Another poor outing from the Cleveland Indians starting pitching set the tone for a high scoring rubber match against the Minnesota Twins. Fresh off a great outing on Opening Day in Oakland, Indians’ ace Justin Masterson couldn’t get through the fourth inning throwing 3.2 innings pitched, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks and four strikeouts, 53 of his 97 pitches going for strikes.
Masterson simply didn’t have it from the start as he wasn’t able to control his sinker for strikes. In six games the Tribe rotation has amassed 29.1 IP and 19 ER.
The common theme in the Indians’ first week of play has been getting down early, having to claw back into the game with their bats. Cleveland has failed to lead a game through five innings of play, which is alarming considering half of the games came against Minnesota. Surrendering 19 runs in three consecutive afternoons to a team that lost 96 games in 2013 is simply not a winning formula. It’s hard to blame the Tribe offense for leaving men on base as they still had seven cross home plate in the 10-7 loss.
Heading into the sixth inning, tied at 6-6, manager Terry Francona opted to call upon right-handed reliever Blake Wood. Twins DH Chris Colabello took back the lead booting a three-run double off the wall. After fighting back to tie the game the previous frame, it was surprising to see Wood’s number called in a tie with Marc Rzepczynski waiting patiently in the bullpen. The newcomer to the Bullpen Mafia was handed a huge opportunity in a role that he clearly wasn’t ready for.
Based on how pen arms like Vinnie Pestano have been slowly reacquainted with the group, it made very little sense to choose Wood when he has yet to prove worthy of getting the nod in that situation. Wood struggled mightily losing track of the strike zone throwing 13 balls on 23 pitches. Before getting the hook after two recorded outs, it was too late as he allowed one hit, two walks and three ER.
Even though I am against assigning innings or situations to relief pitchers, as the new young face in the group, Wood’s role this early in should be limited down to games the Indians are leading or losing by three or more runs until he earns the right to take on a bigger task.
Starting pitcher Corey Kluber needs to go unscathed in the first inning tomorrow night to build his confidence back up after dragging his feet through 3.1 innings of work in his first appearance. A figure Cleveland will need to flip in their favor is being outscored 19-3 in the first three innings. If the Wahoos are able to give their staff an early lead, a strong point of the 2013 club, the young staff will rally towards more productive outings.