If you recall I spent last weekend in Minneapolis watching the Indians get smoked by the Twins. We then all watched together this week as the last place Kansas City Royals swept our Indians with relative ease. Taking a six-game losing streak into Detroit for a three-game set with the Tigers, you had to think things couldn’t possibly have gotten worse, right?
With my brother living in Detroit, I planned a summer family weekend in Detroit around the Tribe’s visit. I figured the cousins could get together, have fun as they always do, and I could mix in a little live Tribe ball in the process. Do I know how to pick ‘em or what? I should have known what was in store when in the second inning of Friday’s game, the newly called up Ezequiel Carrera lost a line drive hit right at him in the sun, allowing a run. His sunglasses were sitting on the bill of his cap.
The play was a microcosm of the entire weekend. From Zeke’s misplay to Chris Perez’s 10th inning meltdown Sunday afternoon, it was another weekend to forget as the Tigers swept the Indians, mercifully ending their nine-game road trip without a win. That’s right, the Indians came off their biggest win of the season, the comeback win over Justin Verlander and the Tigers 11 days ago, and laid down an 0-9 road trip against three divisional foes.
“The slope keeps getting steeper and steeper,” setup man Vinnie Pestano said. “It’s testing the character and integrity of the team. We’re just looking for somebody, anybody, to show us the way.”
I was in attendance for Saturday night’s 6-1 snoozer loss. It came a night after Justin Masterson again was brutal in a start the Indians needed him to step up and be his best. I will have more on him and the rest of the rotation later today, but it is safe to say J Mast’s performance (four innings, seven runs on 10 hits and four walks) left a lot to be desired. The Tribe was non-competitive in a 10-2 loss Friday night.
Seeing Saturday night’s loss in person makes this tougher to swallow. As I watched Ubaldo give up a two-out, two-run triple to Jhonny Freaking Peralta and then an infield RBI single to Omar Infante before striking out Austin Jackson, all I could do was stand up from my seat and yell “too little, too late!” It was just another in a long line of average starts for Jimenez (5.1 IP, six runs on seven hits, four walks and a wild pitch). Boy has that trade ever backfired on the GM Chris Antonetti.
But hey, at least we don’t have to watch Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe flail around at the end of their careers anymore. Carrera, despite his defensive misadventures in left Friday, looked great with the stick, going 7-12 with a homer and two steals in three games. I had to drop a little bit of a silver lining on you before I get to the truly horrific stuff, right?
I of course am talking about yesterday’s implosion for the ages.
Losers of eight straight, the Indians needed a win. Badly. Manager Manny Acta desperately wanted this one, so he pulled out all of the stops. After spot starter Chris Seddon (will be replaced by Roberto Hernandez next week) gave back every lead the Indians provided him, the Indians looked like they may actually end their sad, sad streak. Acta went to Vinnie Pestano in the seventh inning, something he does rarely if ever. The best set up man in the game went two innings, something he does rarely if ever.
In the ninth, with the game tied, Acta called on long man Josh Tomlin. Jackson immediately greeted him with a triple. Things looked bleak for our Wahoos, but Tomlin K’d Infante for the big first out. That’s when Acta went hard into his bag of strategic genius. He called for back to back intentional walks to Tiger stars Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder with first and second base open, setting up a force at any base. Acta then pulled right fielder Shin-Soo Choo for Jose Lopez, who entered the game and became a fifth infielder. He had nothing to lose.
Facing pinch hitter Quintin Berry, Tomlin induced a 3-1-3 inning-ending double play. Carlos Santana, the first baseman on the play, pumped his fist emphatically.
“The whole idea was to not let their big guys beat us,” said Acta. “I just told Josh to keep cutting the ball in on Berry’s hands so we could get a ground ball to the right side. He did a great job.”
We moved to the tenth and it didn’t take long for the Indians to take what they thought would be the lead that would end their streak. Hafner, who had two hits and two RBIs with runners in scoring position earlier in the game (a miracle, I know), crushed a Joaquin Benoit pitch over the wall in center field to put the Tribe on top 6-5. Carrera followed with a bomb to right himself. The back to back homers were the first extra-inning homers for the Indians all season. The offense added another insurance run on a Lou Marson RBI double. With an 8-5 lead, things seemed extremely safe with all star closer Chris Perez ready to go.
Pure Rage retired the first two Tigers and we were this close to mercifully ending this putrid road trip on a high. Then the wheels not only fell off the wagon, the exploded into pieces.
Two walks and a double later, it was 8-6. Another bloop RBI single from Infante tied the game and brought the last guy the Indians wanted to see to the plate, Miggy Cabrera. You just knew what was coming, didn’t you?
The two-run, walkoff homer was the perpetual cherry on top of the sundae for the worst road swing in the 112-year history of the Indians.
“That one really hurts,” Acta said. “Not only because of the losing streak, but because of how much heart and determination these guys showed throughout the day to put themselves in position to win the ballgame. They had a lot of good at-bats and some gutsy performances.
Perez, who earlier in the year made controversial comments about the fan base booing him at home and not showing up to the park to support the team when they were in first place faced the music after the ill-timed blown save. He stood right in front of his locker and answered every question. Say what you want about him, but he is a stand-up guy.
“The fight that our hitters showed. Obviously, everybody knows we’re playing bad ball and this has been a terrible road trip. But to keeping coming back, adding one on, and keep coming back, adding one on, put three up in extra innings, and then watch me [give] it away, it just [stinks],” he said.
A big user of Twitter, Perez then took to his social media outlet and continued to fall of the sword.
There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how much I sucked today. Go ahead Cleveland, give it to me…
— Chris Perez (@ChrisPerez54) August 5, 2012
Definitely the low point of my professional career. Only thing I can do is work harder tomorrow and get better. #NeverGiveIn
— Chris Perez (@ChrisPerez54) August 5, 2012
Yes, this was a bad, bad blown save. But Perez has had just three bad outings that have cost his team this year. Three. He is far from the reason the Indians have dropped into a free fall. They started this trip just 3.5 games back of first place. Now, they are on their way towards a top ten draft pick.
Yes, the bats woke up for one day, but for the most part, they’ve been ice cold. This team isn’t built to win by out-mashing you. They are supposed to be doing with pitching and defense. Right now, they aren’t doing much of anything, but if they continue to play from behind night after night, this type of play will continue.
Said Pestano, a guy who has been close to perfect most of the season, ”This whole trip is on the pitching staff.”
Acta and his players now return home searching for answers. The last time they played at Progressive Field, this happened in front of 34,000 plus fans. Yes, that was this season. It was 11 days ago. It feels like the Verlander comeback game occurred in 2007.
The Tribe gets a return match with the Twins tonight in attempts to end their nine-game skid. Their best starter of late, Zach McAllister (4-3, 3,42 ERA) gets the call. Unfortunately, he will be faced buy a guy who tossed a three-hit complete game shutout against them last weekend in Minneapolis, lefty Scott Diamond (9-5, 2.93 ERA).
(photo via Carlos Osorio/AP)