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5.03.2012

Morning Rundown: Clutch-Mannahan Puts Tribe in First

Nino Colla | Thursday, May 03, 2012 | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
It's lonely at the top and that's the way we like it, right? A big win over Chicago (the first of the year) and a Detroit loss to Kansas City and this city should be riding high. Their Tribe is in first place and beyond all that (because first place in May is nothing, unless you are the Rangers with a mega-lead), they are competitive and show no signs of slowing down, even with a flimsy offense.

May 2nd, 2012
Cleveland Indians - 6
Chicago White Sox - 3
W: Joe Smith (1-0) L: Will Ohman (0-1) S: Chris Perez (8)

[BOXSCORE]

The situations keep finding him and he keeps producing.

"I love coming up with guys in scoring position," Hannahan said.

The fact that Jack Hannahan is the Indians most clutch hitter is certainly not a bad thing. Considering he's the guy that keeps coming up in the clutch situations and he produces more times than not. I mean, Hannahan is the guy I want in this situation all the time now.

In a 3-3 game, there was a few runners on in the eighth and Addison Reed just was brought in to reliever left-hander Will Ohman.
Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports

I'm half paying attention, also focused on whatever is happening on Twitter (might have been General Cramping, might have been Jeff Liefer, might have been Jody Gerut). And then I notice who it is at the plate.

Pay attention, front and center. When Hannahan comes up to the plate in these situations, I take notice. I get a little excited. And every time he is up there, I think "Oh, this is the time he'll surely not come through, because he's come through so many other times, he's going to run out of steam."

And every time, that slick-fielding Irish man who's

slightly balding comes through with the improbable. And now, these situations for him, they've become pretty productive.

"It's all about staying with your approach and not trying to do too much," he said. "It's easy to get excited and pull off a ball you should be able to drive. You have to stay within yourself and just kind of do what the pitch allows you to do. Stay calm. If you've got to take a walk, you've got to take a walk and let the guy behind you do it. I think we've been doing good at it."

Oh man.. Or should I say, Ohman... Remember when Travis Hafner was getting on-base at the flip of a coin about a week or so ago? (He's still pretty close). Well, Jack Hannahan is getting a hit with runners in scoring position at the flip of a coin. He's 9-for-18 with runners in scoring position and with two outs, he's hitting .400, 10-for-25.

That's insanity. It surely will not continue and his numbers will even out. Just say that he has improved (and at this point, it becomes foolish to suggest that he hasn't in some way with the bat), the numbers are still a little too high and his numbers will even out, but it's nice having someone come through with the clutch hits, especially since he's always the one in the position to deliver.

I don't think it's fair to call Hannahan a fluke. Will he regress? He probably won't hit near .300 all season. But I think he's at least a changed hitter. He's no longer that guy that will hit his weight in average. He has at least a serviceable bat to go with an above average glove. In Cleveland he's found himself and that is nothing out of the ordinary. He isn't hitting the home runs he was last year that made us say, "Who the hell is this guy!" He's simply hitting well, producing quality at-bats and being smart when he swings the stick.

So don't get all "BUT IT'S JACK HANNAHAN!"

Yeah it is Jack Hannahan. I'm not saying he's the .300 hitter who is leading the team in RBIs that is now... But he's at least a little better now than we all thought. He's an improved hitter overall and he deserves that much credit.

Throw a little credit Josh Tomlin's way after his outing. He got through six innings on just 82 pitches, but that was probably the right time to make a move. He started out getting through the first three innings having only walked Adam Dunn, then he gave up the solo shot in the fourth to Dunn. Overall, it was just one of those Josh Tomlin outings. It's six innings, three or less runs, a quality start that Josh Tomlin has made us accustomed to from him.

He went toe-to-toe with his good buddy and perfect game-twirler Philip Humber. He really out-pitched him despite going the same amount of innings and giving the same amount of runs. Humber walked six and really tread the waters a few times. It wasn't until Carlos Santana's big blast in the fifth that things kind of loosened up and the Indians settled in. They wouldn't score more off of him, but if they couldn't get a single run off Humber and he got through six or even seven, there might have been a big demoralizing aspect to that.

But instead, Santana crushed one with a pair on and at least gave some relief to Tomlin. Who promptly surrendered the lead, but still pitched well enough to win and still out-pitched his teammate, even if the numbers don't totally dictate it.

Random Details...

On another night the following details would have been major storylines... And I feel with all the praise towards Hannahan for his clutch hitting, we need to heap a lot of blame on the rest of the Indians for their lack of clutch hitting.

Early in the game against Humber, the Indians struck out three times with the bases loaded, Choo being the culprit twice and also with runners on second and third and one out. That's four prime run scoring opportunities. Had Santana not redeemed himself (one of the strikeouts with bases loaded, with one out, no less), I would have figured this would be a bigger deal than it is.

"We put together a bunch of good at-bats," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "except in those situations where Humber made some good pitches."

But fear not. The Indians really started out striking out a lot, but still managed to work a good amount of walks, eight in total actually.
The problems with the bases loaded are a little concerning this year, as Jordan Bastian notes. Currently 0-for-12 with two outs and the bases juiced, that's a big fat goose egg... AND just three hits in total out of 26 opportunities. Um, gross.

Choo overall had a rough night (he left seven on base). Made his return to the lineup and had several opportunities to make some things happen and he came up dry. Another day, another chance big guy.
Photo - AP via Yahoo! Sports

Johnny Damon's much ballyhooed debut ended early as he was replaced by Shelley Duncan in left. It was made noticed that he had a bit of a grimace coming out of the box in his third at-bat. The Indians reported he suffered from general cramping. Insert your Ted Mosby jokes here, I salute you. Damon walked and was 0-3 on the night.

Don't worry though, Damon said he plans to be ready for today's game against Chicago (if he starts/plays) and that he simply felt some cramping up in his back and calves. He said it was embarrassing having done everything in extended and coming up and well, General Cramping. It's all good though because it does not look serious.

Travis Hafner's two-run shot was a nice insurance policy and it was a big hit for the guy. He was 2-4 and really could have been 3-4 and he was on base three times with the HBP. Aside from that strikeout early, he had three great at-bats. He's really been stinging the ball hard lately and they've seemed to find outfielders or infielders. Them's the breaks, especially when the defense plays the spray charts, but if he hits them hard enough like he did Wednesday night, there's no chance of them robbing him.

Bullpen: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R. Joe Smith is suddenly a strikeout artist as he struck out the side around the walk. I'm glad Acta didn't waste any time with Sipp tonight because after he let the leadoff guy on in the eighth, I was ready to see Pestano. It was either Manny's intention to play matchups or he too was sick of seeing Tony after one-batter.

Perez now shares the AL-lead in saves with Fernando Rodney with eight. It's a who's who up there with Perez, Rodney, Baltimore's Jim Johnson, Brandon League and, TEXAS' Joe Nathan.

[U-GIVE-ME MORE]

We spent quite a bit of time on Ubaldo Jimenez yesterday and I guess we should spend a little more time analyzing him after the comments that have come out from him after yet another ugly looking sort of outing from The Big Ewww.

"It's not easy. It's not easy to take," Jimenez said. "The only thing is I'm going to keep working on it, and I know it's going to be for my own good and for the team. Once I get it, it's going to be there. I won't have to be worrying about it anymore."

"It" is just referring to "it" I guess, but Acta says Jimenez is working on a mechanical flaw in his delivery. Um, duh? With that lanky throwing motion, he's bound to have something screwed up there that needs fixed. 

My question is, how long do we have to wait? How long can the Indians afford to wait for it? I know it's still a month in, but can the Indians, who want to contend this year, wait around for Jimenez to get this thing fixed this year?

Ubaldo goes on to say that his struggles are not because of his lose in velocity. Acta goes as far as to say that the stuff he is working on is the reason his velocity (and command) is not the same. Uh as to what? Last year?

"It's not only [about velocity]," Jimenez said. "It's trying to get myself in a better position to deliver the ball. That's something I haven't been doing. My front shoulder has been too open, so I'm trying to work on creating torque and power out of it. That's something I did before."

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in last year being a mulligan, injuries, trade, unhappiness, whatever. But something that struck me in talking with a commenter on STO's Facebook page in response to yesterday's post made me think of Fausto Carmona as we knew then.

Remember when this team had to shut Carmona down and rebuild him? Granted most of that was psychological, but they did a lot with his mechanics. Do the Indians need to rip the guts out of what Jimenez is doing and rebuild his mechanics? Obviously with a contract like his you can't really afford to do that and send him down, but perhaps they reach a point where some drastic change is necessary? 

It goes into the question, how long do we wait? How long can the Indians afford to stick with Ubaldo while he "changes" things up and "readjusts" to the form of old? How do we know he's adjusting to the form of old? I mean, really. At what point do you say, hey bud, time to figure this out, our way, because your way...your way is not working.

Some food for thought as we go forward in watching Jimenez pitch. Hopefully he makes this all a moot point by going out in his next few outings and showing significant progress.

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

The debut of Johnny Damon means that Michael Brantley will have to get used to that seventh spot in the lineup. Of course he would have been hitting in the bottom part of the lineup had Grady Sizemore been around, so he shouldn't be bitter about this move down, but he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire to justify being there, or even in the two hole ahead of Jason Kipnis.

Brantley will still get his leadoff shot when Damon doesn't play, but this is best for the team right now. Damon is a pro, has done that job before, he fits there. If anything you'd hope Brantley continues to embrace him and learn as much as he can from Damon about the spot.

"He's phenomenal," Brantley said. "We talked a little bit already. He's just a class-act person. He's already taking young guys in and teaching them some things. We were talking about different situations already. He's a pleasure to have."

When directly asked about being moved, all Brantley said is that the question is a better one for Manny Acta. Not sure what to make from that, but Brantley better understand this is an opportunity for him to learn and since Michael hasn't exactly been stealing bases (where Kipnis has) and using his speed appropriately, I'm willing to overlook the "skill set" Brantley brings, since he doesn't actually bring it.

Oh and he led-off three times last night, so, you can take the guy out of the leadoff hole, but you can't stop the guy from leading off.

Asdrubal Cabrera got a double after MLB overturned the decision from the game in which Torii Hunter was given an error for losing a ball in the sun. Jason Kipnis also lost an error after Erick Aybar was given a hit.

Minor League Update: Bryce Stowell hit the disabled list in Akron, unfortunately putting his big comeback season to a sudden pause. Stowell has a right forearm strain (yuk pitching arm) and had racked up 15 strikeouts in just seven innings thus far for the Aeros.

Matt LaPorta blasted a solo shot Tuesday and before that hit a pair on Monday to give him nine on this young minor league season. That seemed to be enough to get the media to ask about MaTola.

And before I even throw the quote out there, thank you Manny Acta.

"It's not about the numbers," Acta said. "It's about the quality of the at-bats and what he's working on. They're encouraged by the fact that he's been using his legs better and laying off some off-speed stuff due to that. That's what we've looked at."

Laying off the off-speed, but is he hitting it or taking it for walks? That's the question. He can hit all the fastballs for home runs he wants, but until he lays off the offspeed stuff he cannot hit and learn to hit the ones he can (not for jaw-dropping home runs), none of this matters. We know LaPorta's problem. I haven't completely given up on the guy yet (maybe as a starter, but his value as a bench player, limited), but he still has a lot to prove and him in Columbus isn't going to prove a whole heck of a lot.

He is leading the affiliates in hits (and RBI and HR), which is never a bad thing. But he's also struck out 20 times and walked 10 times. Eh.

While we're talking about Columbus comebacks though, how about Corey Kluber? The guy has finally seemed to get his stuff together with the Indians after being a strikeout artist with San Diego's organization. Kluber has struck out an Indians-high of 35 hitters in 5 starts and is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA. If Kluber is getting it, add in McAllister, and Akron's Giovanni Soto (3-0, 3.33 ERA after 7 IP, 1 ER, 9 K, 2 BB last night), pitching depth, good.

[TIGER WATCH]

Mr. MVP, Justin Verlander extraordinaire, can pitch eight innings all he wants but when his team can't score more than two runs? Well, the two he gave up isn't going to be good enough. Verlander gave way to Joaquin Benoit, who let the tie-game go in the ninth, giving the Royals a win and setting up the first place situation between the Sox and Indians. All three teams had a piece of first coming into the day, until that Tiger defeat made it possible for the Indians to take the reigns of the division by beating Chicago.

Fielder and Cabrera, combined 0-7 in the game, with Cabrera getting hit by a pitch. Wah, wah, wahhhhhh.

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