There is no “too early” in a 60-game season.
The Indians offense can’t hit, the pitching staff can’t throw perfect games every time out, and the bullpen can’t be trusted yet. With their 3-0 loss to the Twins tonight, the Indians sit at 5-4 on the season — that’s 15% of the season done (assuming the full 60 is played) and they’re 1.5 games back of the Twins, who they play again tomorrow.
Concerns over COVID-19 and the general dysfunction brought by the global pandemic are very real excuses for the slow start. But at the same time, everyone is dealing with these issues and all things being equal the Indians look especially bad against any pitcher who has ever thrown a changeup in their lives.
Entering play tonight, the Indians ranked 22nd in the league in runs scored, only eight ahead of the Marlins, who have not played since Sunday. They ranked 25th in wRC+ and were near the bottom of the barrel with their six home runs on the season. Take José Ramírez and his two home runs out of the equation and things get even bleaker. And all of this is before tonight’s nightmare.
Just like Lucas Giolito repeatedly does every time he faces the Indians offense, Kenta Maeda poked around with his changeup early on, saw the Indians couldn’t adjust to it, and ended up throwing it 24 times to surgically dismantle Cleveland’s lineup. The Indians put it in play three times and swung and missed seven times. Bradley Zimmer was the only one who prevented Maeda from carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning when he beat out a broken bat dribbler to the second baseman.
Even that was by the narrowest margin.
The strikezone wasn’t great tonight for either team, but it was particularly cruel to Domingo Santana, who saw multiple clear balls called strikes. When he was able to make contact, however, he hit the ball at 62.6 and 60.1 mph, both with a negative launch angle, both for easy outs.
Carlos Carrasco gave up some hard hits on the mound, but he can hardly be blamed for the loss. It was pretty much over when Miguel Sanó hit a homered to lead off the third. It gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, a seemingly insurmountable mountain for this offense to climb right now. Two more solo shots were added later on — one from Eddie Rosario and another from Sanó — but they weren’t necessary.
Adam Cimber and Cam Hill both worked clean innings if you want silver linings. Hill didn’t induce a swinging strike on the three batters he faced, but he did have a couple well-located fastballs, including one just barely at the top of the zone against Max Kepler.
Fittingly enough, the game ended on back-to-back strikeouts from Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes. The latter was upset so that he slammed his bat on the ground in frustration after the final out. It did not appear to break.