gives us time to wait until our offense gets going.”
The Indians were only able to muster five hits. One was a Jose Lopez solo blast that came in the bottom of the ninth with the game already out of reach. It was the only extra base hit for a Cleveland team struggling to get any sort of rally going.
Cleveland’s other RBI came off a single from Carlos Santana, again coming with Cleveland down 4-0 in the sixth.
While the pitching, overall, was good, it was the first game on the early campaign that the starting pitching left something to be desired. After strong starts by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe, it was Josh Tomlin who struggled early. Tomlin, who had a streak of 37 straight five-inning starts snapped last August, got through five again on Monday. It was a struggle.
The Indians number four starter allowed four earned runs and seven hits in five frames. It was start he would like to take back. Still, no one is blaming the starters for the 1-3 start.
“Our starters have done a great job,” said third baseman Jason Donald. “They’ve kept us in ballgames. We’ve been competitive because of our starting pitching. They’ve gone deep into games and given us chances to win ballgames. That’s really all you can ask out of those guys.”
The bullpen, which blew two extra inning games to Toronto over opening weekend, was rock solid. Much like Cleveland fans have come to expect from the “Bullpen Mafia,” the relievers threw four shutout innings. Jairo Asencio, one of the newcomers, led the way with two scoreless innings. Dan Wheeler and Rafael Perez also had shutout innings.
The true hero on the mound was Chicago starter Chris Sale. He went 6.2 innings, allowing just one run and three hits. The Tribe bats made him look like an ace. Beyond the Santana and Lopez RBI hits, Cleveland had just three other base knocks and two batters reach on walks.
Cleveland will look to rebound with another game against Chicago at home Tuesday night. As bad as things have been to start, Cleveland can still finish the opening homestand at .500 with a win Tuesday from Jeanmar Gomez and Wednesday from Justin Masterson.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images