CHICAGO -- If nothing else, the Indians are adhering to Major League Baseball's wishes to speed up the pace of the game. The Tribe's offense, lagging all season and slowed to a crawl on this six-game road trip, went down quickly and quietly in Thursday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular field. That wrapped up a winless trip in which the bats hit just .192 (37-for-193) and scored just 13 runs. "Offensively, stuff is contagious," third baseman Casey Blake said. "We're seeing a lot of the negative energy that can run through a ballclub."More
The latest victim of that negative vibe was left-hander Aaron Laffey, who turned in another strong outing only to come out with another loss. Laffey is now 2-3 in place of the rehabbing Jake Westbrook, though not for lack of effort. He has a sparkling 1.60 ERA, and he continued to mow down the opposition on this night. In seven-plus innings of work, all Laffey allowed were a pair of runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Then again, allowing two runs to your opponent when you're getting this kind of offensive backing is like jogging through freeway traffic. "It gets frustrating," Laffey said. "You don't want to lose, and you don't want the team to lose. But teams go through this. At some point, we're going to turn it around." During the 6-1 homestand that preceded this trip, the Indians showed some signs that such optimism was justifiable. But the bats have taken a definitive step back during this skid. The Indians hit just .122 (5-for-41) with runners in scoring position on the trip. And in the three-game sweep at the hands of the Sox, they sent the minimum of three batters to the plate in 18 of 27 innings. "This was a tough road trip," manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm not happy about it. [The players] aren't happy about it. But we just have to keep pushing and keep working." The Tribe didn't make much of a push against Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle on this night. In seven innings, he allowed just a run on two hits with four walks and two strikeouts. "He's a good pitcher, no doubt," Blake said of Buehrle. "You've got to give him credit. He certainly pitched well. You don't feel comfortable against him." The Indians, though, have looked comfortable against Buehrle in the past. He came in with an 8-11 record and 4.93 ERA lifetime against the Tribe.
Those number didn't matter in this one. The Indians' only run came in the third, when Franklin Gutierrez and Asdrubal Cabrera drew consecutive walks and Grady Sizemore ripped an RBI double to left.
Then it was back to the 1-2-3 innings that have been so prevalent all week. The two hits off Buehrle were the Tribe's only two hits of the ballgame.
Laffey did his best to ensure that one run would count for something. Laffey gave up a quick run in the first, when Orlando Cabrera singled, Alexei Ramirez doubled and Carlos Quentin knocked Cabrera in on a groundout, but he quickly recovered. He faced just two batters over the minimum in the second through seventh innings.
In the eighth, however, Laffey let Toby Hall on with a leadoff single, and that was the end of Laffey's evening. Reliever Masa Kobayashi was sent out to strand pinch-runner Brian Anderson, but a deep flyout from A.J. Pierzynski allowed Anderson to move to second, and Quentin's ground-ball single to left allowed him to score. The Sox tacked on an insurance run on Jermaine Dye's RBI single.
That put Laffey in line for another loss he didn't deserve. And when Westbrook returns from the disabled list next week, Laffey will probably suffer a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo that he doesn't deserve, either. He'll likely make one more start against the Sox at Progressive Field on Tuesday.
Given the struggles of the offense, Laffey knows the mind-set he and his mates in the rotation have to take into each start.
"You have to make sure you're prepared," he said. "You have to go out, stay focused and keep pitching your game."
But the bats are asking for more than just preparedness and focus from their starters. They're asking for perfection, given the way things are going at the plate.
Blake, for one, expects that to change.
"We just need to be as positive as we can be," Blake said. "We're going to turn it around. The longer you play, the more you learn how positive and confident you have to remain."
But the longer this ragged road trip dragged on, the more positive the Indians were that they're ready to get home.
|"It gets frustrating. You don't want to lose, and you don't want the team to lose. But teams go through this. At some point, we're going to turn it around."|
|-- Aaron Laffey|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less