Second Thoughts Games #8 & #9: Indians split doubleheader
Another doubleheader, another split. After a great offensive series against Minnesota and an eight run outburst on Tuesday, the Indians offense slumped in both games on Wednesday. The team managed only 11 hits in the two games.
The big story from Wednesday was the starting pitching performances of Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer. In game one Zach McAllister was as good as we’ve ever seen him. He went 7 2/3 innings shutout innings, giving up only five hits and striking out seven. It was arguably the best start of his career. McAllister was aggressive with his fastball all game, striking out four of seven with a four-seamer that was 92-93 MPH all game. He mixed in his curveball and changeup effectively, and displayed great control of all three pitches.
It was an important outing for the team, not only because he pitched deep into the first game of a doubleheader, but because McAllister is an important cog in the team’s rotation. He didn’t look good in his first outing, and combined with shaky performances by the rest of the rotation has created some anxiety in the early going. McAllister is expected to pitch like a middle of the rotation starter, and this start is a step in the right direction.
Equally impressive was Trevor Bauer in the second game of the doubleheader. The much-maligned Bauer also had the best start of his young career. It was a start we’ve been waiting to see from Bauer since the Indians traded for him. His stuff was electric, touching 97 MPH with the fastball, and throwing a slider and curveball that seemed untouchable. Even better is that Bauer was able to control those pitches, throwing 65 of 99 pitches for strikes. He walked only two batters in his six innings of work, versus eight strikeouts.
As encouraging as the overall line was, even more impressive was Bauer's poise. In the first inning a throwing error from Asdrubal Cabrera and a dropped flyball (but not really) by Elliot Johnson gave the Padres runners on third and second with no outs. Bauer managed to get out of the inning only giving up an RBI groundout. From there, he cruised until the sixth inning when a single, hit batter, and walk loaded the bases with only one out. Francona decided to stick with Bauer, who managed to limit the damage to only a bloop RBI single. After this performance I’d have to belief Trevor Bauer just rose to the top of the list when the Indians need another starter.
Those starting pitching performances aside, the Indians struggled mightily against Padre left-handers Eric Stultsand Robbie Erlin. Their biggest hit on the day was a two-run homer from Jason Kipnis in game one that proved to be the difference. In game two Elliot Johnson (inexplicably batting leadoff), Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley all put up 0-fers and the team never managed to get anything going.
The only hitters with multiple hits on the day were Ryan Raburn in game one, and Asdrubal Cabrera breaking out of an 0-for-9 slump in game two.
Does anyone else see this becoming a problem?
On Tuesday, the Indians made three errors. The last of the three was Nick Swisher’s second on the night, and made what should have been an easy victory a nail biter. An error by Asdrubal Cabrera in the first inning of game two gave the Padres what ended up being a huge run. The team has now committed seven errors in nine games. With a clean first inning from his defense, game two could have gone much differently. It’s a missed opportunity, dropping a winnable game and missing out on a series sweep.
Looming Roster Issues
It’s been covered already in other places, but I’ll chime in on the roster issues once Michael Bourn and Jason Giambi are ready to return. The first domino fell when Vinnie Pestano was sent to Columbus in favor of C.C. Lee. It’s a good bet that Lee is sent back to Columbus when Bourn is ready and the team elects to go with a seven-man bullpen for the time being. Giambi is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 15th, and that’s when a tough decision is going to need to be made.
The candidates to be removed/sent down for Giambi are Lonnie Chisenhall, Nyjer Morgan, and Elliot Johnson. Chisenhall has an option, while Morgan and Johnson would need to be designated for assignment. Johnson and Morgan also offer the flexibility to play multiple positions and are useful defensive replacements and pinch runners late in games. The most obvious casualty here is Chisenhall. Carlos Santana will continue to be the team’s regular third baseman, leaving Chisenhall to pick up at-bats as the backup at third and DH – when not occupied by Ryan Raburn, Giambi, or a resting fielder.
The only reason this is an issue is because Chisenhall has been one of the best hitters on the team in the early going. He’s looked really good in the early going, and he does have the ability to become a very good hitter. What he needs are at-bats against major league pitchers. He doesn’t have anything to gain offensively in Columbus. However, it could be a chance for the Indians to give him some exposure playing the outfield or first base. If he does end up being sent down I hope that’s the plan. I’m worried about the offensive production of an Aviles, Morgan, Giambi, and Johnson bench.
Chisenhall has the type of upside that could impact the offense similar to that of Raburn and Gomes off the bench last year. While the team is likely to stick with Elliot Johnson for the time being, I’d have to think that regardless of what Francona says at some point his bat is going to become a liability. Without him there’s still a good amount of flexibility on the roster. Whether it’s now or later, I’d like to have Chisenhall on this team and see if his early offensive returns are a sign that he’s finally put it all together.
- In the first inning of the second game Elliot Johnson caught a ball running toward the wall. He took a few steps, hit the wall, turned, and dropped the ball as he was transferring it to his throwing hand. It was ruled on the field as a drop and was confirmed after a challenge from Terry Francona. Apparently there’s a new interpretation of the catch rule that states that a fielder must retain possession of the ball through transfer to their throwing hand. If you haven’t seen it, I’d encourage you to watch the play and judge for yourself. It’s a rule that lacks common sense. I’ll leave it at that.
- The most surprising part of the season is John Axford taking a page out of Nyjer Morgan’s book and appearing in games as an alter ego named ‘Chris Perez.’ Really hoping that trend doesn’t continue.
- Axford’s tight rope walks aside, the bullpen looks outstanding. Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison, Josh Outman, and Marc Rzepczynski have combined to pitch 21 1/3 scoreless innings thus far. If the starting rotation settles in this pitching staff could be REALLY good.
Leaves too many fat pitches over the plate.
Its a long season and injuries do happen. We could see him later in the year in which he could help the team more than he can now.
Also, it is important to note, while they never said so publicly, that if not for the injuries to Bourn and Giambi this spring that Chisenhall was going to open in Columbus. A total of 15 at bats really shouldn't change that line of thinking.