The Cleveland Indians are at a unique point in franchise history.
The team is becoming the Cleveland Guardians later this year and that fact is dominating the conversation around the franchise.
Friday was the day everything was announced and yet, there was still a game to be played.
Thursday saw James Karinchak blow a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth, only for Bryan Shaw to take home the loss in extras.
Unfortunately, the trend continued Friday on a day when the game itself could have been an afterthought.
A win would have smoothed things over, even just a bit, but now the frustration is mounting heading into the weekend.
Ji-Man can bring the boom, too pic.twitter.com/ZC1IlKvwSk
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 24, 2021
The Latest Collapse
This time it was Nick Wittgren‘s turn.
Karinchak had his bad outing Friday and Emmanuel Clase opened the second half of the season with a loss of his own.
Wittgren got shelled by the Tampa Bay Rays and when the top of the ninth was finally over the score stood at 10-4.
The night was ruined and the annoying name-change debates continued to rage on.
So what is going on with this bullpen?
Clase, Karinchak, Wittgren, and Shaw are supposed to be reliable.
This may just be a case of averages playing out, also proving the bullpen is not as elite as we thought.
Relying on the same arms every single time a game is close is going to lead to constant highs and lows as well.
The frustrating thing from these losses is the fact the starting pitching has stepped up.
Terry Francona discusses James Karinchak's 9th inning, Cal Quantrill's strong starting effort, Daniel Johnson's defensive miscue, and Franmil Reyes's home run.#OurCLE pic.twitter.com/mcwTlc2i0O
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) July 23, 2021
Cal Quantrill logged six innings of one-run baseball Thursday night as he looks to be a legitimate option in the rotation on a full-time basis.
Zach Plesac allowed four earned runs in 6.2 innings Friday, which is not stellar, but still serviceable.
The bullpen starting to revert to below-average would mean this team is doomed.
What Comes Next?
The Indians enter play Saturday with a 48-47 record.
Even being 50-45 would feel so much better.
This has them nine games back of the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central and only three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers for the second spot.
However, the Indians are still within striking distance of the Oakland A’s at six games back in the Wild Card chase.
But falling to .500, or below, right before the deadline could mean some moves are made.
It would only make sense, given the fact this team does not look like a true contender in 2021.
The talent is there, on paper, but there are too many injuries and three bullpen collapses in one week is not helping at all.
This narrative can change, however, if the Indians can win the next two and split with the Rays.
This would not drastically change the front office’s overall plan, but it could keep confidence high in the clubhouse that a playoff berth is still possible, regardless of what moves are made.
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