Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Nope. The Kansas City Royals opened a three game series at Progressive Field on Monday using a strong defense and bullpen, combined with speed and solid starting pitching to demonstrate the formula the current Indians lack. The formula was all the reigning American League champions needed to race to a 6-2 win over the lifeless Tribe.
Cleveland was only able to muster three hits against Royals’ starter Jason Vargas, while making three errors behind their ace, Corey Kluber. Despite falling behind 2-0 early, the Indians battled back with a pair of runs courtesy of a two-run homer by Mike Aviles, but the Royals answered back with a run in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh to send Cleveland to their 12th loss of the season in just 18 games.
Kansas City seems to be playing the 2015 season with fire and something to prove since they were not many people’s popular pick to repeat in the American League, while Cleveland seems to play stagnant and lifeless baseball.
WP: Vargas (2-1) LP: Kluber (0-3)
Key Inning: Top of the sixth inning. After struggling to muster just one hit in the first four innings, Cleveland was able to make some solid contact in the bottom of the fifth when Jason Kipnis lined a single off the right field wall and Mike Aviles homered to the left field porch to tie the game at two.
However, Kansas City answered right back with the vaunted response run against the Tribe and Kluber. After striking out Lorenzo Cain to start the inning, Kluber walked Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales singled him to third base. Alex Gordon made the Tribe pay when he doubled to left field, plating a run and re-taking a 3-2 lead. The Tribe and Kluber minimized the damage when they intentionally walked Salvador Perez and got Omar Infante to hit into an inning-ending double play.
While no team tries to give runs to their opponent, response runs for a struggling offense must be even more frustrating for the entire team. Just as the Tribe pulled back to even, the Royals took the lead right back within minutes. Kansas City never relinquished the lead, only tacking on the next inning.
Player of the Game: Vargas. In a story that’s been written and read before a soft-tossing, left-hander gave the Indians fits for five innings before handing it over to the best bullpen in baseball. Vargas only allowed three hits over five innings, while working around five walks and just one strikeout. Cleveland’s continued inability to hit left-handers continues. Michael Bourn’s second inning double to center field was the Tribe’s only hit before the two-run producing hits in the fifth for Cleveland.
They Said It: “In an ideal world, we would’ve won more games than we have already, but I think we’ll refrain from reading too much into just a handful of games. I continue to believe in the roster that we have and that we’ll play better than we have so far,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said to the media prior to Monday’s game in regards to the team’s slow start.
Standings: The loss drops Cleveland to 6-12 on the season and seven games back of Kansas City. The Royals are 13-6 and a half game back of Detroit entering Monday. The Tigers are currently leading their game. Cleveland currently holds the worst record in the American League and one has to start to wonder if the hole they are currently digging will be far to deep to crawl out of.
Etc.: Trevor Bauer told the media his food poisoning on Saturday in Detroit was a result of bad fettuccini alfredo from room service. He said he wasn’t a fan of alfredo before and has now sworn off of it. Bauer tried to warm up for the game, but his stomach would not cooperate and T.J. House made the emergency start. Instead, Bauer will pitch on Tuesday evening.
Antonetti spoke extensively about Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. Ramirez is off to a slow start at the big league level, while Lindor is off to a hot start at Triple-A Columbus. According to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian’s blog, no plans have changed in terms of Lindor’s development and he hopes fans will look at Ramirez’s body of work before judging him. Per Antonetti, Lindor has a litany of things to continue to work on at Triple-A.
The Indians can delay Lindor’s time to salary arbitration by a full year if he is not brought to the major leagues until early June.
Analysis: Kluber doesn’t have the same shine he had last August and September, but he’s pitched well this season and received little support. The reigning Cy Young Award winner will go to the month of May without a win under his belt. He’s received just 10 runs of support from his offense and five errors from his defense in five starts this year. Twice they’ve been shutout during his starts and twice more they’ve only scored two runs. Kluber has given the Indians a chance to win in all five of his starts, but when the offense doesn’t score and the defense doesn’t catch, the pressure to be perfect on the mound has to mount.
Up Next: The Indians will try to wipe away their most recent disappointing April start beginning on Tuesday when Bauer (2-0, 0.95) takes the mound. Alfredo has been the only thing to dominate Bauer in 2015, as he has been the master of his own domain on the mound. He’ll be opposed by former Tribesman, Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 5.50). The right-hander and former first round pick of the Tribe allowed three runs in five innings in his last start against Minnesota.
Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo