The Indians’ offense finally came alive Thursday afternoon, but the Reds battered Josh Tomlin and Scott Barnes and Cleveland’s bats couldn’t keep up with Cincinnati’s as the Reds creamed the Tribe, 12-5, to complete the sweep in the first round of the Ohio Cup. The loss drops the Indians to 32-30 on the year, but the White Sox’ loss to the Cardinals kept the Tribe just a game and a half behind Chicago.
Things got off to a promising start for Cleveland. Shin-Soo Choo took Cincinnati starter Mike Leake deep on the second pitch of the game for a leadoff homer. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a double, and Jason Kipnis‘ and Carlos Santana‘s groundouts moved him to third and got him home to give the Tribe an early 2-0 lead.
It didn’t last long. Chris Heisey and Zack Cozart ripped singles off Tomlin to start the bottom of the first to bring up the ever-dangerous Joey Votto, who predictably sent one of his own over the fence. Twelve pitches into their first ups, the Reds had taken a 3-2 lead.
Things went downhill from there. Former Indian Brandon Phillips led off the bottom of the third with a solo home run, then came through with a two-run single in the fourth. But the real trouble started in the fifth: by the time Scott Barnes (who had taken the mound to start the inning) was pulled from the game, he’d faced nine batters, the Reds had scored five times, and the bases were loaded with only one out. Esmil Rogers was able to get out out of the jam, but an error, a single, and a wild pitch allowed yet another run to cross the plate on his watch in the sixth.
For their part, the Indians kept fighting even after the game was clearly out of reach. Choo took Leake deep for the second time to lead off the fifth inning and Jose Lopez and Aaron Cunningham both came through with RBI groundouts in the seventh, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Reds ran up the score in a one-sided 12-5 rout.
The Good: What a game it was for Shin-Soo Choo—he went 2-for-5 with an unusual combination of two solo home runs and three strikeouts. Overall, the Tribe offense combined for an impressive 15 hits and walks. And Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Accardo combined to strike out six Reds on two hits without allowing any walks or earned runs in 3.2 innings.
The Bad: When you put a contact pitcher who doesn’t get many groundouts in a bandbox like Great American Ballpark against a lineup as good as the Reds…well, it isn’t pretty. Tomlin gave up six runs (all earned) on 10 hits, ceding two homers and a pair of walks while getting only one strikeout in four innings. It’s safe to say he wasn’t as sharp as he looked in his last outing.
Meanwhile, Scott Barnes got to experience his first rough outing in the big leagues. The left-handed reliever was charged with five runs (all earned) on five hits while giving up a home and two walks in just a third of an inning—and he would have been in even bigger trouble had Esmil Rogers not been able to get out of the bases-loaded, one-out mess Barnes left. His ERA for the night: 135.00.
The “Huh?”: Aaron Cunningham got the start in left field last night. Johnny Damon usually gets that spot against right-handed pitchers, but he had the day off (until he pinch-hit in the ninth). But instead of going to Shelley Duncan, who has been an above-average hitter since he came to Cleveland before the 2010 season and has gotten only one start in the last week, the spot went to Cunningham, whose batting average is now below the Mendoza Line.
At this point it’s not a surprise to see Duncan so low in the pecking order for playing time, but why this team doesn’t seem to have any faith in him is still a mystery.
Interesting Tidbit: Shin-Soo Choo’s five combined home runs and strikeouts were a new personal high for him. It was also the first time in his career that he’d struck out in a multi-homer game and the first time he’d ever gone yard while striking out more than twice.