Second Thoughts Game #140: Mets 1, Indians 8
Kazmir whiffs 12 as Swisher powers offense to Tribe blowout win
A week ago, we were in the middle of a brutal 1-5 road trip with some jumping ship for about the fourth or fifth time this season. While some of the slumps this season have been particularly frustrating, this team has proven time and time and time again that they are not in this to roll over and quit.
Well, they’ve done it again this week taking two of three from Baltimore and now blowing out the visiting Mets 8-1 in the opening matchup of a three-game weekend set. Scott Kazmir did his part in outdueling rookie sensation Zach Wheeler as Nick Swisher led the offense in the rout with a grand slam in the eighth.
They have now moved back to 10 games over the break-even mark and continue to make strides toward their first winning season since 2007 when they went all the way to the league championship series. Whether they can go that far or even make it to the postseason remains to be seen, but the Tribe continues to play games with playoff implications in September. That’s not irrational optimism or ill-found hope, just a fact.
‘K’ is for ‘Kazmir’
Dead arm? What dead arm? Indians lefty Scott Kazmir sure didn’t look fatigued on Friday night as he mowed down Met after Met in six shutout innings allowing only four base runners via hits while striking out 12. His dominant effort was good enough to earn him his eighth win of the season.
The left-hander had been battling ‘dead arm’ issues for most of August as he struggled to pitch as effectively as he had been this season. Not totally unexpected since he is logging the most starts and innings he’s had since his last full MLB season in 2010. The Indians and skipper Terry Francona have managed to give him extra rest in between starts in hopes of the issue resolving itself.
Kazmir has been as good as you could hope considering he was brought into spring camp on a minor league deal after pitching in independent ball. While he won’t be getting a Cy Young this year, his numbers have still been solid for a back of the rotation starter as he now owns an 8-7 record with a 4.17 ERA on the year. Speculation continues as to whether he and/or fellow starter Ubaldo Jimenez will be brought back by the Tribe to continue to bolster their rotation and preserve their depth.
A Swisher Slam
When Nick Swisher announced earlier today that he would provide fireworks for the fans, he obviously meant in more ways than one. While he will be sponsoring a newly-added fireworks show in an upcoming home game, Mr. Bro-H-I-O gave a sneak preview with a grand slam to put the game out of reach for the Mets on Friday night.
While some may have developed disdain for him due to his drop in offensive production in 2013, it’s no secret that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio has taken Swisher in with open arms since day one. And although his performance has definitely been off this season, what he has provided has helped the team in many key moments. And not surprisingly, his overwhelmingly positive attitude in the clubhouse has been infectious in the clubhouse and could be partially the reason why the team has not folded during the rough patches.
Getting hot at the right time
In baseball, there are teams that dominate all year and clinch their playoff berths with ease. Then there are the teams that just get hot at the right time and will their way into the postseason. While it may be more fun to watch the dominant teams play all season, the ones who get on a hot streak in late August and September can sometimes be the more dangerous teams during the playoffs (see 2011 Cardinals and 2012 Giants).
Are the Indians that team? Maybe, but it’s still much too early to tell at this point. However, this team has become notorious for its streaks of both the hot and cold variety. They’ve now won four out of their last five games after Friday night’s victory with the offense finally starting to back up the zeros and low run totals put up by the pitching staff.
Really, though, you could put any of the teams chasing the wild card spots right now in this category and only time will tell which hot streak will prevail.
Facts and Notes:
- Indians have now won four of their last five games and have scored a combined 24 runs in that span. They had only scored 24 runs in their previous nine games while going posting a 3-6 record during that stretch.
- With Nick Swisher’s slam on Friday, the Tribe has now matched their total of grand slams from 2011 and 2012 combined in 2013 alone with five.
- Scott Kazmir’s 12 strikeouts are the most by a Tribe starter since Justin Masterson whiffed 12 in 2009 and the most by a lefty starter since CC Sabathia did so in 2007.
- Asdrubal Cabrera came to bat with runners on base in three of his four at-bats and failed to drive in any of them. He finished the night with seven men left on base and extended his hitless streak to five games (14 at-bats).
- The Indians are 3-0 in games where Jason Kubel starts despite the fact he has yet to drive in a run with his new team.
Up Next: Mets vs. Indians @ Progressive Field. 6:05pm ET first pitch.
Other than causing confusion with the start time, the Indians aim to claim another series victory as right-hander Corey Kluber makes his triumphant return to the mound after being sidelined with a finger sprain for the past month. It was a tough blow both to Kluber and the Tribe as he had been dominating right up to his injury last pitching eight shutout innings against Detroit on August 5th. On the year, Kluber is 7-5 with a 3.57 ERA and has no prior experience against the Mets.
New York will counter with left-hander John Niese, who also has had a solid season going 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA. Niese has only one career start against the Tribe, but it was a good one back on June 16th, 2010 where he pitched seven innings while allowing three runs on eight hits to earn a win as the Tribe lost 8-4 that day.
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That's all the more reason why I would consider keeping one or even both of Kazmir and Jimenez around. Truth be told, Jimenez has pitched better than a backend starter for most of this year, and especially of late (as has Kazmir). If I'm correct, over the last 8-10 starts, Jimenez has as many quality starts as Masterson has had. I wonder, could you lock up Kazmir and Jimenez for the same or near-the-same amount now as it would take to keep Masterson later? Would you do it? Truth be told, all three have "warts," and none of the three are the "typical" ace, though Kazmir may be the closest, and is the youngest. Masterson is only one year younger than Jimenez. Would the Indians be better off getting two pitchers for the price of one IF it can be done, or has Jimenez and/or Kazmir really priced themselves out of that zone? I'm not sure of when Masterson's contract is up, but his dropoff over the past 5 starts and his falling short in big games (mostly his doing against DET, BAL and TOR), though the offense hasn't helped either, makes me wonder if the Indians really should put a whole lot of money into Masterson, or would the better approach be to try and re-up Kazmir AND Jimenez now, especially with Callaway here?
Two points: 1. It's "Jon," actually.
2. Interesting stat: The A's and Rangers, separated by a half-game (Oakland ahead), have scored the same exact number of runs AND allowed the same exact number of runs allowed over 141 games for Oakland and 140 games for Texas: 628 RS and 547 RA. What are the odds that both are those are exactly the same? Though that may help to explain why both teams are neck-and-neck (Oakland 7-3 in last 10, Texas 5-5 in last 10, with Oakland winning Fri and Texas losing).