In yesterday’s 12-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, four visiting batters (Kole Calhoun, David Freese, Albert Pujols, and Howie Kendrick) all hit home runs.
In the home dugout, Terry Francona had to be jealous.
Because that kind of power hasn’t been seen for the Indians in a month. In fact, no Tribe player besides Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall have went deep since Zach Walters’ two run shot in the 10th inning on August 26th at Chicago.
And former Oriole manager Earl Weaver would cringe at this statistic: No Indians’ player has hit a three run homer since Santana went deep off of former Tribe pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez on August 16th.
No wonder Francona’s team has trouble scoring runs.
Without power, offenses are dependent on scoring by getting multiple base hits in an inning or a mixture of walks and hits. That may work if you have a lot of hitters batting in the .270 range.
Once again, the Indians do not.
Among the regulars, only Michael Brantley, Chisenhall, and Yan Gomes have batting averages over .280. So, even if you get a couple of men on base, you are likely dependent on someone hitting around .250, meaning they get a hit one out of every four times up, to come up with a big hit.
The lack of offense puts a lot of pressure on a pitching staff.
Somehow, Cleveland remains in the top half of the American League in runs scored, currently ranking 7th in the junior circuit. This is despite the team scoring more than four runs just once since the calendar turned to September.
Someone has to step up and soon if the Indians are to stay relevant in the wild card race, and their presence in that situation is a day-to-day proposition to be sure. All it would take is consecutive losses to a team like the Indians are facing tonight, Minnesota, and any chance of making the playoffs will be doused.
And they need to have the ability to score without piecing together several hits and/or walks, and to score with one swing of the bat.
The Tribe has played eight games this month and have received no homers from Brantley (last one: August 16th vs. Baltimore), Gomes (last HR: August 18th), and Jason Kipnis (last HR: July 31st) in that period.
Note that these guys are usually hitting in the middle of the Cleveland batting order, anywhere from 3rd to 6th. And this isn’t to denigrate the years that Brantley and Gomes are having, as both are among the most productive hitters in the game at their position.
The point is that no one has stepped up and helped out, most notably Kipnis, who is suffering through a horrible season.
Walters filled the void for awhile, hitting six bombs, but recently has shown his true Russell Branyan tendencies by striking out at an incredible rate (28 times in 76 at bats).
Chisenhall has mixed in a couple of home runs, but Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez aren’t known for power, and David Murphy is just coming off an oblique strain.
The other players getting playing time from Francona aren’t long ball threats either, guys like Tyler Holt and newly acquired J.B. Shuck.
This might be the most convincing argument to giving minor league slugger Jesus Aguilar an extended shot in the lineup. He’s a threat to hit one out.
There is no question the Cleveland Indians need to start scoring if they want to remain in the race. However, without the threat of the home run, it will be a very difficult task, indeed.