Pitching, hitting woes bound to catch up to Indians

The Indians’ lack of punch offensively has been an almost daily issue for the team, but it also has overshadowed the fact that statistically the Indians’ pitching has been even worse than their hitting. That fact was driven home again on Thursday in a 12-5 loss to Cincinnati.

Starter Josh Tomlin, a fly ball pitcher who was pitching in a bandbox, Great American Ballpark, that rewards fly balls, was not a good matchup. Sure enough, Tomlin lasted just four innings, giving up six runs on 10 hits, two of them home runs, as his record fell to 3-4 and his earned run average climbed to 5.56.

The Indians’ starting pitching has struggled for much of this season, and that includes No. 1 and 2 starters Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, who had ERAs over 5.00 until just recently. Masterson and Jimenez have been much better in their last two starts, but the rotation overall is still lacking consistency.

Tomlin has been up and down. Derek Lowe had a 2.05 ERA through his first eight starts but in his last five starts is 1-4 with a 7.27 ERA. Jeanmar Gomez, the fifth starter, is 1-3 with a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts, and 4-5 with a 4.71 ERA overall.

Put it altogether and it’s a very inconsistent rotation prone to extremes, both good and bad. The lack of overall consistency with the rotation puts much more pressure on an offense that is ill-equipped to handle it. The bottom part of the Indians’ order, in particular, has had trouble contributing consistently.

All of which makes it somewhat surprising that the team is still hanging in there as contenders in the AL Central. Team officials are quick to remind everyone that the team is doing so even though it has not yet played its best baseball. But the longer the team goes without playing its “best baseball” suggests that maybe it actually has — and is.

NOTES, QUOTES

–RHP Esmil Rogers, a reliever in just his second game as a member of the Indians, singled in the sixth inning Thursday. Starter RHP Josh Tomlin also had a single in the game. All three Indians starting pitchers — RHP Jeanmar Gomez, RHP Derek Lowe, and Tomlin — had hits in the interleague series with the Reds. Indians pitchers are hitting a combined .286 (4-for-14) in interleague play this year.

–OF Shin-Soo Choo’s first inning home run Thursday was his first home run since May 24. Choo went 75 at-bats between home runs and has hit just four this season. He hit 22 and 20 in 2009 and 2010 before falling off to eight in his injury-plagued 2011 season.

–RHP Josh Tomlin’s inconsistent season continued Thursday as he gave up six runs on 10 hits in four innings in a 12-5 loss to the Reds. “He just didn’t have it today,” said manager Manny Acta. In his last four starts, Tomlin has a 6.95 ERA.

–OF Michael Brantley doubled in the seventh inning Thursday to extend his hitting streak to 21 games. That’s the longest hitting streak in the majors since Atlanta’s Dan Uggla hit in 33 consecutive games in July and August of last year.

–C Carlos Santana has been struggling offensively, but not defensively. Santana has thrown out 11 of 31 attempted base stealers. That’s a success rate of 35.5 percent, the best of any qualifying catcher in the American League.

BY THE NUMBERS: 23-2 — The Indians’ record when they out-hit their opponent. When their opponent out-hits them their record is 6-26.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Everything I threw over the plate they hit.” — RHP Josh Tomlin, who gave up six runs on 10 hits in four innings in a 12-5 loss to Cincinnati.

MEDICAL WATCH:

–DH Travis Hafner (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24. He had surgery May 31 to repair a frayed meniscus, and he will be out until late June or early July.

–3B Jack Hannahan (left calf strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 27. He had been out May 14-23 due to lower back stiffness. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Columbus on June 11.

–LHP Rafael Perez (strained left lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 26.

–OF Grady Sizemore (back surgery in March 2012) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4. He was cleared to begin baseball activities in late April and took live batting practice May 16. His rehab was slowed again in early June, and there was no timetable for his return.

–RHP Carlos Carrasco (Tommy John surgery in September 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 26. He might miss the entire season.