CLEVELAND: The Indians are in the early stages of disarray. The Tribe got swept in a three-game weekend set by the White Sox in Chicago and returned home to lose two out of three to the Kansas City Royals and fall out of first place.
Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Royals followed a familiar pattern to other recent failures: The starting pitching was faulty, and the offense shorted out when runners reached base.
Three important hitters remain out of the lineup with injuries: catcher Carlos Santana, third baseman Jack Hannahan and designated hitter Travis Hafner, who won’t be back for at least a month and maybe six weeks because of a bum knee that will be surgically repaired today.
So what can the club’s deep thinkers do about all of this? Maybe call up a hitter from Triple-A Columbus. Manager Manny Acta suggested after the game that a move might be forthcoming.
“Everyone on the Triple-A roster is an option,” he said. “But we have to make the decision.”
Acta said he and General Manager Chris Antonetti would talk about the possibility of altering the roster. If they call up a player, who might it be?
•?Matt LaPorta has made the biggest splash for the Clippers. Though he no longer is red hot at the plate, LaPorta is batting .304 and is among the International League leaders in home runs (13) and RBI (30). He carries an OPS of 1.001, which is an on-base percentage of .400 and a slugging percentage of .601.
•?Russ Canzler started slowly but has lifted his average to .266 with 11 doubles, three homers and 15 RBI.
•?Cord Phelps is the current hot hitter for the Clippers, batting .270 with 14 doubles, five home runs and 20 RBI.
•?Jared Goedert started the season with the Double-A Aeros but since being promoted to Triple-A has compiled an average of .256 with four home runs and 15 RBI in only 10 games.
Only LaPorta has significant major-league experience. Given that whomever gets called up (if anyone does) probably would be used mostly at DH, it’s not clear if Acta and Antonetti prefer an infielder or an outfielder.
The need to strengthen the lineup became apparent Wednesday, even though the failure of starter Jeanmar Gomez was slightly more to blame for the defeat than the depleted offense.
In the third, fourth and fifth innings, Gomez (3-4, 4.42 ERA) had two outs and no runs across the plate but couldn’t find a way to retire the side, giving up two runs in the third, two in the fourth and one in he fifth, his last inning.
“I don’t know,” Gomez said, when he was asked why he had problems after two out. “I felt good. I got two outs quickly and then got in trouble.”
It’s difficult to cite a specific reason why pitchers can’t finish innings, even when they retire the first two batters easily.
“Some people say that’s when pitchers are vulnerable,” Acta said. “We’ve tried to attack that with these guys the last couple of years by telling them that’s when they should be like a shark smelling blood.”
Maybe Gomez had a head cold and couldn’t smell anything. Maybe he lost his concentration because he had only one out to get in each of the three offending innings. Chances are nobody will ever know for sure.
“This was not a good series,” Acta said. “It’s been a rough week for us. Pitching sets the tone, and we’re not setting the [right] tone.”
Indians starters are 1-5 with an 11.89 ERA in the past six games.
As bad as the starting pitching has been, injuries are beginning to catch up with the offense. Wednesday, the Tribe amassed 10 hits and received the benefit of four walks and one error but managed to strand 10, six in scoring position.
“We had some opportunities but couldn’t do anything with their guys,” Acta said.
In the ninth, the Indians loaded the bases with one out on two walks and Jason Kipnis’ single against Jonathan Broxton. Jose Lopez followed by swinging at the first pitch and grounding weakly into a double play to end the game.
“Jose was trying to ambush him on the first pitch,” Acta said. “But he put a poor swing on the ball.”
The Indians still can’t seem to find the formula for winning consistently at home, where they are 14-12 (.538), compared to 12-9 (.571) on the road.
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.