Sunday, June 15, 2008

Padres-Indians: Tribe Falls As Disturbing Trends Continue

You should never let the team with the ugliest uniforms win. It is 1970’s weekend at Progressive Field for the Interleague Series versus the San Diego Padres and both teams sported uniforms from 1978. Unfortunately, despite wearing the 1978 garb, the Indians decided to turn the clock back to mid-May when they couldn’t buy a win for a number of recurring themes.

The Tribe took an early lead in the 1st as Grady Sizemore and Ben Francisco walked and were brought home by a Ryan Garko single and Shin-Soo Choo double, respectively. Now up 2-0, with runners on second and third and only one out, Jhonny Peralta stepped to the plate. The Jhonny Peralta of 11 homeruns and only 21 RBIs. Well Peralta at least made it 22 RBIs and a 3-0 lead by grounding out to short. Casey Blake flew out to center to end the inning.

Putting a three-spot on the board is great but when you are in the heart of your batting order, and I use that term very loosely, and you have two runners in scoring position with less than two outs you need to score them both. In essence, the Indians let the Padres off the hook and failed to potentially put the game out of reach right out of the gate and failed to do so. Even by just scoring that one additional run is important as we would find out later.

Worse than letting the Padres off with only a three run deficit was the offensive production in the next 9 innings. That would be none. The Indians went the next seven innings without getting a hit. Yes, you read that correctly. In innings two through eight the Tribe managed zero hits. Zero. Zip. Nada. A big friggin’ doughnut.

Well the Padres do have some great pitching with Jake Peavy and Greg Maddux you say? Yeah, it was Cha Seung Baek who was pitching, not Peavy or Maddux. After, making working Baek in the first inning the offense took the rest of the night off. In fact Baek, and Heath Bell combined to retire 23 of 24 hitters from the 2nd to 9th innings, including 19 straight. After getting two hits working two walks in the 1st inning the Indians got two this and one walk the rest of the game.

Thank the heavens for Cliff Lee as he was dealing again. He did give up eight hits in 6 1/3 innings but held San Diego to only two runs over that time. Lee knows first hand that if you do the math, you can’t let the opposition score more than 2 runs with the Indians offense. Tribe fans held their breath as Rafael Betancourt was summoned from the bullpen to get Lee out of a 7th inning jam. But Betancourt did his job as he retired the two batters he faced to hold the score at 3-2 Cleveland.

Disturbing trend number two reappeared in the 8th however as Rafael Perez took the hill. Perez promptly gave up a solo shot to former Indian Jody Gerut and it was tied 3-3 in a heartbeat. The trend with the Tribe bullpen hasn’t been that it’s been one guy going through a slump here and there. It is the fact that night in and night out it seems that whoever Eric Wedge sends to the hill could, and usually will, hand over the lead to the opponent. Perez was the culprit in the 8th.

Unfortunately, with Betancourt, Perez and Joe Borowski used after nine innings, and Masa Kobayashi unavailable after pitching consecutive nights, Uncle Eric had to turn to rookie Ed Mujica to pitch the 10th. It did not go well. Five runs, three hits and two walks that included Mujica walking in the go ahead run and then giving up a monster grand salami over the wall in left to another former Indian, Kevin Kouzmanoff. The 3-3 tie was now a 8-3 San Diego lead and the fat lady had sung.

After a decent, and once again I use that term loosely, run which saw the Indians split series with Texas and Detroit, and win their first series since May 15th by taking two of three from Minnesota, the Tribe failed to make it two series in a row.

More disturbing is how they lost. The Indians still have a tough time generating runs but lately they have been putting themselves in scoring opportunities. Saturday night the complete lack of opportunities, and base runners, returned. This coupled with the continued inconsistencies of the bullpen continues to plague the Tribe in 2008.

They still have a chance to win their second consecutive series on Sunday afternoon, but they won’t be stating down Cha Seung Baek. They get to take some hacks at 350 game winner and future Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux. With the second worst offense and second worst bullpen statistically in MLB that is not a good for the Indians. The only team worse that the Indians? The Sand Diego Padres.

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