After a hope-inspiring start to their trip to Tampa, the Indians fell back into old habits and finished the series with a thud. Today was hard to distinguish from any number of other games that a pitcher, be he starting or relieving, has mangled this year. David Huff, in his major league debut, was horrendous; he walked 4, struck out only two, and let the Rays score 7 runs in just 3.2 IP.
The Indians continue to look around for anyone who can stabilize the pitching staff, and they continue to come up empty. Both Matt Herges and Greg Aquino turned in decent performances today, but neither is inspiring much long term confidence. Huff will probably get a chance to start one more game but if he falls flat again, it's unclear what the contingency plan will be. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Laffey back to the rotation with Hector Rondon coming to the major league bullpen. However, if the Indians don't improve very quickly it might not be worth dealing with the service time headaches that bringing Rondon to the majors could create.
Up until the 8th inning, this game was following the script of recent losses: some combination of very, very bad things (David Huff's performance) and sort of good things (Ben Francisco's two-home-run day) happen, and then the game just sort of ends. While the early part of the season featured disappointment characterized by shock and awe, the past few weeks have been death by ennui.
But then, in the 8th, things got weird. Herges got the first two outs via strikeout, with a walk sandwiched in between. Wedge then went to Wood, ostensibly to get the closer some work. However, conspiracy theorists might say it was because Wood throws very, very hard and the next batter was B.J. Upton, who has been generally terrorizing the Indians via both the homerun and the stolen base. The first pitch Upton saw, well, he didn't see it. Because it went behind him. Everyone seemed sort of upset and then Wood came inside again. Victor and Joe Maddon yelled at each other, and some guys stood around the field for a while before Wood, who was sort of surprisingly allowed to remain in the game, walked Upton and K'd Carl Crawford to end the inning. Then, to start the 9th inning, Troy Percival hit Mark DeRosa with a pitch after getting to an 0-2 count. Percival then came back to retire the next three Indians in order: ballgame.
It was odd end to the game for a lot of reasons, and I'm not even sure I've described it accurately. It was surreal, and perhaps more notably, it was not Wedge. It was not Wedge at all. In Wedge's tenure with the Indians, he has rarely, and in my recollection never, had such a public week. Wedge was ejected during Friday's game for arguing an out call at home plate, and then he publicly called out his pitching staff in the postgame, and then today he called Maddon on his line-up card error and was involved in the 8th inning imbroglio. Wedge's MO as manager has been to show a steady hand, managing with a quiet, unemotional intensity. This sudden change in behavior is almost certainly indicative of the stress he's under, and perhaps it also represents Wedge's attempt to do something, anything, to save the season and his job.
This team appears to be unravelling fast from an emotional point of view; games are becoming chippy, and there's a real potential for a divided clubhose here if the offense continues to produce while the pitching continues to falter. Obviously, the Indians have very little time left to resurrect their playoff hopes, and engaging in all of these extracurriculars might not be moving them any closer to that goal. Then again, maybe these extracurriculars will provide emotional rallying points. Who knows anything about the Cleveland Indians any more?
Tomorrow is the day that Adam (APV) had originally identified as a potential Wedge firing day; it's the only off day before June 8. For now, we'll all watch and wait.
Next Up: Off day tomorrow, Lee v. Bannister, Tuesday at 8:10.