Monday night was a battle of solo home runs. Unfortunately for the Indians, it was a battle they wouldn’t win. Looking to right the ship and build on Sunday’s positive momentum and impressive offensive performance, the Indians traveled to Seattle to take on the suddenly better than advertised Mariners. Things started off well and the team got another solid outing out of Ubaldo Jimenez but for the third time in four games the Tribe fell short.
The primary catalyst behind the Indians solid start can be place squarely in the decision making hands of Terry Francona. Looking to get Nick Swisher jump started, Francona decided it was time to insert him into the two hole. The move paid off immediately as Swisher went deep in his first at bat Monday night. His solo homer to left center was his tenth of the year and put the Indians ahead 1-0.
Things wouldn’t stay that way for long, however. Facing Kendrys Morlaes in the bottom of the fourth, Jimenez threw an inside fastball to the one time slugging phenom that just didn’t ride in enough. Morales was able to turn on the inside offering and hook it just inside the foul pole in right, tying the game at 1-1 in the process.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, Seattle’s top prospect turned big league catcher stepped to the plate. Mike Zunino was a much heralded prospect for the Mariners since being drafted out of the University of Florida. The Indians saw first hand just how impressive Zunino has been. After doubling in his first at bat, Zunino delivered a solo home run of his own in the fifth. The home run, Zunino’s second of the season and his career put the Mariners up 2-1. It was the last mistake Ubaldo Jimenez, or any Indians pitcher would make on the night for that matter, but the damage was done.
The Indians’ offense struggled mightily once they went down 2-1. Aaron Harang settled in and shut them down. His final line, seven innings of work, four hits, a walk and just the one run. At one point, Harang even retired nine straight batters to earn the win. In the process he advanced his 2013 record to 5-8 and improved his career record to 5-2 in 11 career starts against the Indians.
The Mariner bullpen, represented by Charlie Furbush and Tom Wilhelmson shut the door on the tribe. Yes, Wilhelmsen allowed the tying run to make it all the way to third base in the top of the ninth with two outs, but he was able to get Lonnie Chisenhall to fly out to medium deep right to end the game and the threat.
Ubaldo Jimenez took the loss and over the course of 5.2 innings of work allowed only two runs on five hits. He walked 4 batters on the evening, but those were not the mistakes that came back to haunt him. Instead it was the two solo home runs he surrendered, the first home runs allowed by an Indians pitcher in upwards of 80+ innings of work. The Indians will look to bounce back as they take on the Mariners in the second game of a three game series tonight at Safeco Field.
The Good: Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well once again over the course of 5.2 innings of work. Although he took the loss, you can’t fault him for surrendering two runs. With the ability the Indians offense has shown this year, two runs should not be an insurmountable deficit.
Also, the decision to move Nick Swisher into the two spot in the lineup paid immediate dividends. Swisher went 2 for 4 with a solo home run and a single. It will be interesting to see how the move affects Swisher moving forward and if moving Asdrubal Cabrera into the cleanup spot will help, or only further hurt him.
The Bad: The Indians offense couldn’t get anything going against Aaron Harang. It’s not as if they were facing Felix Hernandez. Harang is on the downward slope of his career and is the type of pitcher the Indians should feast on. Once again, he made them look like the Bad News Bears. Also worth noting, the Indians have now lost three of their last four games. All were decided by one run, a situation where they had excelled for most of the season to date.
The “Huh?”: In the eighth inning, Michael Bourn led off by getting hit by a pitch. As the tying run, it was imperative that the Indians find a way to get him around to score with no one out. Instead, Bourn tried to steal against left-handed hurler Charlie Furbush and was picked off trying to steal on first movement. At that point the Indians hadn’t had a base runner in almost four innings. It was a poor decision all around.