Friday, August 10, 2007

Offense Fails to Pick Up Carmona

Fausto Carmona made a valiant stand against the Yankees tonight, but his teammates failed to deliver much support. Carmona managed to avoid the knockout punch by a persistent Yankee offense, giving up 4 ER on 8 hits over 7 IP, but suffered his third straight loss.

Facing the hottest offense in baseball, Fausto managed to play to his strengths and keep the ball on the ground most of the night. He kept opposing batters tied up and off balance for much of the night, inducing 17 groundball outs and 3 double plays. Carmona's ability to keep the ball on the ground prevented a big inning from breaking out and provided him with the quick outs he needed to get out of jams and pitch deep into the game (97 pitches over 7 innings). Fausto struck out just two batters, but walked only one (Rodriguez).

Most of Carmona's eight hits were groundballs straight up the middle, with only one going for extra bases (Rodriguez's solo HR). Carmona made his job very difficult by allowing the leadoff runner to reach base five innings in a row, accounting for two of the Yankee's runs.

Jhonny Peralta didn't do Carmona any favors tonight either, stranding 3 baserunners and making two ugly plays on defense. Peralta was directly responsible for one of Fausto's runs when he botched a catch on a Jonny Damon popup in the 3rd inning; Damon eventually came around to score. Peralta also missed secondbase on a potential double play that same inning.

On Hughes

Ok, remember all those crappy, inexperienced pitchers that have been giving the Tribe fits the last two months? Well, the kid they faced tonight happens to be a really good, inexperienced pitcher. Carmona versus Phil Hughes had the potential for an epic pitchers duel and Hughes brought his best to the Jake tonight.

The Tribe's offense never threatened Hughes tonight, but I really can't blame them for trying this time. The Tribe wasn't really swinging at bad pitches or making a lot of stupid decisions at the plate tonight; Hughes' stuff was just that good.

Hughes utilized a deadly combination of high-90's fastballs and sharp curves to freeze the Tribe in their tracks. A big part of the rookie's success tonight was the ability to consistently throw his sharp curveball for a strike. Mix in some other assorted filth and you have a very flat-footed Tribe offense. Still, Fausto hung with Hughes for most of the game by working around some tough-luck singles and working efficiently. Hughes was certainly the better pitcher tonight, but not by much.

Unlucky 13

Carmona has looked like an ace in his last eight starts, but has received little run support in his last five. In three starts from July 2 to July 15, Fausto saw 24 runs in 18.1 IP. In five starts from July 20 to August 10, Fausto received just 6 runs in 37 IP. Carmona has lost his last three starts (including tonight) despite posting a 3.00 ERA over that span. He is currently sitting on a 13-7 record for the season with another tough start coming up against Detroit.

On El Jefe

Despite going 1-4 tonight against New York's emerging ace, Victor Martinez has been doing everything he can the last three games to give his teammates a much needed jolt. After struggling along with his teammates at the plate entering last week's Chicago series, Victor exploded against Mark Buehrle, going 3-4 with a BB and 2 R. In anticipation of a close play at first, Martinez dove head first into the bag to get his first hit of the night.

Think about how nuts that is for a minute. Vic wasn't thinking of anything except giving the offense an opportunity to score. Some people might say Vic sliding (more like flopping) headfirst into the bag like that was selfish and stupid; both valid arguments. However, if I'm a player on the Tribe's bench and I see the team's starting catcher and best offensive player sacrifice his body like that for a single base, it would certainly get my attention (the team lit up Buehrle that night).

I've said before that I don't like citing intangibles, but Martinez's slide is just one of many examples of his leadership this year. Martinez has shouldered the load this season with Pronk struggling. On top of being the best offensive player and dugout leader, Vic has played a significant role in guiding Carmona, Perez, and the rest of the pitching staff to success this season. When he acts, players take notice, and he's doing everything he can right now to get the offense running again.

Laffey Takes a Vacation

After two solid starts for Cleveland, Aaron Laffey was sent back to AAA Buffalo on Friday to make room for utility infielder Chris Gomez. While I was initially surprised to hear the news, it makes a lot of sense for the Tribe right now. The way their rest days are scheduled this month they won't need a fifth starter until August 25. As far as I can tell, they're going to use the extra roster spots to evaluate Gomez and Cabrera to see which one sticks as the new utility guy. Since they practically got Gomez for Monopoly money and have some temporary flexibility with the roster, it's worth a shot.

Gomez is a veteran who has put up some decent numbers as a player off the bench. Gomez should provide an offensive upgrade over Mike Rouse (also sent to Buffalo), but his biggest strength may be the ability to play every infield position. With Gomez and Cabrera coming off the bench, incumbent second baseman Josh Barfield may be second-guessing his job security right about now. Barfield's offense has been terrible this year, but he has exceeded every expectation on defense. Look for Cabrera to start a couple times a week in place of Barfield at second, with Gomez getting a few spot starts at 3rd and SS on rest days.


The only thing more pathetic than the Tribe's play on the field tonight was the overwhelming roar coming from the Evil Empire's fans. Funny thing is, a large majority of those "die hard" New York fans are actually native to Ohio. The state has two baseball teams with great histories and extended eras of success, but people up there (excluding those who inherited the Yanks at birth, they're fine) are still converting to the Church of Jeter in droves? What gives? The only thing worse than an actual Yankee fan is having to deal with some chump posing as a Yankee fan. Bandwagon fans like that are just so vile; you're fortunate enough to miss them all year and suddenly they appear over the weekend like a Mongol horde. Their parents should be ashamed of themselves.

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