Second Thoughts: Game #72 - Indians 1, Yankees 7
|W: H. Kuroda (7-7) L: J. Tomlin (3-5)|
The opening game in New York eerily resembled the last two painful losses in Houston. It was another robust offensive showing for the opposition, while Tribe hitters were left scratching their heads. Losses like the last three only serve to continue to fuel the trade speculation amongst Tribe fans. Unfortunately, if Cleveland hitters and pitchers continue to synchronize their struggles through the All-Star break, then the trade deadline could be a moot point for the Tribe’s playoff chances.
The Major 3
Yankees offensive dominance: The Bronx Bombers didn’t waste any time pouncing on Josh Tomlin as they scored two runs in each of the first three innings to chase Tomlin after only three, brutal innings. Early on, the Tribe starter showed promise by working both sides of the plate, showing particular devotion to pitching inside to the power-heavy New York lineup. Yet, it didn’t last long, as his mistakes were belted a long way.
In the first inning, the mashing started with a Mark Teixeira laser single off the right field wall, which moved Curtis Granderson, who reached on a walk, to third. Robinson Cano followed by clubbing a Tomlin mistake pitch for a two-run double. Tomlin threw 35 pitches in the first inning, and it didn’t get any better as his night went on.
Yankees center fielder, Dewayne Wise, who came into the night with only a .113 batting average, blasted a curveball that hung up in the zone for a towering 2nd inning two-run home run. Yankees Stadium, 1st in the American League with 2.88 home runs per game, is not the kind of place that you want to make fat pitches, especially when it’s against a lineup like the one Tomlin faced.
In the 3rd and final inning for Tomlin, he retired the first two batters, followed by back-to-back big flies from Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Dewayne Wise capped the Yankees scoring with an RBI triple in the 6th. The New York offense worked Tomlin for three home runs on 80 pitches in three forgettable innings. Admittedly, it’s a dry spell for the Tribe offense, but watching a high-octane offense like this tee off only highlighted the offensive deficiencies that Cleveland possesses.
Contrasting Starting Pitching: A look at each of the starting lines paints the picture of two vastly dissimilar performances:
Tomlin - 3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO, 3 HR
Kuroda - 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, 0 HR
Each pitcher’s line accurately represents the respective pitching performances. The Yankees offense executed on nearly every mistake that came out of Tomlin’s hand. Unfortunately for the Tribe offense, Cleveland was stymied by Hiroki Kuroda, who didn’t implement anything fancy in the way he attacked the Indians hitters. Pitching with a stout lead, he primarily relied on a sinking fastball mixed in with splitters and the occasional curveball, and he threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. The Tribe could only sustain consecutive hits once in the game, their first time doing so since Wednesday at home against the Reds.
For Tomlin, who was coming off a quality start against Cincinnati, Monday’s start continued his trend of having a dismal start after a stellar one. It’s perplexing how a starting pitcher can flip-flop back and forth between high and low quality starts. Regardless of the good starts, over his last six outings Tomlin has a 6.82 ERA. He’s now tied for the team lead in most homers allowed with eleven. If it weren’t for the recently demoted Jeanmar Gomez and his struggles, Tomlin might be facing more heat, as his ERA is now a whopping 5.70.
Tribe offensive woes continue: The panic is starting to set in for Cleveland’s hitters, who have now amassed a mere five runs over their last four games. In that same span, they’ve totaled 20 hits, a .165 batting average, and 29 strikeouts. The one stat that tells the harrowing tale of this game is the Indians’ hitting with runners in scoring position: 0-for-8. That now makes the team 3-for-23 with RISP over the last four games. As it was previously mentioned, the inability to continually string hits together hurts as well.
The only Cleveland hitter with multiple hits was Shin-Soo Choo who went 2-for-4. The rest of the lineup had a whopping three hits in 27 at-bats (.111) against Yankees pitching. Although Indians hitters have the 2nd fewest strikeouts in the league, they were punched out nine times on Monday. This game marked the tenth time this season that Cleveland could only muster a single run, in addition to it being the 24th instance of scoring two runs or less. Until the miracle right-handed bat falls from the sky, it’ll likely be more of the same for Tribe hitters.
The Little 3
Acta left Barnes in too long: Although the game was likely out of reach by the time the sixth inning rolled around, it was particularly irritating that Acta let newly-recalled reliever Scott Barnes come back out in the sixth for his third inning of work. Through his first two innings, the only Yankees hitter to reach base was Chris Stewart, who was hit by a pitch; Barnes recorded two strikeouts and a double play to settle the surging New York offense.
Curiously, Acta sent him back out for the sixth inning. After retiring the first two hitters, Barnes clearly appeared out of gas against the third batter of the inning, Eric Chavez, who walked on five pitches. Wise followed the walk with an RBI triple, capitalizing on the managerial error. The point is Barnes should have never been out there for the sixth inning. Acta should’ve let his young reliever build some confidence on two shutout innings, but instead he got greedy.
Tomlin’s 1st inning troubles: Coming into the game, Josh Tomlin had shown a propensity for giving up costly first inning runs, demonstrated by his first inning ERA which was over ten. That trend continued as Tomlin gave up a pair of runs in the first frame. This inflated his first inning ERA to 11.45, as well as raising his opponents’ average and WHIP to .412 and 2.36, respectively. Those numbers are obviously horrendous, and if Tomlin wants to start demonstrating some level of consistency from start to start, the key will be succeeding early.
Good ‘pen performance: Buried in this ugly loss is the superlative way in which the Tribe bullpen pitched. Last in the league in ERA, Cleveland relievers showed some resolve by holding the Yankees to one run over five innings, with two hits and six strikeouts. It was impressive that it was the trio of Barnes-Rogers-Accardo that mitigated the damage. The setup men and closer have been the strength of the relieving corps all season, but if the other four guys can get going it’d help take the pressure off Smith, Pestano, and Perez.
The 3 Most Wanted
More from Damon and Kotchman: There has been an ample amount of slack given to veterans Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman, as they’ve struggled mightily. It’s time for these players to figure it out and quit relying on yesteryear’s numbers to justify their place in the lineup. A prime example of their infuriating futility came in the 4th inning with runners on the corners and one out. Cleveland desperately needed to mount some kind - even the most meager - of a response inning if they wanted to have a shot at coming back. Instead, the lackluster duo doused the rally with two weak popouts on just three pitches.
Beyond the lack of runs scored in this situation, the psychological toll that such a feeble showing takes on an offense is immeasurable. The two hitters combined to go 1-for-8 in the game, but even more troubling are their marks with runners on base (0-for-5) and runners in scoring position (0-for-3).
Something positive: With both the pitching and offense currently struggling, it’s the first time this season that the Indians have had to battle a prolonged slump of both facets. Until the tandem troubles began, Cleveland had circumvented prolonged stretches of losses by relying on one or the other to get them through. Right now, the Tribe has to find a way to scratch out some wins over the last two weeks before the All-Star break, in order to stay within striking distance of the division lead. Let’s hope Tuesday’s starter for New York, Phil Hughes, who is second in the AL in home runs allowed (19), will serve up some confidence to Tribe hitters.
Another strong showing from Masterson: The Indians ace needs to fill the stopper role and will his team to a win on Tuesday. Following one of the best starts of his career, a complete game victory against the Reds, Masterson needs to stabilize the team’s recent struggles and give the Tribe a chance to win the game, and, with any luck, the series.
That being said, Tomlin needs to figure out why he's been getting hit hard lately and turn it around immediately. There's nobody else to take his place, except possibly McFarland.
When your starting left fielder and first baseman are hitting .203 and .226 with 40 RBI in 70 games, you really can't compete. Yeah, those were pitiful at-bats by Damon and Kotchman. Unfortunately, there's nothing to be done as we have nobody in the farm system and next to nothing in trade bait.