Yes, the Indians needed to do something, anything, to try to keep their fading-by-the-minute postseason hopes alive. And Jim Thome — back where he began his awesome major league career 20 years ago, as a third baseman, no less — is a good addition.
They’re without Travis Hafner, maybe for the year. They’re without rookie sparkplug Jason Kipnis, for at least another week. They’re without Grady Sizemore, for who knows how long. And now they’re without Michael Brantley, whose wrist injury landed him on the DL on Friday.
So Thome should fill a void, even at age 40 (he turns 41 tomorrow).
He’s in Cleveland’s lineup tonight, batting fourth.
But the real issue with the Indians isn’t the offense, for a change.
Rather, it’s the rapidly deteriorating starting pitching. Here’s how the Indians’ rotation has fared the last seven games, six of which were losses (dropping them from 2.5 to 6.5 games out).
• Aug. 19, in Detroit (4-1 loss): Josh Tomlin — four earned runs on six hits (including three home runs) in 6.2 innings.
• Aug. 20, in Detroit (10-1 loss): David Huff — five earned runs on four hits (including Brandon Inge’s welcome-back homer) in 2.1 innings.
• Aug. 21, in Detroit (8-7 loss): Ubaldo Jimenez — eight earned runs on nine hits (including two homers) in 3.1 innings, marking the third time he’s been roughed up in four starts since leaving the Rockies in the deadline deal.
• Aug. 22, vs. Seattle (3-2 loss): Fausto Carmona — one earned run on six hits (including one homer) in six innings, for the club’s lone quality start in the cold spell.
* Aug. 23, vs. Seattle (7-5 win): Justin Masterson — five earned runs on 10 hits (none of which were homers!) in 8.1 innings.
• Aug. 23, vs. Seattle (12-7 loss): Zach McAllister — eight earned runs on nine hits (including one homer) in 3.1 innings, in his second major league start.
• Aug. 24, vs. Seattle (9-2 loss): Josh Tomlin — six earned runs on 11 hits (including one homer) in 4.2 innings, marking the first time he failed to last five innings (38 starts). It gets worse, though. He was placed on the DL on Friday with an elbow sprain.
In case you weren’t counting, here are the ugly totals. For those with a weaker stomach, I suggest covering your eyes: 37 earned runs in 34.1 innings, for a whopping 9.70 ERA. Making matters worse, more than half of that damage was courtesy of the oh-so-punchless Mariners, who’ve scored 10 or more runs just three times in a game this season — twice in April, and last week against the Indians. Seattle has scored 42 runs fewer than the next-weakest offense in the AL, Minnesota’s.
Of course, the Seattle hitters certainly fooled Cleveland’s starters, whose ERA now is 4.39; seven games ago, it was 4.12.
And things won’t get any easier for a staff that just might be tuckered out — after four months keeping the team smack dab in the middle of the AL Central race, against all odds.
Starting tonight, Cleveland plays 35 games in 34 days (two doubleheaders, one day off) to close the season, meaning there won’t be an opportunity to skip a struggling starter — or five.