The Cleveland Indians fell to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday afternoon, 7-4, splitting the quick two-game series.
This column features my takeaways from Wednesday’s game. If you want more baseball coverage, you can follow me on Twitter (@TJZuppe).
1. OK, FINE
Coming away with a series split against a tough Washington squad was perfectly acceptable for Cleveland, but it also puts a lot more emphasis on the Tribe’s upcoming four-game series against the struggling Los Angeles Angels. The Indians would certainly like to take advantage of a soft part in their home schedule while second-place Detroit takes on Seattle one more time before battling the AL West-leading Texas Rangers this weekend.
2. KNOCKOUT BLOWS
You can live with Josh Tomlin’s propensity to give up the long ball, as long as the homers do minimal damage. That hasn’t been the case over the past two outings for the righty, who has yielded seven runs in each of his last two starts. He was victimized by a grand slam on Aug. 5 in New York and a three-run homer by Jayson Werth in Wednesday’s loss. Five of the last eight homers he has allowed have also come with at least one runner on base.
3. BAD TREND?
Tomlin has now allowed 14 earned runs over the past two starts, working a total of 8 2/3 innings over that stretch. His last seven starts have been a little hit-or-miss, but he had also posted a 3.14 ERA in the 10 starts leading up to the past two stinkers. His next outing will be a critical to help determine if the last pair of starts were an anomaly or a sign of possible impending regression.
Jose Ramirez is playing with his confidence at an all-time high, and it’s easy to see why. The switch-hitter contributed three hits, an RBI and a stolen base on Wednesday, and his production with runners in scoring position continues to be off the charts, nearing a .400 batting average in that situation this season. We dove into some reasons for that in Tuesday’s edition of Extra Frames.
5. GOOD GUYER
Brandon Guyer didn’t set off many alarms when the Indians acquired him just before the MLB Trade Deadline, but that doesn’t change the type of impact he is likely to have on Cleveland’s roster down the stretch. Profiling as an excellent platoon bat vs. lefties, Guyer went 1-for-2 with a single and run scored against southpaw Gio Gonzalez on Wednesday afternoon. His continued production against left-handed pitching will be crucial to the team’s success vs. the non-righties. In this case, fit can be just as important — if not more important — than a big name acquisition.
6. GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The league’s adjustment to Tribe rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin are becoming more evident as the season progresses. Proving to be an excellent low-ball, breaking-ball hitter, teams are starting to pitch the left-handed bat more up in the zone. Clubs have also gradually increased the number of hard pitches he sees. Naquin is in a bit of a slump, hitless over his last four games and striking out twice after drawing pinch-hit duties on Wednesday. Of course, this is the path of a young player. Adjusting to the adjustments are part of an endless game of cat-and-mouse.
7. GOOD QUESTION
Abraham Almonte’s two missed chances to bring in tough fly balls in right field on Wednesday made him an extremely easy target, but his overall status on the team is still a little complicated. Putting himself in a position to be suspended for 80 games earlier this season left Cleveland without a their potential Opening Day center fielder and also removed him from playoff eligibility. On the other hand, he has contributed some with the stick, hitting .325 over the past 14 games he’s played with five doubles, a home run and six RBI.
His poor choices put the organization and his teammates in a really bad spot. But recently, he’s helped offensively, and if he helps get the club to the playoffs, there is some tangible value in that. Do you bench him, knowing he can’t help in the postseason? Or do you take the production while you can get it? The only way this remains an interesting debate is if he continues to swing a good bat. But at some point, the organization is going to have to make a decision on how to handle his spot beyond the end of the season.
9. MORE GOOD QUESTIONS
Could that open the door for a Minor Leaguer like Yandy Diaz, who continues to rake at Triple-A and extended his hitting streak to 28 games on Wednesday? Or what about the organization’s top prospect, Bradley Zimmer? That doesn’t fit the profile of a move typically made by the Indians, but neither did the Andrew Miller trade. Maybe Michael Brantley’s continued setbacks create an opportunity for a waiver trade pickup? Or does Rajai Davis simply get more playing time? All of those could be potential options — some more likely than others.
Let the debate begin.