Second Thoughts Game #137: Orioles 7, Indians 2
After salvaging the final game of what was still a brutal road trip, the Indians returned home to kick off yet another crucial series. The mild buzz from finally beating the Tigers and returning home with their best starter on the mound was quickly blown, however, as Justin Masterson left the game abruptly. As a result, the bullpen was put in a tough spot, while the offense sleepwalked through another game.
Cleveland lets out a collective gasp
Masterson walked the leadoff hitter shortly after taking the mound, and I wondered if it was going to be one of those games for him. As it turns out, whether or not he would harness his extreme natural movement wouldn't be nearly the biggest concern about him on the day.
After throwing a pair of dead fastballs in the second inning, he was removed from the game. Immediately, concerns about his right arm ran rampant across the Twittersphere.
What we learned later on in the game was that the injury was not arm-related, but left rib cage soreness, instead. All things considered, this was wonderful news. Following the game, he seemed pretty optimistic about the outlook of the ailment, but of course, we will have to wait and see for certain.
However, there is still the issue of his declining velocity lately. An arm injury developing over time would have better explained that, but not a newly-occurring rib one. From his first start of the season to one on August 6th, his four-seam fastball and sinker averaged 94.19 and 91.47 miles per hour, respectively, per Brooks Baseball. In the four starts since, not including his one inning in this contest, those velocities stood at 92.70 and 89.53.
When and if Masterson returns this season, it will be interesting to see if that velocity valley continues, and what he has left. After all, he is among the league leaders in innings pitched, and arms do wear down, injured or not.
The bullpen works overtime
Because of Masterson's unfortunate premature exit, Terry Francona was forced to turn to his vast list of relievers to record the final 24 outs of the game. Even with a crowded bullpen because of expanded rosters, it seemed as though the team might actually run out of them.
All in all, it took seven to get to the finish line, and the long and winding road to reach it was a generally bumpy one.Matt Albers was the only one to give up less than at least two baserunners, as he cleaned up another's mess by inducing a traditional double play in the seventh, and getting an unassisted one in the eighth.
Among the others were a pair making their team debuts. Blake Wood flashed a live mid-90s and up fastball, but labored through his inning (30 pitches) because it was straight and got fouled off a ton, and he walked two. Clay Rapada showed a quirky submarine delivery from the left side that seemed foreign to even himself, as 11 of the 18 pitches he released were out of the zone.
The two other left-handers that appeared in this game for the Indians each served up a two-run home run. For Nick Hagadone, it was mostly more of the same on this level. The worst part of his was that it came against a left-handed hitter. On the other hand, the one given by Mark Rzepczynski marked his first runs allowed since joining the team a month ago.
This was just a tough game all around, as the concerning departure of Masterson seemed to take the entire team and stadium out right along with him. It is difficult to expect success when depending on a bullpen for eight innings, particularly when you are turning to the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th heads of the totem pole for half of them.
Where's the beef?
Here we are again, wondering where the Indians' offense has gone. It took me longer to admit than most, but it seems there is, in fact, a problem here. Unfortunately, that problem comes with an additional problem, as no one can really figure out why it is happening. While there is no elite hitter on this team, it is a group wildly better than they have shown to be in the last month and a half.
This game featured seven baserunners for the home team. Two of them were the result of solo home runs in a rout, only one of the other five ever made it to third base, and another got picked off of second. There weren't an encouraging amount of loud outs, only the recently status-quo amount of completely forgettable at-bats and another double-digit strikeout effort.
For this offense and this team as a whole, the final 23 games of the season, all against subpar competition, cannot come soon enough.
As September promotions continue, Rapada was officially added to the roster before the game.
Today, the Indians are expected to call up a small gang of intriguing pitchers. Good thing, too, after the even expansive bullpen was just ran through. Carlos Carrasco, C.C. Lee and Vinnie Pestano will make their re-entries, while Josh Tomlin's return marks the end of a 13-month absence from the team due to Tommy John surgery.
Up next: The middle game of this important three-game set. The surprisingly steady Ubaldo Jimenez will be opposed by the Orioles' Chris Tillman.