August 17, 2013
Last night's 3-2 loss could have easily turned into something like tonight's game had a couple balls dropped in. But that's the baseball, and it's no use trying to quantify the unquantifiable.
Asdrubal Cabrera has had a rough couple of months, and an even rougher couple of weeks. Between the errors and the long hitless streaks, he's gone from being seen as a key cog in the Tribe offense to an afterthought and an offseason salary dump. Tonight should show us that for the Indians to win this year, Asdrubal Cabrera needs to be that middle-of-the-order bat in the lineup. We can all dream about Francisco Lindor in 2014, but that's next year. There's roughly 40 games left in the season, and Cabrera should be in the lineup most of those game. After last night lining into a game-ending double play, Cabrera finally broke out of an 0-for-20 streak by hitting a loopy line drive that just glanced off of first baseman Brandon Moss's outstretched glove. Had Moss caught that ball, I don't think any paper cup in the dugout would have been safe. Cabrera, even through the hitless streak, had been hit his share of line drives or hard grounders, but sometimes the BABIP gods aren't smiling on you. This season Cabrera's BABIP is .278, the lowest it's been in his entire career. Granted, the BABIP isn't crazy low, covering up a great season, but it does indicate that Cabrera has hitting the ball at least a little better than the results so far have indicated.
Anyway, back to the game. Before Cabrera's double, former Athletic Nick Swisher put the Indians on the board with a solo homer off starting pitcher Dan Straily. Swisher is another of the underachieving veterans, a player who metronomically is putting up a 120ish OPS+ but so far is sitting on a 108 OPS+. He later added an RBI single in the ninth inning. Michael Bourn is another guy with a track record that has been struggling, and he too had a very nice night at the plate. He hit had two hits on the night, including a home run that had little trouble clearing the right field even on a cool Bay Area evening. Cabrera, Swisher, and Bourn are going to have to be good for the Indians to do anything these last six weeks of the season.
I would be loathe not to mention the way Ubaldo Jimenez pitched. Yes, it's not aesthetically-pleasing pitching. At times it seems that Jimenez's goal is to frustrate batters solely through the variety of pitches he throws, but it's been working. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, and was pulled immediately after he gave that hit (a single). That's Ubaldo in a nutshell: the pitcher that makes a fine outing in the box score look difficult in real life. But you get to appreciate him for what he is, and the Indians surely wouldn't be where they are right had Ubaldo not been twirling his miniature gems throughout the season.
What was a fairly close game was blown open after there two outs in the top of the ninth, so the middle relief might get overlooked. But Rich Hill struck out Chris Young to extricate the team from a sixth inning jam, Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless inning, and Joe Smith got LGFT Coco Crisp to fly out to end a first-and-third rally in the eighth. Two-out singles by Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis turned a 4-1 lead into a 7-1 lead, so Matt Albers pitched the bottom of the ninth instead of Chris Perez.
This series is really big for the Indians. They started the series down three games to Oakland in the standings, and will either leave town two games or four games back, depending on what they do tomorrow. The two teams behind in the standings losing does help, but that doesn't matter if they can't make up ground on the teams ahead of them in the race.
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