At one point in tonight’s 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the Cleveland Indians had a chance. With the bases loaded in the top of the first and Edwin Encarnacion up to bat, everything was set up for the Tribe offense to wake up once for all, to silence all the doubters with a grand slam or maybe a bases-clearing double if we want to ease folks into the idea of an offense that hit.
Oh, a hit-by-pitch single followed by two quick outs? I mean, sure, that’s an option... ugh, of course that’s what happened.
That would end the Indians’ biggest scoring threat of the evening (week? month?), but it wasn’t the only one. Edwin was up to bat in the third with Michael Brantley on second. He grounded out. Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, and Michael Brantley all came up to the plate with Francisco Lindor on and no outs in the fifth. They quickly went down 1-2-3 without a fight. Jose Ramirez was up with runners on the corners in the seventh. He grounded out thanks to a fantastic play by shortstop-because-it-pays-more Manny Machado. Brandon Guyer was up in the ninth with a runner on and a chance to tie the game.
After so much dead-ball era baseball in the first couple weeks, maybe this is a sign of things to come for the Indians; it could easily be the progression of how a team comes out of an early-season slump. It’s a simple five-step process to go from team that has a combined batting average in the negatives to a formidable offense:
- Hit literally nothing
- Get a couple hits, maybe a double here and there
- One or two players hit once in a while
- Get a bunch of players into scoring position but fall apart when it matters <— YOU ARE HERE
- Dinger city, baby
We’re so close, really, but it doesn’t make this any more fun to watch. To make matters worse, the Indians just ran into a hot pitcher by the name of Dylan Bundy. For all the troubles he has had early in his career, injury and otherwise, he has looked like an ace through his first four starts with the Orioles this season, and his fifth outing was another success against the Indians.
SportsTimeOhio was nice enough to show a montage of Indians batters swinging and missing at Bundy’s devastating slider, and for good reason. He induced 24 swinging strikes against the Tribe offense, 13 of which came off that slider, and only one slider was put in play by the Indians. That’s reliever Andrew Miller stretched over a full game kind of awesome and the Indians had no answer.
For a while, Trevor Bauer kept up well with his fellow 2011 draftee, but with a slightly different approach. Where Bundy was blowing everyone away and making Jason Kipnis collapse like a dying star while trying to hit a slider going who-knows-where, Bauer was yanking unseen strings and pulling balls in and out of the zone. Of his 116 pitches (!!!), 17 were called strikes, including five of his six strikeouts being of the backwards K variety.
You could also say that Trevor had a certain game plan against lefties and he executed it. Multiple times.
Unfortunately, when his wiffle ball-like movement began to slow, more pitches were just left floating in the middle of the zone, and the heavy-handed Orioles lineup capitalized. Manny Machado, who is quickly becoming a four-letter word in this household, homered to give the Orioles their first run, then the wheels on the Bauermobile. got a little whobbly in the fifth when Trey Mancini doubled home a pair of runners.
This is the beginning of a looooong stretch of games for the Indians, so if they’re going to get the offense into gear consistently anytime soon, it would be nice to do it soon. The weather is finally warming to baseball levels, so hopefully that’ll help.