Coming off a loss to the Twins in Puerto Rico, the Cleveland Indians returned to the U.S. to take on the Orioles for a weekend series in Baltimore. The Tribe dropped the opening game 3-1 and have now lost three of their last four games.
For the second game in a row, Cleveland Indians hitters were able to muster only one run and will now look to win game two on Saturday. Mike Clevinger (1-0, 2.70 ERA) starts for Cleveland while Baltimore sends right-hander Chris Tillman (0-3, 11.91 ERA) to the mound.
The Indians initially looked poised to break the game open in the first inning.. With the bases loaded and one out, Cleveland DH Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch from Oriole starter Dylan Bundy (1-2 1.42 ERA), scoring Jason Kipnis for what would be the Indians only run of the game. A flyout by Yonder Alonso and Roberto Perez strikeout ended the early threat, and the Indians were unable to muster any offense for the remainder of the game.
Trevor Bauer (1-2, 2.67 ERA) did not allow a hit until the fourth inning. With one out, Baltimore star Manny Machado clubbed a home run to tie the game. An inning later, Trey Mancini doubled to deep center field, scoring two more to give his team the 3-1 lead. The Indians had runners on the corners with two down in the seventh but couldn’t produce. Darren O’Day came on for the Orioles in the ninth to earn his first save of the season.
Hitters remain cold
The offense continued to disappoint, with six Indians going hitless. Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, and Edwin Encarnacion all own sub-.200 averages, with Francisco Lindor sitting slightly above that at .205.
The lack of production continues to spoil solid outings from the Indians pitching staff. Encarnacion started out slow last season, however the struggles from the rest of the lineup make his sluggish performance all the more frustrating. He will come around eventually, but when? Aside from Michael Brantley who is hitting .351, nobody is hitting consistently right now. Terry Francona will continue to ride his pitching staff.
Naquin quietly hitting well
Tyler Naquin, who struggled last season, is looking better at the plate. He continues to serve as a quality fill-in while Lonnie Chisenhall recovers from a calf injury. Naquin now owns a .313 average with 4 RBI and will do everything he can to try to stay on the roster when Chisenhall returns.
He will likely return to Triple-A Columbus, but if he can keep it and Rajai Davis or Brandon Guyer struggle at the plate, Francona could have a tough decision to make if he thinks the team is better off keeping Naquin.
AL Central continues slow start
For as disappointing as the lack of offense has been, the Cleveland Indians sit only a half game behind Minnesota. Fortunately for the Tribe, no other central foe has come out of the gates sprinting either. The American League Central division is now the last division in baseball not to have a team with ten victories.
The White Sox and Royals will not likely be a threat to contend, while the aging Tigers look to enter into rebuilding mode. The race could come down to Cleveland and Minnesota.