Found August 30, 2012 on Waiting For Next Year:

Just like our beloved Indians, we’re scraping the bottom of the roster here at WFNY. Instead of the incomparably talented TD or Jon, I will be bringing you a recap of last night’s game. I do hope you enjoy.

For all you moviegoers who’ve seen “The Dark Knight Rises”, you might recall the line, “There cannot be true despair without hope.” I’ve tried to maintain some level of hope, an optimistic eye on the horizon, but it’s getting more difficult with each inning, and I think it’s safe to say I’ve sunk into despair. Quality starts are hard to come by in the last 20 games from the four starters not named Justin Masterson. The defense is something out of a startup beer league. The bullpen is now giving up runs. The offense is, well, offensive. The Indians lost their fourth straight in front of close friends and family last night 8-4 as Corey Kluber was unable to keep the A’s off the board in the fourth as Oakland struck for three and grabbed the lead.

What we have on display in this series is two teams in similar scenarios when it comes to market size, spending, success over the past decade, and attendance. The Athletics dealt or parted ways with Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Josh Willingham, and Kurt Suzuki in the past year. Both teams have plenty of flaws (Oakland’s offense is relatively toothless when not facing Tribe pitching, after all). The difference is that the Athletics have found ways to win close games 1 , they’ve had some luck go their way in acquisitions, and their pitching has carried them into contention heading into September.

There were some signs of life from the Indians early. The most noteworthy event of the evening was by far Asdrubal Cabrera’s first inning ejection. Cabrera, who was called out on strikes on a very questionable low strike, gestured more than once at home plate umpire Gary Darling and was consequently run from the game <a href="http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2012/08/response-runs-do-tribe-starters-in-again/#footnote_1_69039" class="footnote-link footnote-identifier-link" title="I think Cabrera probably called Darling a "jive turkey" or some other variation">2 . The frustration has clearly set in for Cabrera, and just as he did in 2011, he’s fizzled and made me question his role as a leader on this team. Jack Hannahan entered the game for Cabrera while Brent Lillibridge slid over to short.

For a team reeling as the Indians are currently, we’ve seen enough times during this post All-Star nosedive where the Indians have been able to strike first. The problem is the starting pitching has been unable to prevent the response runs. In the bottom of the third, the Tribe offense came to life with a Jason Donald homer to the first row of the right field seats. Then, Ezequiel Carrera snuck one by Coco Crisp in center and wound up on third base with a triple. Jason Kipnis brought him home with a RBI groundout to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.

So, that meant Corey Kluber, who looked solid his first three innings piling up the strikeouts as Zach McAllister did last night, was just bound to give up the lead in the top of the fourth. With two on and two out and a full count, Tribe killer extraordinaire Josh Donaldson ripped a Kluber breaking ball onto the home run porch for a three-run blast that wiped out the lead in one swing. Other than that, Kluber pitched relatively well with his breaking ball sporting a nice bite to it most of the evening. He lasted six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) while walking none and striking out seven.

No sequence sums up the complete lack of focus this team has right now, especially on defense, than back-to-back infield blunders by Jason Donald and Matt LaPorta in the sixth. Donald attempted to turn a double play on a grounder hit to third baseman Jack Hannahan. Donald whiffed on the throw and it went through his five hole and into right field. With runners on the corners and one down, the next hitter Derrick Norris grounded one directly to LaPorta at first. He stepped on the bag and immediately turned his attention to Donaldson running to second base, forgetting the runner on third until it was too late. These two young no-longer-prospects from disappointing trade hauls have been frequent offenders on the defensive side of the diamond. This vicious cycle of losing and a lack of passion and focus goes around and around as Tribe fans furrow their brow, grind their teeth, and shake their head in disbelief.

The offense had plenty of opportunities in this one, stranding 19 runners in all. With the first two hitters reaching base in the seventh, the Tribe was unable to plate any runs, and with the bases loaded and nobody out the very next inning, they got only two runs on RBI outs from Lillibridge (sac fly) and Kotchman (groundout). There’s no way to sugarcoat this: without Sizemore, Hafner, or Chisenhall, this Tribe offense is the worst group I’ve seen in some time. The five respectable hitters at the top of the order (Kipnis, Cabrera, Choo, Santana, and Brantley) combined for one lousy hit. The team has resorted to a “floating DH” and has 12 hitters on the roster once again 3 .

Two of the three best arms in the bullpen got touched for runs as well in Cody Allen and Vinnie Pestano. Allen gave up two runs (In the seventh) for the second time this week, and Pestano did the same in the ninth. Both pitchers’ ERAs have climbed over 2 for the first time in a long time. You have to believe that pitching without a lead so frequently is starting to wear on the sharpness of these two ultra-effective right-handed bullpen arms. With changes on the horizon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two as our eighth and ninth inning duo following a Chris Perez off season trade. On this night, however, they both allowed the A’s to pull away.

The only thing more anemic than the team is the attendance right now. We’re getting to the point that in a few weeks when I make one final trip to Progressive Field for the season, I have the real possibility of having my own personal beer vendor. Attendance last night was just a hair of 14,000, and as Rick mentioned in a Twitter discussion earlier this week, how do the Indians expect to sell 4 season ticket holders without some serious personnel and front office changes? The “New Benefits, Maximum Savings” tagline they used last night isn’t going to bring people to park in droves.

The Indians hope to avoid the sweep at noon today and stop another losing streak with Justin Masterson taking on right-hander Jarrod Parker.

I’ll end on this. Matt and Rick were talking about Jeanmar Gomez in the eighth and returning from the minors. Manning used the line, “After you get a taste of champagne, you don’t want to drink beer anymore.” Right now, any alcohol will do, as long as you keep it coming.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/PD)

___________________________________

  1. As the Indians were doing in the first half
  2. I think Cabrera probably called Darling a “jive turkey” or some other variation
  3. I cannot stress how dumb I think this is.
  4. Or keep, for that matter.

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