The Cleveland Indians are fading…and fast.
There was no better example of how far they have slipped than by looking at their play over the weekend at Progressive Field when the Rangers swept four games – the last two coming on shutouts.
Granted Texas is one of the best in baseball with Josh Hamilton back in the lineup, but we’re talking about an Indians squad that had the best home record in baseball by a large margin.
The Indians were 30-15 at one point and are now 33-24 with the red hot Tigers breathing down their neck only 2½ games behind. The Tribe has now dropped nine of their last 12 games and have scored only 11 runs in those losses.
The defeats seem to coincide with DH Travis Hafner going on the disabled list, but it goes much deeper. Carlos Santana and Shin-Soo Choo aren’t hitting as expected with only Asdrubal Cabrera is producing with any consistency at the plate.
The starting pitching, which had been their strong point, has let them down over the last three weeks. The ace, Justin Masterson, led the Indians to wins in his first six starts. But since May 6, the Indians have lost five of Masterson’s last six starts.
Their immediate future doesn’t look too promising either. Cleveland started a three game set against the Twins on Monday and then plays four at Yankee Stadium over the weekend. The Twins are coming off a four-game sweep at Kansas City while the first-place Yankees won six of their last seven on their West Coast swing.
Baseball fans everywhere are hoping the fairy tale story doesn’t end this quick for the city of Cleveland . After watching LeBron James take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals for Miami, the Browns players being locked out, Jim Tressel stepping down and all the other anxieties surrounding their beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, could the sports gods at least shine a little light on the Indians for the sake of their tortured fans?
Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound for the Rockies Tuesday night at San Diego fresh off his first win of the year last week at Dodger Stadium. The Rockies had gone 1-8 in his first nine starts with Jimenez taking the loss in five.
Yet, the money-lines didn’t decrease too much on him throughout the drought. It was as if he got a free pass for all the bad starts with everyone setting the lines knowing he would eventually come around, and he did.
Perhaps it’s more about the Los Angeles lineup and pitching at Dodger Stadium, but he was dominant in a 3-0 complete game shutout win and looked every bit as good as he was for the first half of last season.
We may not get a full gauge on whether Jimenez is completely back until two weeks during inter-league play because he faces another weak lineup at San Diego and then a rematch with the Dodgers in Colorado .
Both are teams Ubaldo should be expected to shut down under the circumstances. The real test may not be until Detroit visits Coors Field where he’s expected to start June 19.
Big Z Sounds Off
The Cubs have lost six in a row with the last two coming on walk off homers by Albert Pujols. Sunday’s starting pitcher, Carlos Zambrano (5-2), who left with a 2-1 lead after pitching seven innings questioned the pitch selection of closer Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning to Ryan Theriot who hit the game tying double to send the game into extra innings.
“The problem wasn’t Pujols. The problem was (Theriot’s) at-bat,” Zambrano said. “We should have known better than this. We are playing like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing, that’s the word for this team. We should play better here. We stink. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
This was the second game in a row that Zambrano has allowed one run with his team winning only to see Marmol implode. Last Tuesday, Marmol allowed the Astros to rally for six runs in the ninth during a 7-3 loss.
Over Zambrano’s last four starts he has been one of the more consistent starters in baseball, but has failed to go past the eighth in any of his starts all season. He didn’t actually call out Marmol’s name, but he described the situation so we all knew who he was talking about. He may have gone about things the wrong way, but has every right to be upset that his quality contributions to a team that has struggled have been wasted.
I have fallen out of love quickly with one of my favorite young pitchers. Zach Britton of Baltimore was the latest to be on my disowned list after two consecutive starts of giving up five runs or more. The biggest disappointment came May 29 when he lost at Oakland giving up six runs to that lineup.
Prior to that, Britton was just rolling along like he’d been in the league for a few years, but it appears that all the scouts have converged on what his deal is and he hasn’t been able to adjust. It was a nice run, though. The Orioles won seven of his first 10 starts.
Josh Tomlin gave in quite bit his last start against Toronto allowing six runs, but the Indians won quite easily and gave him his seventh win of the year. It was Tomlin’s worst outing of the year.
The Indians have won eight of his 11 starts this season as he heads into Monday’s game against the Twins. They need him to come up big now more than ever.
In Tomlin’s start against Toronto he faced Kyle Drabek who didn’t make it out of the first inning. Between three walks and four hits, the Indians pounded him for four runs.
It was the first time this season that the walks finally caught up with Drabek who now has 45 walks to 43 K’s. The fact still remains that Toronto is 8-4 with him as the starter even though Drabek is 3-4.
Meanwhile, Michael Pineda keeps rolling along. After losing his first start of the season the Mariners have gone on to win seven of his last 10 outings and he’s 6-2 heading into Monday night’s start at Chicago .
Unlike the other three rookie pitchers, Pineda has been dominating – only yielding more than three runs in a game once. In seven of his starts he’s surrendered one earned run or less making him not just a candidate for Rookie of the Year, but for the Cy Young as well.