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Second Thoughts Game #113: Tigers 5, Indians 1

One bad inning the difference in another tough loss

Second Thoughts Game #113: Tigers 5, Indians 1
August 7, 2013
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Well, if there was any doubt as to whether the Tigers and Indians were equals, it was answered in these last two games, or the whole season series between the two teams for that matter. The Indians are a good team with plenty of potential to grow, but Detroit was picked to win the World Series for a reason. Now whether that prediction pans out remains to be seen, but the Tigers have proven that for the time being that they are the superior ball club.

Don’t take this as jumping ship, which there has been a lot of in the past 24 hours. Still a lot of baseball left to play and with the Tribe being right in the thick of the wild card race, their playoff hopes are far from dead, let alone the season itself. However, if the Indians want to make the postseason, they’ll have to play around Detroit because they simply can’t get any momentum going against those Cats from Motown this year.

Of course, the Tribe will have to win every series they can in order to keep pace with Detroit and stay in the wild card race, but so far that hasn’t been a problem for the Indians since they own a 55-21 record against teams not named Detroit, New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. Now obviously those are teams that they will be meeting in the playoffs (with the possible exception of the Yankees), but with this team, just making the playoffs would be an accomplishment and worth investing in long-term after coming off a 68-win season. Like it or not, this is not a “World Series or bust” season for the Tribe. It never was.

One Bad Inning

Justin Masterson has had problems with the ‘big inning’ throughout his career, but this season for the most part has done a much better job of working out of those jams with little or no damage. Such was not the case on Tuesday night as the right-hander allowed five runs in the fifth inning, which proved to be more than enough for the Tigers to claim victory. Still, Masterson was able to pitch seven innings and save the bullpen. While it doesn’t make up for the runs he gave up and a loss is still a loss, it still shows how he’s stepped up in a situation that he may not have been able to work out of in the past.

The bulk of the damage was done by a guy whom Masterson himself described as his “kryptonite”  in Tigers utility player Don Kelly, who clubbed his second home run of the season off the Tribe ace to plate three runs to cap off the inning. In his career, Kelly is 11-for-24 (.428) against Masterson with two homers and eight RBI’s.

Of course, one bad inning does not a season make, but it definitely stings that it had to happen in a crucial game and series against a top division rival. Masterson has stepped up as the hands-down leader of this pitching staff and we most-assuredly wouldn’t be talking playoffs right now without his All-Star performance this season. However, he will need to step up more in games such as this when his team needs a win.

About Cabrera batting cleanup…

It was an interesting idea, but it’s time to pull the plug on batting Asdrubal Cabrera in the cleanup spot. Putting Nick Swisher in the #2 spot has worked okay (it could be better, but better than batting cleanup). However, Cabby simply hasn’t produced enough to warrant keeping him there. In 14 games in the cleanup spot, Cabrera has only bat .232 (13-for-56) with one homer, seven RBI’s, four doubles, two walks and 13 strikeouts.

It’s becoming more and more evident that the Indians need a legitimate cleanup hitter in their lineup with Swisher and Cabrera not getting the job done, Mark Reynolds in an eternal slump and no one else reliable enough to put there on a regular basis.

While it’s definitely possible that the Tribe could put a claim on a hitter, it still depends on who is available and at what price. Thanks to a slow trade deadline and too many teams thinking they are still in the race due to the extra wild card spot, impact players of any kind have been at a premium this season while the ones that have been available have had astronomical price tags attached to them.

Until a better option presents itself on the waiver wire, the Indians will have to work with what they have, which could mean moving Santana or Brantley into the cleanup spot or rotating bench players such as Raburn, Gomes and Giambi into the lineup more often as they have been exceptionally productive at the plate this season.

Facts and Notes:

  • Indians starter Corey Kluber was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday night’s game with a right middle finger sprain. He’s expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.
  • Despite allowing five runs on Tuesday night, Justin Masterson has now pitched six or more innings in 22 of his 24 starts this season and seven or more innings in 12 of them.
  • Marc Rzepczynski has not allowed a run or a base-runner in his first three appearances (two and a third innings) in an Indians uniform.
  • Right-hander Josh Tomlin will make a two-inning rehab start for AA Akron on Wednesday night against New Britain. The former Tribe starter is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Up Next: Tigers vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05.

After a stellar major league debut nearly a month ago, the Tribe will turn to their prized prospect Danny Salazar once again in hopes of him helping the team salvage at least one game in this four-game set and give them a chance at a split even though they’ll have to go through Max Scherzer on Thursday. With Corey Kluber going down, the Indians will need someone to step up to take his place. While Salazar certainly appears capable, he is still on an innings limit and likely won’t be available as a starter for as long as they would need him to unless they relax his limit.

Opposing the young right-hander is another tough right-hander in Doug Fister, however he struggled in his only outing against Cleveland this season last month where he allowed six runs in six innings of work. Regardless, the Tribe will have their work cut out for them with the momentum in the series clearly against them and the fact that Fister has only allowed five runs (four earned) in his four starts since that outing against the Indians.

 

Follow me on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake for all the latest Cleveland Indians news and baseball chat.

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