The lifeless Cleveland Indians are in a bit of trouble. Throughout the early portion of the 2009 season, the Tribe starting pitching and bullpen have struggled out of the gate, putting the Indians in last place. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be that the Tribe offense was one of the best in the league.
What if it isn't?
Cleveland's offense continued its three game slumber last night, as the Minnesota Twins took advantage of several mistakes to beat the Indians 5-1 at Progressive Field.
The Twins starter, Nick Blackburn, came into the game looking anything like a good starter this season. He was 0-1 with a near 6.00 ERA, and was the picture of struggling. Last night, Blackburn went seven sparkling innings, giving up only one run, while striking out four without walking a batter in getting the win. Leave it to the Indians to make him look like a star, but it's not without precedence.
Against the Tribe in 2008, Blackburn was 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA, 11 K's, and only three walks. Like Brian Bannister before him, Blackburn appears to become some facsimile of a Cy Young award winner when he plays the Tribe. Regardless, the Tribe hitters seem to be taking a break, and if it continues, the Indians are in serious trouble.
Fausto Carmona probably deserved much better last night. Carmona went six full innings, giving up eight hits and two walks, while striking out seven. Of course, he gave up all five runs, four of them earned, to give him a line that goes along with all of his other starts. With that said, you could make a case that his pitches were working as well as they have this season, and for much of last.
Carmona had the slider and changeup both working, and most importantly, they were on the plate. Proof is in the pudding. Carmona struck out seven batters, forced 10 groundouts, and allowed only one flyball out. His pitches were low on the plate, and not easy to hit. His one major mistake was to Justin Morneau, who ripped a fourth inning pitch for a home run.
Could this be a sign that Carmona is back? I'll hold off judgment on that until the end of May, and hopefully after some wins. Until then, I'll pocket this start as hopefully the beginning of the return of one of the better starters in baseball.
Minnesota played well yesterday, and likely would have one regardless of any one thing. With that said, the Tribe defense, once again, didn't help matters out, did they. Mark DeRosa prolonged the fourth inning with a throw into the outfield when trying to force out Joe Crede at second. Crede ended up on third, and scored when Jose Morales singled in his next at bat.
Later in the game, Ryan Garko got tied up with a hard-hit, Justin Morneau ground ball. A double play would have ended the inning, or a throw home would have kept the Twins from scoring. Garko could do neither.
It's true that the Twins played a near-perfect game without these Indians-mistakes, but it would have been a much more interesting game had the Indians played more like, say, the Twins.
You know...mistake-free baseball...
Cleveland comes back today with Carl Pavano. I gotta be honest with you, I'm not really sure what to expect from him anymore. He has seemingly started to return to his pre-New York form. Of course, could that have been based on the fact that he was playing against those same New York Yankees that were the bane of his existence? We'll see today, when the big righty faces off against Kevin Slowey. Slowey is 2-0, but has a less-than-stellar 5.89 ERA. Even better news for the Indians is that he's only 1-2, with a 5.45 ERA career against the Indians.
Maybe Slowey's the slump-buster we need, because if this team doesn't have offense, it's going to be a long...long summer.