May 11, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Nyjer Morgan (6) is congratulated by center fielder Michael Bourn (24) after they beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Cleveland Indians defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5.
Getting results can mask a lot of issues. The latest example of that came late last week with John Axford being moved out of the closers role.
When the Indians’ starting rotation was struggling, Axford was still getting saves. They weren’t pretty but he was converting. With his recent struggles though, capped by Friday’s outing where he went two-thirds of an inning with a four-run lead and had to be pulled with the bases loaded, there were issues that could not be overlooked anymore.
Even when Axford was on a run where he converted five straight saves, Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway talked about wanting to see Axford limit his walks. In his last four appearances he has issued six along with giving up six hits, five runs and two home runs as his ERA has gone from 2.31 to 4.91.
Efficiency also hasn’t been the first word to come to mind when describing Axford’s games. Of his 13 appearances where he entered the game at the beginning of the ninth in a save or win situation, heâs retired the side in order only three times.
Add in some recent mechanical issues with the struggles in command and Axford becomes part of the one-third of closers of have had to relinquish their job since the start of the season. For now, the four-man committee of Cody Allen, Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw will handle things.
For the sake of everyone, here’s hoping that Axford is able to get back on track. Allen has the tools to be a closer but Francona loves using him in high-pressure situations that can arise before the ninth.
Axford’s struggles slightly diminished what was the Tribe’s first winning week of the season as they took five of seven from the Twins and Rays to get out of the AL Central basement. A quick look back at the week that was and this week’s upcoming series:
Asdrubal Cabrera missed out on his cycle in Thursday’s 9-4 win over the Twins but the Indians did accomplish a first. Cabrera (4 for 5), Michael Brantley (3 for 5), David Murphy (3 for 4) and Mike Aviles (3 for 4) also had two extra-base hits in the game. Per Elias, that was the first time in franchise history four players had at least three hits with two going for extra bases. Over the past 10 seasons it had been accomplished only twice in the majors. Toronto did it on Aug. 17, 2008, against Boston and Seattle on May 30, 2012, at Texas.
In his last 19 at-bats dating back to Wednesday against Minnesota, Cabrera has 10 hits.
Nyjer Morgan’s alter ego made a couple brief appearances this week and for all the right reasons. During the third inning on Wednesday, Morgan made a leap at the wall in right-center to rob Minnesota’s Josmil Pinto of extra bases. In the eighth inning on Sunday, Morgan homered to right with what proved to be the game-winning run. It was Morganâs first homer in the majors since July 30, 2012, and he put his hands in the air forming a T as he crossed the plate.
"I put up the T! Just a little one. I kind of short-armed it," Morgan told reporters after the game. "You know, it was kind of a Japanese bat flip. So there was a chance I might end up wearing one."
Welcome Back Tomlin
He is only two starts in, but Josh Tomlin has provided some stability to the back of the rotation. He allowed only one earned run in his debut on Tuesday against the Twins and followed that up on Sunday by allowing only two runs in six innings at Tampa Bay.
A lot of the offense had good weeks but Aviles’ was just a tad better. In six games he went 10 of 21 with a home run and five RBI. One of the hits was a two-out, walk-off single in the ninth of Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Minnesota. Aviles has seen his average climb from .250 to .312.
Besides Axford, it was not a great a seven days for David Murphy, who was 4 for 26 against the Twins and Rays.
Cleveland at Toronto
First pitch: 7:07 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
Probables — Tuesday: RHP Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86) vs. RHP RA Dickey (3-3, 4.72); Wednesday: RHP Corey Kluber (3-3, 3.48) vs. RHP Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.63); Thursday: RHP Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.65) vs. LHP JA Happ (1-1, 4.63)
Season series: The Blue Jays took two of three during a mid-April series at Progressive Field.
Of note: Melky Cabrera, who went 8 for 14 against the Indians in the first series, has hits in 34 of 37 games this season. …Jose Bautista reached base in 37 straight games until it was snapped on Sunday.
Cleveland vs. Oakland
First pitch: 7:05 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Season series: Indians took two of three in the opening series of the year in Oakland.