HOUSTON: After losing to the Astros 8-1 Saturday at Minute Maid Park, the Indians added another name to their enemies list of tyke tormentors who throw with their left arms.
The newest member of this group of lethal lefties is Dallas Keuchel, who in his second major-league start pitched a complete game, stifling the Tribe offense on 108 pitches — an average of 12 per inning — that traveled 89 miles per hour or less.
But that wasn’t the point, according to manager Manny Acta, who graciously praised the rookie. And why not? Keuchel (1-0, 1.29 ERA) limited Acta’s team to six hits, only one of which counted for anything. That was Asdrubal Cabrera’s ninth home run of the season, a drive over the left-field wall leading off the fourth inning.
“I think their kid pitched a tremendous game,” Acta said. “He did an outstanding job and gave them an opportunity to get their offense in order. All the credit goes to Keuchel.”
How did he baffle the Tribe lineup?
“He pounded the strike zone and mixed his pitches very well,” Acta said. “Don’t take any credit away from the kid.”
Jeanmar Gomez also pounded the strike zone for four innings. Over that span, the Indians’ starter did not allow a hit or a walk. It was a perfect four innings in which Gomez struck out two and allowed only two fly balls to be hit to the outfield.
Then it appeared that another pitcher took over his body, a pitcher who couldn’t get anyone out.
Brian Bogusevic led off the fifth with a double and quickly scored on Chris Johnson’s double. One out later, J.D. Martinez homered to make it a three-run inning, and Jordan Schafer went deep for only the third time this year to make it a four-run rally.
“Gomez was very aggressive early with his two-seamer, but in that [fifth] inning he got some pitches up,” Acta said. “I don’t know if the first home run to Martinez affected him, but he gave up the home run to Shafer right away. I don’t know if he was thinking about winning the game in the fifth or what.”
Starters must pitch through the fifth to get credit for a win. That is something Gomez hasn’t had to worry about in his past six starts. Over that span he is 1-5 with a 7.92 earned-run average.
Asked if Gomez’s problems can be repaired if he stays in the rotation, Acta said: “They can be fixed here, or they can be fixed somewhere else. It’s about being consistent. That’s all there is to it.”
Does that mean the club is considering sending Gomez to the minors? Acta said it was far too soon after the loss to contemplate any moves. That didn’t mean that he and General Manager Chris Antonetti might not discuss it.
Gomez said his troubles began with an errant changeup.
“He [Bogusevic] hit a changeup for the double, and I got a cutter up to Martinez,” he said. “After that, I didn’t throw the ball down when I wanted and when I tried to get ahead, I would throw a pitch outside. I was missing with my pitches and that changed the game.”
Why did Gomez’s effectiveness suddenly leave him?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I felt good. I felt good in the bullpen.”
When the Tribe faces a left-handed starter, its record is 5-14. It would be one thing if the Indians were losing to David Price or CC Sabathia every time they were tested by a lefty, but Keuchel is one of six novice left-handers (all but one are rookies) who have totally shut them down.
Casey Crosby of the Tigers, Scott Diamond of the Twins, Jose Quintana of the White Sox, Felix Doubront of the Red Sox, Will Smith of the Royals and Keuchel have started seven games against the Tribe (Quintana twice) and have posted an aggregate record of 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
Smith made only two starts and was shifted to the bullpen; Crosby made only three starts.
In speaking of Keuchel, Shin-Soo Choo said: “He threw very soft, but I think he had good command. He changed speeds well and threw a changeup, curve and slider in addition to his fastball.”
Choo was one of the few Tribe batsmen who hit the ball hard, lining out to left in the first inning and driving a double to left in the ninth.
Except for Cabrera, who rounded all the bases, Choo was the only batter to reach third, and Choo and Jason Kipnis were the only runners to get to second.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. 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.