Looking to rebound from a tough loss on Saturday night, the Indians took to the field on Sunday to face off against the Royals in a day night double-header. Friday night’s rain out necessitated the double-header and put both teams in the precarious situation of having to manage lineups and pitching staffs not just to make it through Sunday, but also today’s get away day game. So, in the words of the immortal Ernie Banks, let’s play two!
Game one looked to favor the Indians, at least on paper. They were sending Justin Masterson to the mound in the hopes that he would continue his impressively hot stretch to begin the season. Coming into the game, Masterson had posted a 4-1 record with an ERA of 1.85 and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Meanwhile, the Royals were countering with Jeremy Guthrie, a journeymen who was once a top rated prospect for the Indians.
Things did not go as expected.
Masterson struggled over the course of 6.1 innings of work, allowing 7 runs off of 9 hits and 4 walks. For whatever reason, he just didn’t have his best stuff yesterday and it showed. As for Guthrie, he shined during his 6.2 innings of work and completely shut down the Indians.
The Royals got things going early in the bottom half of the second inning offensively. With two outs, Jeff Francoeur followed up a Mike Moustakas walk with an RBI double to left center. Jarrod Dyson then followed with a double of his own to make it 2-0 Royals. Dyson would strike again in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI single to right center to make it 3-0. In the bottom of the fifth, Alicedes Escobar, the young and talented Royals short stop know more for his glove than his bat, homered to left off of Masterson to push the Royal lead to 4-0.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh when things really got out of control for the Tribe. Masterson began to struggle with his control and as a result the Royals were able to tack on 3 more runs and push their lead to 7-0. Before it was all said and done, Alex Gordon made it 9-0 with a two-run home run to right center in the bottom of the eighth.
Meanwhile, the Indians were able to get 11 men on base during the course of game one. Unfortunately, they were never able to string together a rally and put runs on the board. It continued a startling trend throughout much of April in which the Indians have done little to nothing offensively it they aren’t hitting home runs.
If game one was a disaster, then game two was roaring success on all fronts.
Heading into the night-cap, the Indians were sending Corey Kluber to the mound. Kluber has had little success at the big league level. In his few start during 2012, he was hit hard and it was a trend that continued into Spring Training this year. Naturally, Kluber came out and pitched a gem last night.
Over the course of 7.0 innings of work, Kluber allowed only 2 runs on 7 hits and struck out 6 while walking none. It was exactly the type of pitching performance the Tribe needed following the missteps of their ace only hour earlier. It also helped that the Indian offense, shut down by Jeremy Guthrie, exploded for 10 runs and put the game out of reach early.
In the top of the first, the Indians staked Kluber to a 2-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from Carlos Santana and RBI ground out from Mike Aviles. In the top of the third, Aviles struck again when he drilled a three-run homer to left to put the Indians up 5-0. The Tribe tacked on additional runs in the later innings after a Drew Stubbs sac fly in the fourth, an Aviles sac fly and run scoring error in the seventh, and then an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI triple and Nick Swisher sac fly in the eighth.
The Royals, much like the Indians in game one, did very little right offensively in game two. They managed to score two runs in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Chris Getz two RBI single and then a third run in the eighth on a sac fly by Lorenzo Cain. That was all they were able to muster thanks in part to a phenomenal performance by the aforementioned Kluber.
The Good: Corey Kluber and Mike Aviles were magnificent in game two. Kluber, as already mentioned, pitched a superb 7 innings and allowed only 2 runs while scattering 7 hits. His 6 strikeouts were also an encouraging sign given we are accustomed to seeing Kluber get hit hard.
As for Aviles, he went 1 for 4 in game two, but he still found a way to drive in 5 runs. Sure, he wasn’t getting on base or getting hits, but he made productive outs and he made the one hit he did get count.
Kudos also to Carlos Santana, whose performance during yesterday’s double-header helped him raise his batting average to .388.
The Bad: Justin Masterson was pretty bad in game one. However, given the way he has thrown this year he was bound to run into a bad outing eventually. Let’s see how he responds before anyone begins to freak out. If this one bad start turns into two or three more bad starts, then we can worry.
We also need to call out the offense. They performed in game two, but game one was more of the same. This team is the living embodiment of feast or famine.
The “Huh?”: I understand the purpose of using Chris Perez during a blow out, but tonight we got to see the hazards of using your closer in a situation when it isn’t warranted. Looking to finish off the game without incident, Perez took a sharp one hopper back to the mound off of his wrist. After a visit from the trainers and a few practice tosses, he was fine, but still it made you wonder why he was even in there.