C. C. Sabathia and Rafael Betancourt were brilliant last night. The Tigers had two players out with the flu and Jeremy Bonderman has been pitching like crap for over a month. Grady Sizemore, dropped to the number three hole, delivered in the first inning with a two run home run and then... nothing. Nothing at all. Three hits in the next 8 innings. Three.
Despite this lack of production the Indians still had, and still squandered, scoring situations in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings and let the Tigers hang around. That is never a good proposition. Curtis Granderson's fully extended lay out to rob Travis Hafner in the bottom of the 8th and prevent the Indians from taking the lead may be the point at which the Indians playoff hopes were dashed. It's that kind of all out effort that seems to be missing from the Indians team since the All-Star break.
Travis Hafner continues to be awful. Jhonny Peralta has reverted back to 2005 form and is striking out in every key situation. (FYI He HAS to bunt in the 9th inning Uncle Eric. He HAS too!) Victor Martinez has been neutralized due to having no protection around him. The is no production for the corner OF spots. No one can get a hit with runners in scoring position and the Indians continue to do nothing to advance runners, generate productive outs or work the count to their favor in key situations.
Despite the bullpen shake up and the Cliff Lee/Jeremy Sowers/Jake Westbrook issues (more like debacle) from earlier in the season, this pitching staff is actually set up to be a dominant playoff staff. Something the Tribe teams of the 90's did not have the luxury of. But when you can't score 3 runs a game, it renders than advantage null and void. The Minnesota Twins are averaging 3.1 runs/game since the All-Star Game, the lowest in MLB. I can't imagine the Indians are much higher than that. The number of great starts the offense has wasted since the break is mind boggling.
Uncle Eric said after the game that some of the Erie Warriors may be feeling sorry for themselves and that it has to stop. If the Indians want to make the playoffs it better stop immediately. If not, the season may already be over even thought the Tribe still remains only 1 game out of first place with 43 to go.