After an offensive explosion on Saturday afternoon, the bats for both the Blue Jays and Indians fell silent on Sunday. In what might have been one of the least eventful games of the year, the Blue Jays were able to do just enough over the courser of nine innings to outlast the suddenly struggling Indians 3-0. The loss, combined with wins by both the White Sox and Tigers dropped the Indians back to third place and four games out of first with a record of 45-43.
The Indians never got anything going on the day offensively and struggled to put together any type of threat. In all, they were only able to scrounge up five hits and five walks, but never at opportune times. Michael Brantley, to his credit, doubled twice to lead off innings, but both times he was stranded. It’s this type of offensive inefficiency that is beginning to hold this team back from making a run at the top of the division and serves as another example for the Indians’ offensive shortcomings.
Perhaps even more frustrating than the offense yesterday, or lack there of, was the fact that the Tribe wasted a quality start from Derek Lowe. Lowe struggled through much of June before turning in a winning performance on the 4th of July. Looking to build on that start, he took the mound hoping to give some rest to a bullpen that had labored through 6.2 innings the day before. He did just that. Lowe allowed only three runs on three hits over the course of six innings, but much like Ubaldo Jimenez on Saturday, walks killed him, especially in the third inning,
The third inning strated out with a walk to Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson. Lowe was able to strike out former Indian Ben Francisco, but not before Kelly Johnson stole second and advanced to third on the throw from Carlos Santana. J.P. Arencibia sinlged home Johnson to give the Jays a 1-0 lead and two batters later an RBI single by Colby Rasmus made it 2-0. After a Jose Bautista sinlge and Edwin Encarnacion walk, Lowe did the one thing he couldn’t do with the bases loaded. Adam Lind, the man who torched the Tribe for four hits and four RBI drew a bases loaded walk. It ran the score to 3-0 and that’s all the Blue Jays would need.
Lowe bounced back from a terrible third inning and the bullpen didn’t allow more damage, something we’ve rarely seen this year when trailing (probably because Acta went with Joe Smith), but it didn’t matter. Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva was on top of his game for six solid innings, Jason Frasor added a solid inning of relief in the seventh to earn a hold, and Darren Oliver worked a solid eighth and ninth for the two inning save. The Indians will now have to pick themselves up and dust themselves off as they head to Tampa to take on the Rays for a four game series starting Monday.
The Good: Derek Lowe had a quality start and did everything he had to do in order to put the Indians in a position to win the game. The three run third inning was bad, but that’s not an insurmountable lead, at least it shouldn’t be. The bullpen was also great, shutting down the Blue Jays and keeping it to a three run deficit.
Also, Michael Brantley continued to be solid in the middle of the order. He went 2 for 3 on the day and has now moved his batting average to .302, easily tops on the team. He’s really beginning to look like a key cog moving forward.
The Bad: The offense was bad, plain and simple. They exploded on Saturday for nine runs, but score just one run total on Friday and Sunday combined. That can’t happen. This team needs to figure out a way to score more runs on a consistent basis and get better situation hitting when opposing pitchers make mistakes, like loading the bases with no one out or giving up lead off doubles.
The “Huh?”: With the Indians trailing Manny Acta decided to roll with Joe Smith for two innings out of the pen. This is unusual for two reasons. First, Joe Smith is typically a one batter or one inning pitcher. Second, Acta never goes to Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, or Joe Smith when they’re trailing. Is Acta beginning to feel a bit desperate knowing that he can’t continue to let one or two run deficits explode to six or eight run deficits? It’s interesting to say the least.