After stringing together four quality games in a row, the Indians’ four-game winning streak finally came to an end Saturday. The Astros, owners of one of the least potent lineups in baseball, lit up the Tribe’s pitching staff and in the process stymied the Indians’ bats to win the game 8-1. The loss also cut the Tribe’s lead in the AL Central race to just a half a game over the White Sox.
Despite the final score, the game started off great. Asdrubal Cabrera took Astros rookie starter Dallas Keuchel deep for a home run in the top of the fourth (his ninth of the year) to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. That homer continued the rather impressive streak of power hitting Cabrera has been on of late.
The issue was whether or not Jeanmar Gomez would be able to make that one run hold up the same way Ubaldo Jimenez had the previous night. Gomez, who came into the game having struggled of late, was looking to get himself back on track. For the first four innings it looked like he was. Twelve batters came up to the plate and twelve batters sat right back down. Gomez made short work of the Astros in the early innings and the Indians looked well on their way to win number five in a row.
Unfortunately, the fifth inning happened.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Jeanmar Gomez we have seen over the past month reared his ugly head. All of the sudden the Astros started hitting the ball hard over the walls and into the gaps. Before anyone knew what had hit them, the Astros had jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Gomez would eventually finish the inning and come back out to start the sixth, but he did not fare any better then as he up another run on a hard-hit double by Carlos Lee.
Things continued to go downhill even after Gomez was removed from the game. Tony Sipp held the Astros in check for 1.1 innings, but in the bottom of the eighth they struck again off of Jeremy Accardo. A home run by Jose Altuve, another Lee double, and a double by Chris Johnson stretched the Astros’ lead to 8-1 and that was that.
Keuchel closed the door on the Indians in the bottom of the ninth and in the process recorded his first career complete game in only his second career MLB start.
The Good: Not much. Jason Kipnis had himself a decent day, going 3-for-4, but other than that the Tribe’s bats were kept in check. Another positive was the performance of Tony Sipp. A year ago he was one of the Tribe’s most reliable pitchers, but he had been struggling mightily of late. Throwing 1.1 quality innings was a positive step forward.
The Bad: Jeanmar Gomez fell apart again. After retiring the first 12 batters of the game and showing complete dominance, Gomez did a complete 180 in the bottom of the fifth. Once the Astros started hitting the ball into the gaps Gomez just wasn’t the same. When it was all said and done he was trailing 5-1.
Not only was Gomez bad, but the bullpen once again failed to keep the opposition in check. This is becoming an alarming trend for the Indians. When they have the lead and go to the bullpen the Indians are unhittable. Go to the bullpen trailing and all of the sudden the flood gates open up. This is something the Indians need to figure out—otherwise they’ll never be able to mount any sort of comebacks.
Lastly, the offense was terrible. With the exceptions of Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians couldn’t do much of anything with the bats. The Astros aren’t the best pitching team in baseball, but the Indians are doing everything in their power to make it seem that way. Two games into this series and they’ve scored only three runs. That’s not going to get the job done.
The Huh?: With Jeanmar Gomez struggling in the bottom of the fifth, Manny Acta chose to stick with him even though he had his bullpen up and moving. It worked out well: Gomez limited the damage and got out of the inning, and Acta could pinch-hit for Gomez to lead off the sixth without having wasted a bullpen arm on just a third of an inning.
But for reasons beyond my understanding, Acta decided to let Gomez hit and then head back out to the mound for the bottom of the sixth. Gomez gave up another run and left the game before the inning was over. With Gomez getting roughed up on the mound and the Indians struggling to score runs, why would Acta decide to waste an at-bat with Gomez instead of trying to start a rally with a pinch hitter?
Interesting Tidbit: It should come as no surprise to anyone looking at the box score that Dallas Keuchel throws the ball with his left arm. How’s this for an alarming stat: The Indians are now 5-14 versus left-handed starters in 2012.