The Guardians rode a 1-6 record in their last seven games into Wednesday’s contest against the Minnesota Twins.
On Tuesday, things looked on the up after the Guardians took the first game of a doubleheader 3-2.
But by the evening, Cleveland was right back where it started, having lost the second game in a 6-0 blowout.
Just one week ago, this was a ball club coasting.
Cleveland looked on a crash course with the playoffs, having clawed itself back into the wild card and division race.
Now, the team is once again adrift in the AL Central, three games behind the Twins.
What’s causing Cleveland’s latest skid?
No one likes playing behind.
Unfortunately, Cleveland has been playing behind far more than playing ahead.
Between June 23 and June 28, Cleveland played seven games.
That’s right, seven games in just six days.
But in those seven games, Cleveland trailed for a whopping 36 innings.
Further, Cleveland scored first in only two of those games; one of those occasions was the club’s only win among those seven games.
Even worse, the Guardians are coughing up runs early: almost every game over this seven-game stretch saw opposing teams scoring within the first three innings.
What does that all lead up to exactly?
First, the offense is a no-show (more on that below).
Second, the starting pitching has left a lot to be desired.
And that’s borne out if we look at the numbers.
Over the last seven days, Cleveland pitchers have an atrocious combined 6.08 ERA.
Essentially, Cleveland’s starters have done a poor job of keeping the team in games early, which has led the club to play behind more often than not.
Look, seven games in six days are brutal.
That speed of play can be especially brutal for pitchers, whose time between starts is necessarily shorter as a result of clustered games.
— Stephen (@Scuba_Steve26) June 21, 2022
But let’s face it: the starting rotation needs help.
Shane Bieber‘s 3.07 ERA is the best on the team.
Cleveland’s latest skid exposed the fact that the club needs one more arm that it can count on to keep the team in games early.
The pitchers haven’t been the only issue of late for Cleveland.
Cleveland’s bats are consistently inconsistent.
What do I mean by that?
On any given night, the pitching rotation likely has little idea how much run support it can expect from the batters.
In 23 games, the pitchers have received between zero and two runs of support.
Also in 23 games, batters have provided between three and five supporting runs.
And in 25 games, pitchers have received six or more runs to back them up.
At first blush, that might seem healthy: the Guardians aren’t overloaded in any one category.
But in reality, that makes planning and pitching difficult.
— craig s (@csloball) June 28, 2022
If Bieber or McKenzie knew reliably how many runs they would get from the batters, their job becomes infinitely easier.
As does Terry Francona‘s job, who could better plan around his pitchers and batters.
Unfortunately, the Guardians aren’t providing much of anything at the dish lately.
Over that seven-game stretch mentioned above, Cleveland has been outscored 13-38.
Twice the Guardians have been blanked.
Over that same stretch, Cleveland hasn’t managed more than three runs in any game, while their opponents have routinely jacked six runs or more.
José Ramirez, who the Guardians lean on more than probably any other player, has been struggling heavily as well, batting just .269 with just one RBI.
Unfortunately, Ramirez is struggling at an awful time.
Perhaps Cleveland looks at its situation and decides to pick up an arm and a bat via trade.
Or maybe the front office decides contention is still a year away.
Fortunately, a walk-off win against the Twins on Wednesday is exactly what the doctor ordered to turn things around.