PHILADELPHIA: It’s only three games, but Indians batsmen have gone from hot to icy cold. Hey, it happens.
No team’s offense performs consistently well all season. There are too many games, too many chances for lapses of attention and gaps in maintaining optimum swing mechanics.
Slumps occur. The idea is to keep them short and to avoid having most of the team fall into a batting skid at the same time.
But for now, the Tribe is struggling at the plate, a major factor in the Phillies’ 6-2 win Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
In the past three games, the Indians have scored a total of three runs, are batting .187 and are 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Moreover, the team that has been at or near the top of the American League home run standings has hit only one homer in the past six games.
“As a team, we’ve been pretty hot,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I tend to look at things game by game, because what happened yesterday doesn’t matter anymore. So I don’t see a trend either way.”
Michael Brantley had the most meaningful of the club’s seven hits, a two-run double in the second inning.
But in contrast to recent games, no other timely hit was forthcoming, like with two outs and bases loaded in the third and in the eighth, when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a triple, and nobody drove him in.
“We had chances to score, but they held us, and they came up with some big hits,” Michael Bourn said. “We’ve been successful with runners in scoring position, but it didn’t happen tonight. We expect it to happen, but sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a long season.”
Offense wasn’t the only problem for the Tribe. Starter Scott Kazmir was not on his game, and Bryan Shaw gave up two runs in the eighth to seal the win for the Phillies.
Until Tuesday night, Kazmir’s season had followed an unbroken upward curve, with each start being more impressive than the previous start. That pattern was interrupted by his outing against the Phillies.
“I was pretty disappointed in how everything turned out,” Kazmir said. “I wish I had a lot of things back. Now I’ll look at the film and hopefully clear everything up that happened tonight.”
In five innings, he gave up four runs, six hits and two walks, striking out three.
“I was fighting myself all night,” Kazmir said. “I never got in any kind of rhythm.”
Nothing horrible about his numbers. If he pitches no worse than that for the rest of the season, Kazmir (2-2, 5.33 ERA) probably will be at least a solid contributor or the rotation, if not more.
Keep in mind that Kazmir did not have a job in the big leagues or the minors last year, when he corrected his flawed mechanics pitching for an independent league team in Sugar Land, Texas. Consequently, it would be only a pipe dream to believe that Kazmir wouldn’t have a few bumps in the roast this season.
He gave up solo home runs to Kevin Frandsen and Domonic Brown, but John Mayberry Jr. delivered the most lethal hit to Kazmir, a two-run double in the fourth inning.
“Scott’s stuff was fine,” Francona said. “He didn’t quite have his command. He threw Frandsen a slider, and after that he stayed away from it. But he kept us in the ballgame.”
Kazmir admitted that quitting on his slider after the home run pitch was a mistake.
“I pretty much abandoned it, but I should have stayed with it,” he said. “In my last two starts, it was very effective, especially as a strikeout pitch.
“I kind of fell in love with my changeup. I threw it three times in a row and he [Brown] hit it.”
Kazmir did not have an inning in which he retired the side in order, partly because he hit Frandsen with a pitch twice. Yes, Frandsen hit the homer off Kazmir, but if Frandsen was hit on purpose, it escaped plate umpire Brian Knight’s attention.
Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone also hit two batters, Nick Swisher and Carlos in successive at-bats in the third inning. Kazmir hit Frandsen for the first time in the bottom of the third.
But despite four hit batters, Knight issued no warnings, surmising that none of the hitters was hit intentionally, which probably was an accurate assessment.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.