July 6, 2013
At the beginning of this season, the starting staff was rightly judged as the weakness of this club. There was a lot of talent on the roster and in the depth chart, but few tangible results to hang your hat on. The Indians were relying on a lot of things going right in the rotation for this club to content.
While watching today's game, those early-season prognostications kept swirling around in my head. It is now July 6th, and even after the Indians suffered their fourth straight loss - all to AL Central rivals - they still sit three games above .500 and are 3.5 games behind the Tigers, and could close that considerably if they win the last two games in this series. But if you're comparing the Tigers and Indians from a talent standpoint, the gap between the two teams seems a lot larger than 3.5 games, and that's a testament to what this coaching staff has been able to accomplish. But it also shows how much the Indians need to improve, especially in the rotation.
While the Indians were gambling on Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir and Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, the Tigers were re-signing Anibal Sanchez and choosing between Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation. And I type this admitting that a lot of things have gone right with the rotation this year. Justin Masterson has rebounded significantly, and has just made his first All-Star team. Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber have taken large steps in their development as major-league starters, Scott Kazmir has at times looked the Tampa Bay Kazmir, and even Ubaldo Jimenez has given the Indians some periods of usefulness. But the first two games in this series has shown that rather large gulf remains between the Tigers and the Indians.
In today's game, Anibal Sanchez held the Indians in check in his first MLB start in a month. Sanchez was on a pitch count after leaving his last rehab start early, but he didn't show many signs of rust. He got into trouble in the third, allowing a quick run and having to go through the heart of the Tribe order with two on. But he got Cabrera, Kipnis and Swisher without allowing any further runs to score, preserving a 4-1 lead and setting the stage for the Tigers to completely put the game out of reach.
But when Carlos Carrasco came up against a similar situation in the third inning, something different happened. Yeah, you can say that Miguel Cabrera and Fielder are better hitters than Asdrubal Cabrera, Kipnis, and Swisher, but that still doesn't excuse what happened in the third inning. He allowed two doubles, two homers, and a single, and only one out was made on a good pitch: Michael Bourn made a nice play to catch a Torii Hunter line drive, and Jhonny Peralta made the third out of the inning by trying to go to second while Victor Martinez scored. And the hits continued in the fourth inning, with the bottom of the Detroit order getting involved. Terry Francona didn't let Carrasco face the middle of the order again, and yet again and Indians starter couldn't go even five innings.
Zach McAllister is scheduled throw another simulated game this week, and if all goes well, will make a rehab start after the All-Star Break. Carrasco will probably get two more starts with the Indians, but if he doesn't show any more improvement, that might be it for him. Again, you want to have patience with young pitchers, but with the general problems with this rotation is having right now, you can't be patient with this:
If this was Carrasco's last appearance of the season, he'll have the worst ERA (9.10) for a pitcher with 35+ innings in Indians history.— Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) July 6, 2013
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