The Cleveland Indians had been counting down to their home-opening series against the Detroit Tigers since the moment the 2015 schedule was released. With many expecting the Tribe to supplant Detroit as the kings of the AL Central, this weekend’s matchup was certainly a big test for Cleveland.
However, just as it seems to occur in every sold out home series against the Tigers lately, things got ugly in a hurry for the Indians.
The sellout crowd Friday was treated to an absolute trouncing by Detroit, as they rolled to an 8-4 win. Things looked a bit more promising yesterday, thanks to a breakout game from first baseman Jerry Sands. However, a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning was blown open by the Tigers, leading to a 9-6 victory.
Yes, it’s still very early in the season, so now is obviously not the time to overreact. With that said, though, this weekend series is certainly bringing up more than a few red flags for the Indians.
First of all, if Cleveland truly expects to hang with the Tigers this year, they better start upping their offensive game. Both Friday and Saturday’s matchups featured slow starts from the Indians’ bats. Through two games, Cleveland has been severely outhit by Detroit, to the tune of 32-18. The Tigers have also outscored the Tribe 17-10. Granted, there has been a bit more run production from Cleveland in this series as opposed to their season opener against the Houston Astros. Still, they’ll need a whole lot more than what they’re producing at the moment if they want Detroit to take them seriously.
One of the biggest worries, though, is how badly some of the pitching has been for the Indians, specifically from the bullpen.
Unlike Friday’s matchup, Cleveland was able to claw their way back into yesterday’s bout despite giving up an early lead. However, the Indians’ relievers just kept giving the game away. Closer Cody Allen, typically clutch in late-game scenarios, allowed four runs in the top of the ninth to erase any chances of a potential comeback victory. Earlier, Marc Rzepczynski spoiled a 3-2 Cleveland lead by allowing two runs and being replaced without even recording an out.
Though the Tribe’s bullpen was a bright spot last year, it’s providing no relief this weekend. Currently, Rzepczynski, Allen and righty Bryan Shaw all have WHIPs of 3.00 or higher. Though stats like these are always a bit inflated during the first week of the year, the struggles of the Tribe’s relievers against Detroit is certainly cause for concern.
On top of the problems on the field, the Indians are also running into injury issues with two of their core players.
Michael Brantley, who has been slow out of the gate so far, sat out yesterday after feeling a “stabbing” pain in his back Friday. He’ll be out of the lineup for today’s game as well. Though Brantley claimed he felt better this morning, his back issues are certainly going to cause some anxiety with the Indians. After gaining an MVP nomination last year, Brantley is obviously someone Cleveland is going to need this season.
Additionally, catcher Yan Gomes left yesterday’s game in severe pain after Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis slid hard into home plate. Gomes was initially diagnosed with a sprained knee, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list this morning. As with Brantley, the loss of Gomes is a big blow to the Indians, and certainly doesn’t make this opening week any easier.
Not enough offense, subpar bullpen production and injuries to key members of the lineup. It’s safe to say this wasn’t the way Cleveland wanted to start the first series of the year with their division rival. There’s obviously still plenty of time to get back on track, but for now, this weekend’s matchup with the Tigers has given Cleveland plenty of issues to work out.