The series: Hosted the Red Sox (loss, loss) and Tigers (loss, win) and visited the Twins (win, loss, loss).
The big story: We got six quality starts out of seven, but our offense got exactly one win out of those six quality starts. These weren't borderline quality starts, either – in each of the six, the starter either made it into the 7th inning or gave up less than 2 runs, and in three out of six, he did both. Five regulars put up averages under .170 while only one hit better than .250 – but they maddeningly continued to draw walks, drawing the fifth-most this week in the AL despite apparently not being able to hit. The Indians were only outscored by five runs on the week but managed to distribute their runs badly, winning two games by 14 runs and losing five games by 19 runs. The net result is that the Indians missed an opportunity to get a little distance in the standings from the Tigers, joining them in the cellar instead, and fans are forced to start wondering just how inevitable a crash is for first-place Chicago.
In other news: Sabathia and Borowski, nominally our #1 starter and reliever respectively, further bombed out. Already the worst starter in baseball entering the week, Sabathia gave up his second nine-spot in a week's time, one of just two pitchers to give up more than six runs in a game, twice, in 2008 – and his co-honoree Tom Gorzellany has an ERA more than four runs lower. Borowski, meanwhile, failed in such spectacular and obvious fashion – struggling to throw a fastball over 80 mph – that many felt relieved to see such his agonizing career as Indians closer end swiftly (at least for the moment) by a trip to the DL for "noodle-like symptoms." It turned out that Borowski's giddyup deficit was well known to the staff, which raised questions as to why he was allowed to attempt to close four games. Sabathia and Borowski's struggles led directly to five of our 12 losses this season, and we survived Sabathia's Opening Day blowout and nearly overcame another on April 11. So it's not wishful thinking to believe that even with all the team's other problems, we'd probably be 11-8 right now had these two pitchers not failed so profoundly.
Lee continued his improbable run as the game's most effective pitcher, leading the majors in RA, ERA and FIP. Byrd made a more or less unheralded return to form this week with two very fine starts, while Carmona quieted fears following last week's nine-walk adventure. Hafner hit a game-winning home run but otherwise struggled to keep his OPS over 700, as Indians fans start to wonder if we haven't even seen him hit rock-bottom yet. Perez bounced back from a shellacking the previous weekend to pitch effectively in four games, but he was finally touched for a run on his 11th batter of the game yesterday, his first game facing more than 9 batters since moving out of long relief last June. Despite being tagged with a loss yesterday, he actually made great strides toward re-asserting himself as an 8th-inning ace.
Post of the week: Now taking nominations.
Who fed it: Byrd pitched far better than your typical #5 starter, giving up just one run over 13 IP in two starts. Lee put up eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball and fans looked on in disbelief. Victor surged back with a 12-for-27 week, but his searing .444 average was a little empty, accompanied by just one walk and one extra-base hit, a double. Carroll continued to perform well in a supporting role, supplementing his .200 average with a beefy .500 secondary average and his usual fine defensive play. Perez was unlucky on base hits but overall very effective over four games and 4.2 IP, allowing just one walk and no extra-base hits to go with 6 K's – 11 groundballs, 3 flyballs and just one line drive. Absolute Best: Lee. Relative Best: Byrd.
Who ate it: Sabathia and Borowski were complete disasters – although in fairness, Sabathia's ERA for the week (20.25) was twice as good as Borowski's (40.50) . While many hitters were terrible, nothing was more awful than Peralta's slugging average of .136, or more disappointing than Sizemore's overall line of .160/.300/.240, or more troubling than Hafner's overall line of .167/.259/.333. Stomp Lewis had two miserable outings out of two, lucky to give up only two runs to Boston after allowing two doubles and two walks in the two-run loss, and allowing two walks before getting just one out a few nights later. Absolute Worst: Peralta. Relative Worst: Borowski.
The other guys: Indians pitchers got mugged pretty good by Manny, Lugo and Pedroia for the Red Sox, as well as Renteria, Cabrera and Inge for the Tigers, but nobody inflicted as much damage as Youkilis, who collected a walk, a single, three doubles and a home run in just two games, good for a 2075 OPS. Ortiz produced an empty 3-for-10, 600 OPS, and needed some luck even to do that well. Pudge went 0-for-6, stranding ten, in a game where his teammates were teeing off on Indians pitchers to the tune of 11 runs. Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez, both 22-year-olds acquired in the offseason, combined for just one single and one walk in 23 AB. On the other side, the Indians dispatched Verlander, Lester and Liriano handily only to get manhandled by the utterly unheralded Armanda Galarraga and Nick Blackburn, plus the somewhat heralded Scott Baker. The Indians put up a five-spot on Detroit's Zach Miner to seal their one strong offensive game, but against Boston, Papelbon and Okajima each sealed a two-run victory with a two-strikeout perfect final frame.
- Paul Byrd as an excellent starter.
- Sabathia being the worst pitcher in the game.
- Borowski being sent in to close a game.
- Perez looking rough.
- Can we turn it around quickly enough that we don't dig a 2006-sized hole for ourselves in the standings?
- Since any blogger writing in his/her parents' basement in his/her underwear can speculate on whether C.C.'s contract situation is distracting him, what exactly do we need newspaper columnists for?
- Too soon to start the Cy watch for Cliff Lee?
- How long can Byrd keep it together?
- How long can Sabathia keep it apart?
- What kind of production will the team consider acceptable from AbaCab?
- Why are the Indians so strangely unwilling to play Blake in LF or RF, which would allow them to give Marte playing time in lieu of Micheals and sometimes Gutierrez?
- Is there anything more to the lack of playing time for Marte, other than his just being low-man on the totem pole to start the season?
- How much playing time will Carroll siphon from Peralta and especially AbaCab, and will his performance hold up given more exposure?
- Will Borowski ever return to the active roster, and if so, in what role?
- Kobayashi, Breslow, Julio – seriously, can these guys pitch?