2020: Pandemic Pandemonium
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – the Cleveland Indians got a quality start, little run support, and fell in a 3-2 final to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
If that gave you a bit of déjà vu here in the 2020 Major League Baseball season, you’re not alone. There were, however, a few differences in the tale of the tape this time around – the opponent was different, the game was delayed two hours and two minutes at the outset by rain, and for the first time this season, the Indians blew a lead in order to find themselves on the short end of the stick.
With rains falling heavily in northeast Ohio and scattered thunderstorms forecast for the Cincinnati area throughout the day on Monday, the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds will be hoping to avoid any doubleheader silliness to open their four-game series split between the two cities this week.
The Indians (5-5) will be the road team first, heading to the Queen City for Monday and Tuesday games at Great American Ball Park. The club has not had the best of weeks and is struggling mightily at the plate, squandering some consistent quality start pitching unlike anything seen in quite some time. Through ten games, the Indians starting rotation has fired nine quality starts, but the offense has mustered just 26 total runs of offense in those games, leading to the subpar overall record through the first sixth of the shortened season schedule.
Cleveland, we have a problem.
Ten games in the books and suddenly the Indians’ hot start, highlighted by near historic levels of pitching dominance, has been fully erased from the collective conscience. The Indians are 5-5, sitting in a third place tie in the American League Central and two and a half games out with 50 left to play.
It need not be a doom-and-gloom scenario yet, but this season is unlike any other. One-sixth of the season, or roughly 17%, is over. For you weird people constantly multiplying things out by 2.7 to put things in comparison to a traditional 162-game slate, the Indians are sitting at a 13.5-13.5 record through the equivalent 27th game of a full season schedule.
That’s certainly not where the team should be with the way that the pitching staff has excelled to open the season.
Quality starting pitching can only get a team so far and the Cleveland Indians are a prime example of that right now. Despite holding the league’s top scoring team to just ten runs over the weekend, the Tribe took a third straight loss on Sunday as the Tribe bats mustered just two hits off of Minnesota relievers in a bullpen game for manager Rocco Baldelli, falling in a 3-1 final from Target Field.
With scheduled starter Homer Bailey scratched from his start and placed on the injured list (retroactive to June 29) with right biceps tendinitis, Baldelli opted to go for a series win over the Indians with a bullpen day. The move paid off as the Indians woes at the plate continued with an abysmal performance in a key early series in the shortened 60-game slate.
Few expected the Cleveland offense to be the bright spot of the 2020 season with a loaded pitching staff, but the Indians’ woes at the plate continued to drag the team down on Saturday night as the Tribe mustered just two infield singles in a 3-0 shutout against the victorious Minnesota Twins.
Mike Clevinger replicated some of the wrong parts of his debut effort in his second start of the season on Friday night, as he was tagged for four early runs in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
It was more of the same from Shane Bieber on Thursday night as he fired off eight shutout innings while racking up 13 more strikeouts and James Karinchak pitched a perfect ninth for his first Major League save as the Cleveland Indians took game one from the Minnesota Twins, 2-0.
In his first start since setting a new Indians franchise record with 14 strikeouts in a season opener, Bieber was right back at it as Cleveland opened its series at Target Field with a strong message for the reigning American League Central champs. He faced little resistance throughout the night in a dominating performance, having one actual challenging inning to contend with while beginning his season with numbers seen just one other time in the Live Ball era. The Tribe offense was not able to do much against Minnesota starter Jose Berrios and the Twins bullpen, but Bieber and Karinchak made the two runs provided stand up.
Every game feels all the more important in a 60-game schedule, which means this week’s four-game series between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins could have a significant effect on how the American League Central Division plays out in 2020.
The Indians (4-2) are off to a hot start, led by incredible starting pitching performances from six different starters. The team could very well be sitting at a 6-0 record, but a late loss in extra innings in the second game of the season against the Kansas City Royals and a tough defeat on Wednesday night when the Chicago White Sox tagged Brad Hand for four runs in the ninth have left the Indians a half game out of first place, trailing only the Twins.
The Chicago White Sox avoided a costly series sweep in Cleveland on Wednesday, rallying for four runs in the ninth inning against Indians closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber for a 4-0 win in an outcome contrary to the story through the first eight innings of the day.
The Cleveland Indians’ depth behind the plate will be tested this season as starting catcher Roberto Perez was placed on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday with a right shoulder strain.
Perez had experienced discomfort with the shoulder since making an impressive play during the Indians’ season opening game against the Kansas City Royals, when he tracked down a third strike wild pitch, slipped, and completed the throw to first from the seat of his pants. Perez jammed his shoulder on the play and felt some tightness but tried to push through it in the days that followed. It continued to persist, leading the Indians to select the contract of backstop Beau Taylor from the team’s minor league camp in Eastlake on Tuesday, less than a day before placing Perez on the IL.
He will be shut down from throwing for a week before he is re-evaluated, but he will continue to work out with the other players on the 60-man roster at the team’s Alternate Training Site in Eastlake.
Early scoring and strong starting pitching provided the keys to the game again for the Cleveland Indians as they completed a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox with a 5-3 win in the nightcap on Tuesday night.
Adam Plutko stepped in with a spot start for manager Terry Francona after Monday’s rainout and did everything that could have been asked of him. He limited the White Sox to just a pair of runs over six innings, while his offense provided a big jolt right out of the gate.
Francisco Lindor paced the Indians to an early lead in support of a quality start from Aaron Civale, and the Cleveland bullpen worked out of several jams to secure a 4-3 win in game one of Tuesday’s twinbill from Progressive Field.
Civale, beginning the season on the Indians roster for the first time in his career, worked around a one-out infield single by Yoan Moncada, striking out a pair in the first frame of his 2020 campaign. Facing another second-year right-hander in Dylan Cease, the Indians got to work quickly in the home half after a good at bat from Cesar Hernandez concluded with a single to right. Jose Ramirez worked Cease for seven pitches before flying to center for the first out. Lindor cut and missed on a low changeup for strike one of his at bat, then caught a four-seamer in his nitro zone, sending the pitch well over the wall in right for a two-run blast to put the Indians up early. Carlos Santana followed with an infield single to short before he was stranded there.