The Indians’ inconsistency rears its ugly head again as they fall to the White Sox 6-2 in a Memorial Day showdown.
The Expected (Pitching)
Josh Tomlin was his typical Tomlin-y self in this particular outing. His line wasn’t bad: Over five innings he struck out eight and walked one while allowing five hits and two earned runs. He was victimized by some poor defense in the third (see below), but that doesn’t excuse hanging a curveball that Dayan Viciedo crushed for a three-run homer. Tomlin also allowed back-to-back hits to Connor Gillespie and Viciedo before exiting in the sixth. Both came around to score on singles from Alexei Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza off of Bryan Shaw. One surprising aspect of this outing was the eight punchouts, which combined with the error in the third lead to Tomlin racking up 95 pitches through just five innings.
There’s not much more to be said about Tomlin at this point. As Underwood and Manning noted during the broadcast, Tomlin usually manages to keep his team in the ballgame, and he did that today through five innings considering the poor defense behind him.
But at the same time, we saw today why Tomlin is a back-of-the-rotation caliber starter. It’s no secret that Tomlin is prone to the gopher ball, and allowing extra base runners, even if they reach on an error, only exacerbates that problem. Tomlin certainly didn’t pitch poorly, eight strikeouts compared to one walk is evidence of that, but this game showed why Tomlin’s margin of error on the mound is so thin.
The bullpen struggled a bit in this one, but that’s bound to happen from time to time. Shaw allowed both of his inherited runners to score in the sixth, and Marc Rzepczynski allowed a single to Marcus Semien and a double to Gillespie (who the Indians simply could not retire today: 4-4, 2 R, 1 RBI) to allow the sixth run of the game. Again, nothing to worry about here, just a rough day for a typically solid unit.
The Expected (Hitting)
After a nice run of, um, runs against Detroit and Baltimore, the Indians have struggled to score in the past two ballgames. Despite not recording an extra-base hit, the Indians had some opportunities to put runs on the board. The first opportunity came in the third, when Lonnie Chisenhall led off with a walk (against a lefty!) followed by a single by Justin Sellers on a nice swing on a pitch down and away. After White Sox starter Jose Quintana registered consecutive strikeouts of Michael Bourn and Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley singled through the right side to score Chisenhall from second. Brantley was at the center of the offensive attack again in the sixth, when he led off with a walk, stole second, and scored on Ryan Raburn’s single to right field. Raburn was erased going for a double on a nice play from right fielder Moises Sierra short-circuiting any potential rally.
Outside of these two chances however, the Tribe didn’t muster much against Quintana, who posted a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 5 K. The Indians had another opportunity in the eighth, when Aviles and Brantley both singled with one out off of former Indian Zach Putnam. After an Asdurbal Cabrera strikeout, Raburn reached on an infield single to load the bases with two down. Robin Ventura then brought on lefty Scott Downs to face David Murphy, who pinch-hit for Nick Swisher after Swisher seemed to re-aggravate his knee injury. Downs struck out Murphy on what appeared to be a very questionable call by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa to end the inning. It wasn’t the first incident of the day for Kulpa, who received multiple complaints from White Sox hitters, eventually tossing catcher Tyler Flowers for arguing balls in strikes.
The Incredibly Frustrating
Yet again, the Indians made a crucial error in the field, and yet again it cost them crucial runs. With two outs in the third, Marcus Semien chopped a ball to Lonnie Chisenhall at third. Chisenhall got caught between hops, and the ball skipped off his glove and into left field, allowing Semien to reach. Tony Gwynn Connor Gillespie followed that up with a single, and Dayan Viciedo then drove a hanging curveball from Tomlin deep into the left field seats.
There’s no point in belaboring the Indians defense any further, but the truth is the Indians are a 24-28 ballclub with a Pythagorean expectation to match. They’re not going to climb back into the race when they can’t catch the ball.
The Bottom Line
As my colleague Steve Kinsella likes to say, teams that get a quality start and score four or more runs have a good chance of winning, and the Indians didn’t do either today. And as I wrote a few weeks ago, the longer the Indians struggle, the deeper the hole becomes. There’s still a lot of baseball left to play, but it won’t matter unless the Tribe can find some consistency. And stop giving up so many response runs…