Sheldon Ocker

CHICAGO: The Indians have widened their American League lead in throwing wild pitches, although errant pitches to the screen donít seem to be the issue they were in mid-June.

In a five-game span from June 14-18, four opponentsí runs scored on wild pitches by Justin Masterson, Scott Kazmir, Cody Allen and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Moreover, on June 23, four different pitchers threw one wild pitch apiece in a game against the Twins, though no runs scored directly as a result of heaves past the catcher.

Altogether, the Tribe staff has thrown 48 wild pitches to lead the second-place Mariners and the Rays by nine. Individually, Brandon Maurer of the Mís and Luis Mendoza of the Royals lead the league with eight wild pitches; Masters is tied for second with seven.

Matt Albers and Jimenez have five wild pitches apiece, and Kazmir, Zach McAllister, Rich Hill and Allen each have four. It is somewhat of a surprise that Albers and Allen are substantial contributors to the total, because they are relievers and have pitched only 28? and 33? innings, respectively.

How much of a liability are wild pitches? Itís doubtful that the success or failure of a team ever depended on keeping wild pitches to a minimum, but they donít help, either. Nineteen opposing runners who have advanced on wild pitches have come around to score so far.

Wild pitches are a pitcherís statistic, but sometimes catchers get blamed for their failure to block balls in the dirt. Determining which pitches should be knocked down and which are inevitably going to get through a catcherís defenses is subjective.

Carlos Santana has been criticized often this season for not stopping pitches in the dirt. He has been behind the plate for 33 of the clubís wild pitches (in 52 games). Yan Gomes has been on duty during 15 wild pitches (in 33 games), including all four during the game against the Twins nine days ago.

After one difficult game behind the plate for Santana, manager Terry Francona said: ďI think that really bothered Carlos. Heís putting in a little extra work.Ē

The dilemma for the catcher is that he knows what pitch is coming, and pitchers donít mind throwing breaking balls in the dirt.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at