Goodnight Irene, Indians Fall to White Sox, Now 10 1/2 Games Back
The dream is over in Cleveland, the season that started so surprisingly strong, is over. The Chicago White Sox obliterated the Indians’ bullpen on Thursday night, scoring 7 runs in the 7th inning on the way to an 8-1 routing, and have effectively shut the door on the Tribe’s playoff chances. The Indians held a 1 1/2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers just a few weeks ago, but after being swept in the two series between the teams, and losing a large part of their every day roster to injuries, the Tribe found themselves in a free-fall that has now reached four weeks long, and shows no signs of stopping.
The problems had been largely blamed on the lack of offensive production by guys who didn’t plan to make the big leagues this season. Guys like Lonnie Chisenhall, called up when third baseman Jack Hannahan’s early-season hot streak cooled off. Chisenhall was considered the Indians’ top offensive prospect, but he has not been able to produce the way the Tribe would have liked him to in his rookie season. Guys like Ezequiel Carrera, whom the Tribe was keen on after getting a game-winning run home via sacrifice bunt in his first plate appearance this year. Carrera got called up when Grady Sizemore went to the DL for the second time this season, but his plate appearances have been sporadic, and his defensive skills have been very questionable as well, dropping and losing several balls in center field. Shelley Duncan has been back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus so many times this season, he can probably make the drive with his eyes closed, but the youngster has only recently taken advantage of the chances he’s been given to play every day and is one of the few guys producing in the Indians’ line-up right now.
The biggest story of the second half of the Indians’ season has been their incomprehensible amount of injuries. The team has lost Grady Sizemore, who just returned on Monday, Jason Kipnis (who was on a hot streak after being called up before injuring his oblique and hamstring) who returned on Tuesday and aggravated his injury again, and Trevor Crowe who returned Wednesday after spending the whole season on the DL due to shoulder surgery. They also lost Shin-Soo Choo who could be back next week, Travis Hafner who should be back this weekend, Jack Hannahan who could play again this season but has not been given a time-table for his return and Michael Brantley who is out for the season after having surgery on his right hand. The Indians also lost three key arms out of their rotation with both Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin shut down due to elbow soreness (Carrasco looks like he’ll be headed for Tommy John surgery and could be out the entire 2012 campaign) and Mitch Talbot was shut down for arm soreness and has been in Columbus since his return.
With that many injuries, it is no wonder that even adding the presence of veteran power-hitter Jim Thome did little to help turn things around. Thome came home after being claimed off waivers from the Twins, but so far his return has been more about nostalgia for the fans than anything. At 41 years old, it is increasingly unlikely that Thome will play another full season, and his waiving his no-trade clause to return to the Tribe could have been a way for the left-handed slugger to retire with the club who gave him a chance way back in 1992.
The Indians will attempt to resurrect some of their early-season magic over the next three games with the White Sox, as they struggle to move back into second place. There is little to no chance of the Tribe catching the Tigers, so the next three weeks will be about pride, finishing the season above .500 and reclaiming second place in the Central Division.
By Robert Gonzalez
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