Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) removes Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson (63) during the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Progressive Field.
CLEVELAND– If the Indians were hoping to restore a modicum of confidence heading into this week’s series against Detroit, the weekend series against Oakland didn’t even come close. In fact, the Tribe might have hit the nadir of their season.
In being swept by the Athletics, the Indians played their worst series of the year capped off by Sunday’s 13-3 loss at Progressive Field. The Indians have lost four straight and five of their last six. After looking like they might be able to get back to .500 a week ago, they have tied their low-water mark of six games under .500 at 19-25, in the AL Central basement and 10 games behind the Tigers.
"We got beat in every facet of the game– pitching, defense, timely hitting. We got embarrassed on our home field and it don’t get any easier," outfielder Michael Bourn said. "Detroit is coming to town and they’re not going to take it easy on us. We’ve got to find a way to fix it and fix it fast."
The Indians split a two-game series in Detroit last month but that was back when the Tigers were struggling. Detroit is 16-5 in its past 21 games and has won 13 of 17 road games this season.
After getting Drew Smyly on Monday, the Indians get Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer the next two games.
"Frustration won’t make it better. You have to keep guys spirits up and make them believe it is going to get better," Jason Giambi said. "If you start to believe in the bull(stuff), then the bull(stuff) is going to happen every single day."
If you thought the six games out West were bad, this series eclipsed that. At least against the Giants and Angels, you could point to at least two games that the Tribe should have won.
Against the Athletics, the Indians were outscored 30-6 and were 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. If you think those numbers are bad, it gets worse from there:
Since scoring 15 runs and having 22 hits in last Wednesday’s win over Toronto, the Tribe has eight runs on 27 hits the past four games.
A pitching staff that came into the weekend tied for giving up the fewest home runs in the majors allowed five. The starting rotation, which had shown signs of gaining some consistency, gave up 18 runs in 11 2/3 innings and had a 13.88 ERA.
Justin Masterson’s struggles continued on Sunday as he allowed seven runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. It is the first time in nearly a year that the right-hander has allowed seven runs or more.
In his past two starts, Masterson hasn’t been able to weather the second and third time through the order. Oakland chased Masterson with four in the fifth as five of the first six reached base that inning.
"It’s at a point where we’re being tested. Once we start getting back to the fundamentals we’ll be OK," Masterson said.
During the losing streak, the starters have worked just 15 2/3 innings while the bullpen has gone 19 1/3.
Five players combined for seven errors. Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana each had two errors. The Indians lead the majors with 45 errors.
"We have to pitch and play defense. Hitting comes around but being a good team pitching and defense always wins game," Bourn said. "If we can do that, we’ll find a way to scrap some runs across. We have to come out ready to play because no one is going to feel sorry for us. They are going to try to beat us like they are supposed to."
Speaking of Swisher and Santana, they were both dropped down in the batting order before Sunday’s game. It didn’t help as they were a combined 0 for 9. Swisher went 2 for 13 in the series and is batting .196 while Santana was 1 for 12 and is hovering at .152. As an offense, the Indians hit .191 in the three games.
Mike Aviles, who was moved up to second, was 0 for 4 and Ryan Raburn, who was the designated hitter and batted cleanup, was 0 for 3 including a strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth. Francona said before Sunday’s game that the lineup will remain fluid so it will be interesting to see where he places Asdrubal Cabrera and Yan Gomes, who both had the day off.
"We need to play better baseball. What weâre doing right now isn’t good enough," Terry Francona said. "We’ve got to play better. That’s on me. I have to have better answers and have our guys more prepared."
The past couple years the Indians have excelled in May. Last season they went 18-12 and weren’t under .500 the rest of the season. With the loss, the Indians are 8-8 this month and treading water quickly. With the way the Tigers are surging, the last thing you want to be is behind by double digits in the division at Memorial Day. Judging by the way both teams are playing, that might be a foregone conclusion.
"There’s no loss of confidence. We are in a rut. The only way to get out of a rut is to have confidence," Bourn said. "You are going to have days when your game is off but we’re having too many. It’s not on the coaching staff, that’s the 25 dudes in this locker room."