Stephanie Storm’s 10 final thoughts after the Indians blew another close game late in a 1-0 loss to the visiting Minnesota Twins.
1) The old baseball adage goes that closers need to have short memories. Indians closer John Axford’s is becoming shorter by the day. For the second consecutive game, the suddenly embattled Indians closer spoiled a great effort by his team’s starting pitcher in the final inning.
2) Sunday he blew the save against the Chicago White Sox by giving up a three-run home run in the ninth inning to spoil an outstanding outing by Corey Kluber. Monday Axford did it again, this time overshadowing a great start by Zach McAllister by dishing up a solo homer to the Minesota Twins in the 10th inning, a game in which he wasn’t asked to close, just hold a scoreless tie.
3) “It’s great to get back out there (after a blown save),” Axford said when asked about Indians manager Terry Francona going to him for a third consecutive day. “It’s something you want, something I want. I want to go out there the next day and get the job done. Erase the slate, get a clean slate. Unfortunatley, the second pitch didn’t work out. It’s something I’m going to have to go over tonight and be better (about) the next day or next time I go out there.”
4) Suddenly, the American League leading closer (nine) is in a tailspin and searching. Worse, Monday he thought he’d fixed the problem of “leaning forward too much in his delivery (which he explained affects his off speed pitches). But for the second consecutive night, he was beat using his fastball.
5) After Monday’s game, Axford – who’s seen his ERA double over his last two appearances – said the pitch that Twins shortstop Eduardo Escabar turned into his first home run of the season and just the fourth of his career – was a fastball that “didn’t stay straight” and instead “cut over the middle of the plate.”
6) Considering Axford isn’t fooling anyone right now, it was gratifying to see him stand up once again to face the media and answer every question patiently and thoughtfully without blowing up at a touchy question or just boycotting them all together like a certain closer of the past.
7) What was dishearteneing was the fact that none of the hitters – save for third baseman Carlos Santana – bothered to stick around and be the stand-up voice for the struggling offense like Axford felt the need to following his failure that undoubtedly left him just as frustrated. Santana spoke quietly and passionately, promising that no one in the locker room has panicked and/or quit.
8) It was a display of leadership that has become expected out of guys like outgoing first baseman Nick Swisher and/or the official clubhouse leader ithat is veteran Jason Giambi. Even emerging team leader Michael Brantley. But the fact that Santana stood up and “took one for the team” shows even more how much he’s matured this season. It may have been a heart-wrenching game to lose, but professional athletes are taught to act like you’ve been there – even if you haven’t or just don’t want to be.
9) The Indians pitcher’s wouldn’t have so much scrutiny on them right now if the offense beagn to step it up even a little bit. You know patience is running thin when Francona calls out the group.
10) “We were in some hitter’s counts,” Francona said, “and we hit some balls hard. We just are fairly inconsistent right now. Even in hitters counts, we’re not getting really good swings. I think when it’s team wide like this, everybody is trying to do (too much). It’s a good quality, but we have to fight through it together and keep the line moving. Right now, we’re not doing that.”