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.
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.
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.
Taking advantage of the runner-on-second rule implemented for the 2020 season’s shortened schedule, the Kansas City Royals used a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly against reliever James Karinchak in the top of the tenth, then got three straight strikeouts from Greg Holland in the bottom of the inning with the tying and winning runs on base to hold off the host Cleveland Indians, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon.
In a speedy two hour and 52 minute contest, there was little excitement for either club as both offenses were limited to brief scoring outbursts. The Indians had opportunities late in each of the last two innings, but were unable to come through in the clutch, stranding five men (three in scoring position) in those at bats.
Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 70
A little over a year after George Kontos brought the number 70 out of the Indians bullpen for the first time in franchise history, it returned to the mound on the back of promising young flamethrower James Karinchak.
The Indians gave up a 4-1 lead in the middle innings as the Philadelphia Phillies used eight unanswered runs to defeat Cleveland by a 9-4 count on Saturday night.
With every win valuable down the stretch for the playoff contending Tribe, it was a tough blow to the team’s chances of October baseball on Saturday night. An early three-run lead went for naught as the pitching staff could not protect the advantage while the offense disappeared after putting up a four-spot in the first two frames. A loss by the Minnesota Twins kept the Indians (91-64) within four games in the American League Central, but a two-run home run in extras by the Tampa Bay Rays gave them a walk-off win over Boston and a full game lead over the Indians for the second AL Wild Card spot.
Miguel Sano’s first pitch grand slam off of Nick Goody in the top of the eighth capped a six-run frame for the Minnesota Twins, which held on for a 9-5 win over the Cleveland Indians to complete a doubleheader sweep on Saturday night.
The Twins may have turned out the lights at Progressive Field on Saturday with back-to-back significant victories to knock the Indians six games back in the loss column in the American League Central Division. Cleveland was in desperate need of a three-game sweep over the weekend, which would have cut the Central deficit down to just one game. Instead, the Indians not only are plummeting quickly within the division, but they are losing ground at a rapid pace in the AL Wild Card race as well.
Do you know the name James Karinchak? If you’re a Cleveland Indians fan, it may be time to get acquainted.
You won’t find the name James Karinchak listed at Cleveland’s MLB pipeline page, or see it included in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook coverage of the Cleveland Indians. It is likely he will join those ranks next year. Since the start of the season Karinchak has significantly improved his pitching and on May 3, he earned a promotion from Low-A Lake County to High-A Lynchburg.
The numbers between his first season as a professional and those of his second season are radically different. The 6’3” power right-hander out of Bryant University began his professional career with the short-season Mahoning Valley team after being a ninth round selection in 2017. In ten games, six as a starter, he posted a 5.79 ERA over 23 1/3 innings, with a 2-2 record.
These are not the numbers you want to post to move up into prospect status, but Karinchak bore down and made some adjustments on the mound.