The Indians let scoring chances slip through their grasp as the pitching staff again is excellent in a loss: Walk-Off Thoughts
Here are five Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians lost 2-0 to the Chicago White Sox, dropping their record to 8-7 with one-fourth of the regular season now complete.
1. The Indians flipped the script on Thursday night with the offense exploding for a 13-run night that included their first 10-run inning in almost two years. They hoped to never see that script again, the one that had them scoring 12 runs during an eight-game stretch, scratching and clawing for anything resembling a rally until it all finally came pouring out at once. But on Friday night, the lineup rummaged through the trash for that same script, and they followed it to a T again, to the chagrin of an Indians pitching staff that was again terrific but not good enough to overcome the offense's issues.
2. It was the exact inverse of the Indians' offensive explosion Thursday night. They totaled just four hits against Dylan Cease, one of the only starting pitchers they had knocked around earlier this season. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base. They loaded the bases but came away empty handed. They grounded into three double plays. They almost couldn't turn the run-scoring faucet off on Thursday. On Friday, it's as if it had frozen over, and despite a number of scoring chances, the Indians couldn't finish anything. On Thursday night, Jose Ramirez belted two home runs, added a triple, drove in four runs and scored four. On Friday night, one strikeout left him twirling to the ground so that he was left sitting in the batter’s box. It was, perhaps, the best imagery for the stark contrast of the past two games.
"Well he mixes his pitches pretty well, he has a pretty good change-up, breaking ball and good separation between his fastball and change-up," said Sandy Alomar Jr. on a Zoom call, referencing Cease's arsenal of pitches. "The guy throws 98 mph and then has a change-up, 10 mph less, so you have to choose what area to look. We had him on the ropes a couple times, bases loaded, but he was able to get out, one time with nobody out. We gotta take advantage of those situations."
3. The story of the Indians' season has been an offense not being able to fully take advantage of the game's best pitching staff. The Indians have now allowed four or fewer runs in all 15 games this season, the longest stretch to start a season in franchise history and the longest in baseball since the 2005 Florida Marlins. Aaron Civale delivered another gem, continuing a trend for the rotation. Nick Wittgren gave up a solo home run in the eighth, snapping a scoreless streak of 17 1/3 innings for the bullpen, but that group has largely been among the game's best as well. One can look at the Indians' record as a positive, that they've weathered a horrendous offensive slump — Thursday night aside — and remain above .500. Or, one can view it the other way — that with one quarter of the season already gone, the Indians have had the game's top pitching staff and are still just one game above .500.
4. If there was one positive to take regarding the offense from Friday night's game moving forward, it was that the Indians drew eight walks. Alomar a few days ago discussed how he thought there wasn't enough confidence with some hitters in the lineup to get deeper into counts, and the Indians were being overly aggressive without trusting themselves with two strikes. Friday night, they took advantage of a sometimes wild Cease to create run-scoring chances. They just didn’t capitalize. The right approach was there, from Alomar's view. Just not the right contact.
"Yes, we battled, but we didn't get the key hit," Alomar said. "The guys put in better at-bats, and the more you go putting together better at-bats, you're going to get better results. Unfortunately, tonight wasn't that night. We had bases loaded and the contact was on the ground and they were able to turn double plays. They got the strikeout when they needed, and that was it. Gotta tip your cap to their pitching."
5. Civale gave up just one run on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in seven innings but took the loss. He gave up a walk and a single to start the first inning, which put runners on the corners with nobody out and led to the only run the White Sox would need. He didn't have the feel for his curveball but still spent the night needing to throw it to keep hitters honest.
"The sinker-cutter combo played pretty well today. Didn’t have the best feel for my curveball," Civale said. "Had to work through that and find situations where I could throw it so that when I did need it later in the game, it was there. Just utilizing my strengths. Having pitched against these guys two times ago had to kinda figure out a different way to pitch some of them. Just stuck to my strengths and went from there."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.