Another night, another loss and along with it the Indians playoff aspirations for the 2012 season get that much closer to falling off life support.
Needing a a win to stop the hemorrhaging, the Tribe turned to Corey Kluber. Kluber was called up to the big league club after recent demotions of Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe to the bullpen and the unemployment line respectively. Unfortunately, Kluber couldn’t quite get the job done in his first Major League start and the Indians lost a heart-breaker 7-6 in 11 innings.
Things got off to a bad start for Kluber. On his very first pitch, Alex Gordon sent a shot out to right field to make it 1-0 Royals. They weren’t anywhere close to being done. An RBI single by Lorenzo Cain, a three run homer for Eric Hosmer, and an RBI single from Jarrod Dyson later and the Royals had batted around and jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Welcome to the bigs, rook.
The Indians did their best to battle back. By the end of the third inning they had cut the lead to 6-4 and had lefty starter Bruce Chen out of the game after only 2.2 innings of work. In the top of the fifth, the suddenly white hot Carlos Santana hit a two run homer to left to tie the game at 6. The home run was Santana’s second of the series and his fifth in his last 11 games. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like too little, too late.
After the Santana homer, the Indians and Royals played five innings of shut out baseball. Then the bottom of the eleventh happened. In his second inning of relief, Esmil Rogers couldn’t keep the Royals off the board any longer. Eric Hosmer led off the inning with a single and was advanced to second thanks to a Chris Getz sac bunt and to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Alex Gordon was intentionally walked and Chris Perez was brought into the game. After Alex Gordon advanced to second on defensive indifference, and thus negating the point of the intentional walk, Alcides Escobar singled to left on a 1-2 pitch by Perez and scored Hosmer from third. Ball game.
With the loss, the Indians have now lost 6 games in a row and been swept in back to back series by the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. They now find themselves 7.5 games out of first with a record of 50-55 heading into a three game series in Detroit.
The Good: Welcome to the 2012 season Carlos Santana! I wrote a few weeks ago how Carlos Santana’s numbers the first half of this year were a near exact replica of last year’s first half numbers. Now it seems as if Santana is poised to repeat last year’s second half surge on his way to 27 home runs and 79 RBI. While it’s great to see him turning things around, it is a bit concerning that this is two years in a row now that Santana has gotten hot as the Indians begin the slow and painful descent out of playoff contention.
The Bad: Corey Kluber’s performance in his Major League debut was anything but inspiring and while it was bad, I can’t exactly place the blame on him. Did anyone really expect Corey Kluber to be pitching in August with the season seemingly hanging in the balance? The answer to that is a resounding no. So while Kluber’s debut was bad, it’s even worse that the Tribe was forced to put him in that position to begin with.
The “Huh?”: I didn’t understand the strategy in the bottom of the 11th. Manny Acta chose to intentionally walk Alex Gordon setting up a match-up between Perez and Escobar. Why not walk Escobar as well? He’s batting .307 on the season and has become one of the toughest outs in baseball. Why not walk Gordon and Escobar, both of which were meaningless runs, and set up a force out at any base. It also would have given Perez a match-up against a significantly less talented hitter in Lorenzo Cain. Then again, that would have been a righty-lefty match-up and we can’t have that. When are managers going to realize the whole righty-lefty thing isn’t as big of a deal as they make it out to be?
Interesting tidbit: This was the Royals first sweep of the Indians in six years.