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Second Thoughts Game #20: Royals 3, Indians 2

Kazmir bounces back as Tribe bats stay cold in Kansas City

Second Thoughts Game #20: Royals 3, Indians 2
April 28, 2013
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Player of the Game: Ervin Santana (7 Inn. 6 hits 0 ER 0 BB / 5 SO)

The Leadoff

They say pitching is the key to winning in baseball. But there also is another key saying that should go along with that: you can’t win if you can’t score. This was exactly the case again for the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night as they fell to the first place Kansas City Royals, 3-2.

Tribe starter Scott Kazmir looked much better in his second start in an Indians uniform, giving up just two runs on five hits in five innings, but could not get picked up by his offense all night as the team would fail to score until the ninth inning.

The Bottom 9

  • Where’s the offense? Say what you will about the Indians starting pitching (or lack thereof), Cleveland had no offense again on Saturday, scoring just two unearned runs in the ninth inning. This has started to become a trend throughout most of April as Tribe bats remained cold yet again against the Royals. Since exploding for 19 runs against the Houston Astros one week ago, the Indians have scored just 12 runs in their last four games. 
  • Three runs or less…AGAIN. For the 13th time in their first 20 games, Cleveland has scored three runs or less. Think about that for a second…just seven times in 2013 has the Tribe scored more than three runs in a ballgame. We knew coming into the season there would be problems with the starting rotation, but I had no idea how bad this offense would end up being through most of April. Without the likes of centerfielder Michael Bourn in the lineup, and continued inconsistent play by Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, this has been without question a rough start to the 2013 campaign. 
  • Ervin works his magic. Royals starter Ervin Santana was dominant through his seven shutout innings of work, staying out of trouble yielding just six hits on the night. He looked somewhat like the former Los Angeles Angels pitcher who no-hit the Tribe back in 2011. Picking up his third win of the year on Saturday, Santana has now pitched at least six innings in each of his first five outings.
  • Swisher’s double play. With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning, right fielder Nick Swisher had a chance to put the Indians on the board with a clutch base-hit. Swisher would ultimately fail to do so in that spot, grounding into an inning ending double play. The Tribe brought the Ohio State graduate to Cleveland for these types of situations, but he could not cash in on the team’s biggest scoring opportunity of the game on this night.
  • Kipnis. Yes, he had two of the Tribe’s nine hits in the ballgame, but second baseman Jason Kipnis still looks lost at the plate. With a hat trick on Satuday striking out three times, Kipnis now is hitting .190 with no homers and three RBI on the year. To not even try and run after whiffing to end the game was surprising to me as well, knowing the second baseman is a true dirt dog always hustling and getting dirty. I just hope his offensive slump is not going to his head too much this early in the season.
  • Bullpen mafia? The Indians bullpen ended their 20 inning scoreless streak when left-hander Rich Hill walked home a huge insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. It was the longest scoreless streak by the Tribe bullpen since 2000. Dominating? Yes. But a fact has to be made that if Hill doesn’t walk a run home late in the game, we could be talking extra innings instead of a tough one-run loss.
  • Rainouts. I know country music superstar Luke Bryan says “Rain is a Good Thing,” but he couldn’t be more wrong about rain in terms of what the Indians have dealt with as far as rainouts are concerned. Already four games have been postponed due to rain and it’s not even May yet. For a team that has yet to find its true identity on the field, the Indians have certainly been hurt by the wet stuff.
  • Errors. An error by Cabrera in the third inning has now put Cleveland in a tie for third place in the American League for most errors in 2013 having committed 14 as a team.
  • Hitting Giambi fifth. Why on Earth is designated hitter Jason Giambi hitting fifth in the Tribe lineup? Don’t get me wrong, I really like Giambi’s bat and presence in the lineup, but it isn’t 2002 anymore. He should be hitting seventh in the order behind one of the American League leaders Mark Reynolds with seven home runs and 19 RBI.

The Top 3

  • Kazmir. It was a nice bounce back start for Kazmir, as the lefty threw a solid five innings making just one mistake on Saturday by serving up a two-run homer by Salvador Perez in the second inning. With the Indians battling the injury bug of late, they need Kazmir to keep them in ballgames and give the team a chance to win every five days he takes the ball.
  • Allen dominates. After starting the year giving up three runs through his first three innings, Tribe reliever Cody Allen has now thrown 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball over his last five appearances, walking two and striking out 11. Allen pitched 1 1/3 innings on Saturday striking out Royals Jeff Francoeur and Elliot Johnson on high heat fastballs topping out at 96 MPH.
  • Dr. Smooth. His average may not show it, but outfielder Michael Brantley was the only hitter in the Cleveland lineup that was productive in the first game against the Royals. With a double and two-run triple on Saturday, Brantley has now hit in five straight games bumping his average up to .274 on the year.

Closing Time

With the loss against Kansas City, Cleveland moves back four games in back of first place in the American League Central Division with a record of 8-12 on the season.

Up next for the Indians: A classic day-night doubleheader against the Royals on Sunday. Tribe ace Justin Masterson (4-1, 1.85 ERA) takes the hill versus Jeremy Guthrie (2-0, 3.86 ERA) in game one at 2:10 pm., and Corey Kluber (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will take on lefty Will Smith in the night cap at 8:10 pm.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

Rich
April 29, 2013 - 8:45 AM EDT
I was very encouraged by Kazmir's performance as he went five innings and gave up only two runs, and that was on a home run on a pitch way out of the strike zone. I'd call it a lucky swing, and Kazmir said he's never seen a home run on a ball that wide of the zone.

Kaz was hitting 93 mph and getting a lot of swings and misses on fastballs in the zone.

The Indians desparately need someone to step up and replace Myers, so the solid performances by Kazmir and Kluber this weekend give me some hope.

The Indians are in last place but only 4.0 games out of first. The other two last place A.L. teams are 9.0 and 9.5 games out. The Central is extremely mediocre from top to bottom so far, so if the Indians can get Bourn back and get Droobs, Chiz, and Kipnis to start hitting, they could stay in the hunt. Especially if Kaz and Kluber settle in as decent starters.

Kipnis is the guy that worries me. He has problems with both elbows and hasn't done anything with the bat since last June.
Beestang
April 28, 2013 - 7:18 PM EDT
I wanted to believe this year, I really did. I was worried about the starting pitching, but I liked the off-season signings of position players. But 21 games in now, I realize that the names & faces may change from year to year, but the result is always the same. Injuries, no bats, no pitching - in 13 of these first 21 games the O has scored 3 or less runs. Our starting pitching is in shambles.. And injuries have kept the lineup full of bench players. I'm just so sick and tired of being out of the pennant race by Memorial Day. I look so forward to settling in to watch the game, then we lose big and I end up miserable. Franconia or Wedge, or Acta, doesn't matter who the manager is - this is just not a good team. What a shame...

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