On June 24th, the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 to bring their record to 41-31, and were just two games behind the White Sox in the American League Central Division.
Since that day, the Tribe has gone 7-17, including a nine game losing streak from June 30th, when they lost a doubleheader to Detroit to July 7th, when they lost a twin bill to Tampa.
And they’ve also lost 11 straight games to the Rays, spanning back to 2019.
The injuries to the starting pitching gets quite a bit of the blame for this bad streak, but in Cleveland’s last 29 games, a span that actually started earlier than the losing, the Indians have scored more than four runs just seven times.
Amazingly, they have lost three of those games.
Since the beginning of July, the Tribe has lost three games where they had the lead going into the 9th inning.
The point is this stretch has been brutal for Terry Francona’s squad, with each area of the roster contributing to the losing.
The team had to be happy when a starting pitcher gives them five quality innings, but recently, Zach Plesac has returned to give them some good outings, and Cal Quantrill has gone 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts.
Rookie Eli Morgan has been able to pitch five innings in each of his last five outings. His ERA has been 6.12 in those starts, but he has given the team a chance to win each time.
So, despite the injuries to their top three starters, the starting pitching hasn’t been awful. Triston McKenzie has been better since his most recent visit to Columbus either. Unfortunately, JC Mejia continues to show he’s not ready to pitch in the majors.
The bullpen has shown signs of wear and tear to the three late inning relievers, with Emmanuel Clase blowing two ninth inning leads and James Karinchak one, and Bryan Shaw has allowing 11 runs, nine earned in his last 17 appearances.
The offense has struggled along with their best weapon, Jose Ramirez. In his last seven games, Ramirez is just 2 for 18, with a homer. Over the last 14 days, he is hitting .160 (4 for 25). Even worse, over the last 28 days, he’s hitting .230 with four long balls. He still has an 846 OPS in that span.
His production has dropped since he was hit in the foot by a pitch against Pittsburgh, which coincidentally is when the Cleveland offense hit this cold patch over the last 29 games. He has also been battling a sore elbow.
Ramirez is by far the best position player on the team, and because of that, if he is struggling, it is very difficult for this offense to get anything going. The only consistent hitters Francona has are Jose, Franmil Reyes, and Harold Ramirez, and for some reason, the latter gets left out of the lineup far too often.
Yes, some players have pitched in from time to time, such as Bobby Bradley who has belted 11 homers, but in July, he has batted .158 with 30 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances. He has taken some walks, but the swing and miss issues are still a major issue.
The defense also breaks down a lot. Cesar Hernandez’ work with the glove has taken a dramatic dip. Amed Rosario has range issues and problems turning the double play. Fly balls hit to anyone besides Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado have become adventures.
That doesn’t help a young pitching staff either.
Among the everyday players, outside of the two Ramirez’s and Reyes, could the front office make a deal that would weaken any other position? We doubt it. Let’s say Hernandez is moved, it would give Owen Miller another shot. Amed? They could get another look at Andres Gimenez, who would at least provide better defense.
No, the Indians shouldn’t go into tank mode, but they should look to reshape the roster with an eye towards 2022. Getting Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale back should mean an improved offense put the Indians in contention next year.
But they should look to get stronger in all areas too. There is room for that in all phases of the game.