MINNEAPOLIS: Whatever the Indians did during the All-Star break should be banned by General Manager Chris Antonetti and manager Manny Acta.
In the 16 games since, neither the Tribe’s rotation nor its lineup has performed up to major-league standards, leading to a 6-10 record over this span.
That includes the most recent loss, a 12-5 rout by the Twins on Saturday night at Target Field.
“They lit us up again,” Acta said.
The hitters didn’t hit, and after a solid start, Justin Masterson fell apart following an error by Jack Hannahan. The story line was familiar to anyone who has watched the Tribe underperform over the past 2› weeks.
Then again, maybe the Indians are not underachievers; maybe they finally have revealed who they are, though if that’s the case, most of these guys will be or should be wearing International League uniforms in 2013.
Since the schedule resumed after the All-Star Game, the Tribe has averaged 3.1 runs a game and collectively is batting .232. As if these numbers aren’t bad enough, consider this: After the break, the Indians scored a total of 19 runs in two games. Subtract their offense in those aberrational contests, and their batting average drops to .213 and average runs per game plummets to 2.2.
The team has been shut out in four of the past 16 games and has scored either one or two runs in another four games. No wonder the Tigers and White Sox have moved past the Woeful Wahoos in the Central Division race.
But that’s not all. The starting pitchers have been equally culpable, compiling an aggregate earned-run average of 6.27. Moreover they have averaged slightly less than 5? inning per outing. In that respect, Masterson (7-9, 4.47 ERA) has been one of the more reliable starts, posting a 4.81 ERA and averaging slightly more than six innings per game.
“Masterson struggled to close innings,” Acta said. “Eight of his 10 runs scored with two outs. He couldn’t make a pitch when he had to. And every time they got a hit, there seemed to be traffic on the bases.”
Masterson began his outing as if he intended to throw a no-hitter, if not a perfect game. The first five Twins grounded out to second baseman Jason Kipnis, and the sixth bounced out to first baseman Casey Kotchman.
“It was working out real well for me that way,” Masterson said. “When one didn’t go to Jason, I apologized to him.’’
The Twins did not produce a hit until there were two outs in the fourth, when after a walk to Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham jumped on a 2-and-2 pitch and drove it over the left-field fence for his second home run in as many nights.
There was a questionable call on the previous pitch that would have been strike 3, but umpire Bill Welke didn’t see it that way.
“It was close, but you have to come back and make another pitch,’’ Masterson said.
OK, Masterson was permitted one fat pitch. But with one out in the fifth inning, Hannahan collected a ground-ball hit by Danny Valencia and pulled Kotchman off the first-base bag with his throw for what turned out to be a killer error.
But was it an error? Replays showed that Kotchman had his foot on the bag with the ball.
“That’s part of the game,” Acta said. “Sometimes the human element doesn’t go your say. But it was very unfortunate, because they [the possible missed strike and the play at first] cost us about five runs. He blew the call at first, and it cost us three runs. But they scored 12, so Chris Guccione didn’t cost us the game.”
After the error, Brian Dozier, singled and the ninth batter in the lineup, Alexi Casilla, hitting .223 coming in, lashed a two-run triple to right, and Ben Revere blooped a single to left to score Casilla.
Masterson became ever-so-hittable in the sixth, giving up five runs before being relieved of his duties with one out to go in the inning.
He was charged with 10 runs, including two that were unearned in the fifth inning. Of the seven hits he allowed, five went for extra bases, including two two-run doubles, one by Casilla, who with four RBI, increased his season total by one-fourth to 20.
Carlos Santana’s ground out in the first scored the Indians’ first run. They didn’t get another until the eighth, when Santana hit his ninth home run of the season, but that still left the Tribe eight runs short.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.