Short Nerd Chief

Tribe-Mariners Wrap: Closer wanted, apply within

Posted by Fred on May 2, 2008

The Tribe’s most recent series, which saw them take 2 of 3 from the Mariners was a complete reversal of the previous series, a four-game split with the Yankees.  Against the Bombers, the four starters were 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA (and it was only that low because C.C. Sabathia allowed only a single run in eight innings of work). The bullpen, on the other hand, allowed only a single run in 11⅓ innings, marred only by Jensen Lewis’ blown save (in a game the Indians won anyway on a Victor Martinez walk-off single).  In this series, the starters had a 1.77 ERA in 20⅓ innings, but only picked up one win, thanks to a bullpen that gave up 7 runs in 8⅔ innings (a 7.28 ERA). Some late-inning heroics last night salvaged the 2-1 series win, but a better performance by the pen would have rewarded Paul Byrd and Fausto Carmona with victories as well.

The title of this post is a bit harsh, as Rafael Betancourt has blown only one save in three chances since taking over for the injured and ineffective Joe Borowski. He entered Tuesday’s game in the ninth inning, however, and watched a 2-2 tie turn into a 7-2 debacle, giving up three runs and recording one out.  Betancourt’s numbers as the closer are not much different from his numbers as the primary set-up man for Borowski:

3/31 – 4/14 7 4 5.14 7 1 2.14 .367
4/17 – 5/1 5⅓ 4 6.75 5 1 1.31 .273

So what gives? He had a truly horrid performance on Wednesday night, putting a tie game out of reach.  Before that game, Betancourt had not pitched since April 25. Last year, Betancourt had a 1.33 ERA on less than three days’ rest, and a 1.93 ERA on three days’ rest or more. For his career, it’s 2.63 on short rest and 3.58 with more rest.  Given that, it is incumbent upon Wedge to get him work, even if it means occasionally closing with Kobayashi instead of Betancourt.

The blown save last night was only partially his fault. He allowed a single to Ichiro and threw a wild pitch to Raul Ibanez that allowed Suzuki to advance to second.  had Casey Blake not committed an error on a stolen base attempt, the outcome of the inning may have been different. Of course, had Betancourt not heaved a wild pitch, Ichiro would still have been at first, so it was a bungled inning all around.

The Good

  1. Grady Sizemore. After watching his consecutive games played streak end when he turned an ankle against the Yankees, Grady had a good series against the Mariners, collecting 4 hits and 4 walks in 15 plate appearances, for an on-base percentage of .533. Better yet, all four hits were for extra bases (3 doubles and a lead-off HR), so his OPS was a robust 1.442 for the series. Over his last 7 games, Sizemore is hitting .333 with a 1.138 OPS (3 doubles and 2 HR in 27 AB plus 7 walks). He also collected more walks than strikeouts, a nice change from his career ratio of 1.89 strikeouts for every walk.
  2. Franklin Gutierrez. The second-year outfielder is showing some signs of emerging from his slump, and got 6 hits in 13 AB against the Mariners. Over his first 11 games, Gutierrez hit only .158 with 12 strikeouts in 38 AB. Over the last 16, he’s hitting .352 with only 9 strikeouts in 54 AB, scoring 7 runs and driving in 8.
  3. Ryan Garko.  After watching his batting average free-fall 90 points in 7 games, Garko turned it around a little against Seattle, picking up 2 hits in 5 AB and reaching base 4 times in 8 plate appearances.
  4. Paul Byrd. After a rocky start, Byrd has now posted quality starts in three of his last four outings. Against the Mariners, he recorded two outs in the eighth inning, his longest start of the year. He allowed only four singles and a walk and was efficient in doing so, throwing 72% of his 87 pitches for strikes.
  5. Jensen Lewis, Jorge Julio, Masa Kobayashi and Rafael Perez. The news wasn’t all bad for the bullpen, as Perez, Lewis, Kobayashi and Julio allowed only one earned run in 7 innings.

The Bad

  1. Asdrubal Cabrera. Although he redeemed himself somewhat by picking up the game-winning hit in the 11th inning last night, Cabrera was only 1-for-11 for the series.  For the year, Asdrubal is hitting only .202 and has seen an increasing number of his at-bats go to Jamey Carroll (whose own average has fallen to .216).
  2. Jhonny Peralta.  The Tribe shortstop was hitless against Seattle, and has managed only 2 singles in his last 18 at bats.
  3. Fausto Carmona. Although he put the team in a position to win on Tuesday night, allowing only 2 runs (1 earned) in 6⅔ innings, Carmona continues to allow too many baserunners. In 2007, he had a WHIP of 1.21; this year it’s 1.73. Against Seattle, he gave up 8 hits and 4 walks, and had multiple baserunners in 5 of his 7 innings.  Carmona induces enough ground balls to pitch out of trouble, but he’s walking a really thin line this year and consequently has pitched 7 innings only once this year, after doing so in 20 of his 32 starts last year.

The Ugly

  1. Rafael Betancourt. The Tribe’s new closer cost the team one game and nearly lost a second last night. In 1⅓ innings he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits, and had more difficulty finding the strike zone –  against the Yankees, 89% of his pitches were strikes; against Seattle, only 66% were.
  2. Casey Blake. In addition to nearly costing the team a win on his 9th inning error, Casey was 2-for-12 for the series, striking out 5 times. Over his past 7 games, Blake is hitting .125 with 11 strikeouts in 24 at bats.

Up Next: The Indians now sit in a second-place tie with the surging Tigers in the Central, 1½ games behind the White Sox.  The Tigers head to Toronto to face the last-place team in the AL East, while the Tribe hosts Kansas City, which has fallen from first to last in the AL Central.  C.C. Sabathia (1-4, 7.88 ERA) faces Luke Hochevar (1-1, 5.91) in the opener.  After a very rocky beginning, Sabathia has allowed only one run over 14 innings in his last 2 starts. On Saturday, Aaron Laffey (0-1, 6.35) gets his second start of the year against the Royals’ Gil Meche (1-4, 7.22).  Meche was rocked by the Tribe in his previous outing in Kansas City, giving up 8 runs in the 15-1 romp.  Sunday pits Fausto Carmona (3-1, 2.60) against Brett Tomko (1-3, 6.26), who made it into only the fourth inning in his last start against the Rangers.  Carmona wasn’t great in his start in Kansas City, however, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits in only 5 innings.


2 Responses to “Tribe-Mariners Wrap: Closer wanted, apply within”

  1. Ben Keeler said

    Bring back Rocker?

  2. Fred said

    Nah, how about our previous fat guy, Wickman. Or Jose Mesa. Actually, I think Betancourt will be OK in the long run. I just wish we could get a real closer for once, someone with mid-90s stuff who doesn’t let tons of guys on base. I know they’re hard to come by and burn out fast, but this team hasn’t had a real closer since Mesa imploded against the Marlins.

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