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4.20.2011

Fight Until the End: Late Rally Comes Up Short in Loss to KC

Nino Colla | Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
The Indians couldn't solve undefeated nemesis Bruce Chen... Wait what? I'm sure people feel the same way about 3-0 Josh Tomlin. Anyway, the Indians couldn't solve Chen and their rally against the Royals Bullpen fell short.

April 19th, 2011 
Cleveland Indians - 4
Kansas City Royals - 5
W: Bruce Chen (3-0) L: Jeanmar Gomez (0-1) S: Joakim Soria (5)

[BOXSCORE]

What a B-Lineup that was.
Photo Credit - AP via Yahoo! Sports

Manny Acta still almost was able to beat the Royals with a young starter making his first start of the year and a lineup that was comprised of nearly half backup players. The bottom three, Austin Kearns, Lou Marson, and Adam Everett. Hawkman was hitting fifth and Sizemore and Hafner were on the bench.

Not saying anything bad about those backups. Lou Marson hit the two-run double off Chen in the seventh inning, the only blemish Panama Bruce had all game. Adam Everett had two walks on the night and Austin Kearns scored twice.

But damn to lose 5-4 with your big stick up at the plate in the ninth with the bases juiced.

To comeback from a rather sub-par effort from Jeanmar Gomez. To get 2.2 perfect, I repeat, perfect unblemished innings, from Chad Durbin?

I guess you'd expect to maybe not win a game with Gomez pitching that way and the lineup that was trotted out there, against a pitcher who's having a decent year so far (how is the question there...).

To almost win is nice.. But you'd certainly like to win. Not sure why Acta doesn't spread out his off-days of bench players more. I guess maybe he figures throw them all in at once rather than having one or two play each day in a row. Maximize your lineup. It's known that Acta likes the same lineup as much as possible, so that's a decent theory. Why not start them all against a left-hander (considering all of them are right-handed hitters) when someone like Gomez is pitching.

Acta pressed the button, but the machine didn't comply for once.

And Alex Gordon made a fantastic play... Can't take that one away from him. Actually, he made several... But that's besides the point.

"We put up a fight at the end," Acta said. "Gordon pretty much saved the game."

He threw Marson out at home, which is one run, and then saved at least the possibility of another by robbing Grady Sizemore with a diving catch and a runner on.

Not much you can say... You tip your hat to Bruce Chen for the start, Gordon for the defense and Joakim Soria for the final at-bat against Carlos Santana. I know people wanna get on Sant for taking three pitches for a strikeout, but Soria just got him. He threw his best stuff, went right after Carlos and made some really good pitches.

Also have to tip your hat to the offense for coming back late and Chad Durbin for nearly three innings of relief. That in the end is what kept the Indians in the ballgame to come back late.

[IT WON'T CONTINUE, IT JUST CAN'T]

Last night's start was just a peak behind the curtain. The Indians can't continue the pace they are on, we know that. But let's all be real here. While they absolutely cannot continue the torrent pace, that doesn't mean they are going to fall into a rut that will finish them in the bottom half of the division. This team is playing too well with an aura of confidence to not continue to at least be consistent. Consistency will win you games too.

Back to the peak... Last night was the first night for a few things. It was the first time since Opening Weekend they gave up more than four runs. It was also the first time their starter didn't go at least five innings. It was also the second time in the last 15 games that the starter didn't throw a quality start.

Let's defer to Terry Pluto for a second.

"I can give you lots of reasons why this won't continue. The Indians won't keep hitting .318 with runners in scoring position. They won't have a starter always pitch at least six innings, as has been the case in all but two games before Tuesday. Or a staff that always holds teams to four or fewer runs, as it has over the last 14 games."

Pluto goes on to ask. What if the pitching isn't this good, but what if it's pretty good? What if, as John Kruk put it earlier on Mike and Mike this morning, the team remains healthy?

Then these insane winning streaks won't continue (when do they ever for any team?) but the winning will. It may not be as often, but it will be frequent and the contention the club is in right now will last.

I tweeted this yesterday, but decided to stop after just a few comments because I realize that what I was saying wasn't going to stop and I can't contain my ire for 140 characters. Keith Law put out an insider piece on his Blog about the Indians. I'm not sure if you can read it if you don't have ESPNInsider, so I'll highlight the bullet points.

First off.. The title... "Don't start believin'"

What a goon. I respect Law's opinion, he's a talented writer, works hard, watches a lot of baseball, clearly does his homework a lot of the time and is a prospect guru.

But he's also arrogant and sometimes a bit of a jerk. I think he'll readily admit he's a jerk. He isn't out to make friends, and why should he be?

But Don't Start Believin'? Really Keith? Okay it's just a title, whatever and you aren't telling us fans to not believe we can do it... But really... I just, I don't really know what to say towards it. It's just a title, but it makes me believe that you don't want us to believe. You don't, you still think the Indians are more of a fourth place team that will win 67 games than a team that is in first place.

Not buying into the Indians for the long-haul of the 2011 is perfectly acceptable. But to think they're closer to the fourth place team than the first place team is a bit... Well again, it's a bit arrogant. Go ahead and admit you are wrong Keith, it's okay. I pick the damn Marlins every year in the NL East and always admit I'm wrong when they don't. But for Keith Law, it may be a bruise to his ego if he were to admit he was wrong on Cleveland.

So instead of admit that the Indians took everyone, including himself, for a bit of a surprise in the early going.. He decides to list an incredibly long list of reasons why they'll go back to sucking soon.
  • The Schedule - sweeps over Baltimore and Seattle and only winning one against LA and Chicago. What about Boston? Meh. Nothing.
  • Run Prevention - Mitch Talbot had two "fluky" starts and is now injured. Josh Tomlin will be homer and hit-prone. Carlos Carrasco has no average breaking ball and command problems. Justin Masterson won't continue to dominate right-handers and give into his platoon splits against lefties.
  • Bullpen regression - Chris Perez has "career long control issues" and Rafael Perez hasn't been the same since 2007. Vinnie Pestano can't continue to throw just fastballs. Tony Sipp goes unmentioned.
  • Defense is below average because Brantley is in left and Sizemore is now in center.
Wow... Harsh... To give Law some credit...

He says the offense will remain above-average because the two best hitters are not hitting yet. However Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera will come back to earth. Also Lonnie Chisenhall will replace Jack Hannahan at some point. He also notes that he isn't specifically picking on Cleveland, even though he really is by writing an entire blog entry dedicated to them. He does say he thinks the Royals and National, who are also off to good starts, will not finish .500 and that history of hot starts from the Padres and Marlins in the recent past are reasons you can't buy into a hot start.

Fair enough... But you have to go beyond the 12-5 record Keith. This isn't just about stats. This is about the way the team is playing the game and maybe you just have to buy in that some of their players have improved. To dismiss Justin Masterson because YOU don't think he'll keep up his progression is just opinion based off a prior thought you had.

Chris Perez has "career long control issues"? What the hell does that even mean after a stellar second half as Cleveland's closer in 2010. Maybe Chris has finally worked those control issues out enough to where he is a good closer. It's convenient that he skips over some of the other things that are working right now. I mean the entire bullpen is going to collapse? Really? As Pluto said, they won't continue to convert every single winning situation, but are they going to NOT convert every single situation?

Here's the overall point. The Indians have been playing out of their minds and at some point will trend downwards. But that doesn't mean the downward trend is going to be so downward, you'll forget this start even happened.

And I know a lot of people feel Keith Law is slighted towards the Indians. I don't know if that's true or not, and no one will ever will unless Law comes out at some point and says, "Yep, I hate Cleveland!" But Law has his opinion and he is entitled to it, even if it always seems to trend against Cleveland.

But right now, Law is just being arrogant about the facts, and that's what makes his entire blog post hard to believe.


[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

As expected, the Indians optioned outfielder Travis Buck to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Jeanmar Gomez. Meaning that Shelley Duncan is here to stay, CAW. Acta had this to say about Buck.

"Unfortunately, it's a numbers game," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We can only keep 25 guys. In my five years managing, this was probably the hardest guy for me to send down. To me, he's a legit Major League player. We really liked him out of Spring Training and we really liked him up here. I think he has a chance to be a very good player. This just shows that we have some depth here. Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, we can have a guy like him at Triple-A playing for us." 

What I think he means to say... Fortunately for us he is just a call away from re-joining the club. Unfortunately for him, he's just a call away from joining the club.

I'd expect Buck to get some major playing time in Columbus. I think the Indians know he may be needed at some point, through injury or even lack of performance from someone. So having him playing regularly will be important.

The reason for Buck's demotion overall was the return of Grady Sizemore. Now Grady won't play everyday, that's obvious. He'll get breaks, probably more than we are used to for him. But you don't want to overwork the guy so soon into his return. He will be playing more often than not though.

Of course Buck got demoted because Shelley Duncan is just freaking awesome. It was probably the nail in the coffin when Duncan had the pinch-hit RBI on Monday.

"He's got the track record. He's done it," Indians manager Manny Acta said of Duncan. "He swings the bat well against lefties. That's something that we can count on. And then, on a day like today, when we give Haf a day off, it's nice to have a guy like Duncan to get out there and take some hacks." 

As if we had any doubt in the HAWKMAN!

A new Cycle is up on TCF and I talked more about the lineup. Offered up a few different looks and suggested maybe pushing Santana down.

[TRIBE TWEET OF THE DAY]


Special honorable mention to Trevor Crowe, who called Bruce Chen the Indians nemesis. I have a feeling We'll get a few good ones out of him while he's rehabbing this year.

2 comments:

ttfc said...

Nino,

A) Keith Law has to appeal to his audience. The ESPN crowd want to hear that it either a Boston/Philly WS or a NY/Philly WS.

B) It is reassuring to know that even the better national media people don't know your team like you do. I am still waiting for a national media person to realize how much an improved infield defense means for a sinker heavy starting rotation.

Cheers, Bryan

Nino said...

That's ridiculous though, cause Keith is one of those ESPN guys that doesn't appeal to the ESPN crowd. He's not one of their talking heads, he's one of their hardcore analysts that deviates from the norm.