If you want to know what the best way to kill a season is, just ask the 2008 Cleveland Indians for the answer. A BAD BULLPEN. Not just a bad bullpen, a historically bad bullpen. And to think back in April, we all thought this was the strength of the team. As bad as some of the bullpen's the Indians have had since the millennium, this has to be hands-down the worst. Today, we may have even reached "The Bullpen from Hell" status, with apologies to charter members Jamie Easterly, Rich Yett, etc etc.
It was such a shame too. We should be talking about Jhonny Peralta's five-hit explosion and how he is as locked in as we've ever seen him. Or how Eric Wedge benched Ryan Garko for not hustling. Or the RWAB's 13 hit attack. Or how Rafael Perez was lights out yet again in his two innings. Nah, instead it's all doom and gloom thanks to Eddie Mujica and and Masa Kobayashi's complete and utter disaster of a ninth inning that cost the Indians a game and a series.
With the Tribe up 7-4 in the ninth and Perez, aka the ONLY Indian reliever capable of getting anyone out, already done after two scoreless innings, Wedge decided to see what Mujica could do. How does, double, double, two-run Pizza sound to start the inning?
Just like that, the three run lead evaporated. Out went Mujica, in came Masa. An infield single in which Masa forgot to step on the bag started his day. A walk came next, and then a three-run homer off the bat of Carlos Pena ended an epic comeback by the Rays and a sickening choke job by the Tribe. The final Rays 10 Indians 7.
Mujica's line: 0 IP, 3 hits, 3 ER
Masa's line: o IP, 2 hits, 1 Walk, 3 ER.
The Rays scored six runs on five hits and a walk while Mujica and Kobayashi failed to record a single solitary out. Yankee and Red Sox fans everywhere are ready to kill these two. When I say the Indians bullpen is historically bad. I'm not joking. They are ranked last in the majors in saves, save percentage, and bullpen ERA. Take Perez out of the mix and imagine how bad it could really be.
Mujica, a four A special, looked terrible when he first came up, and then followed it with a 10 2/3rds scoreless streak. He became "Steady Eddie" for three weeks. That came crashing down in two of his last outings, where he has allowed seven hits and seven earned runs in 2/3rds of an inning. The coward was "nowhere to be found" after today's debacle according to the Plain Dealer.
Masa? He has been a model of inconsistency. He is single-handedly proving that great Japanese relief pitchers aren't translating. Did this guy really save over 200 games in his career before coming over? He is very Paul Shuey-like. One game, he is unhittable. The next, he couldn't get my grandmother out.
Rafael Betancourt, the best set-up man in the majors in 2007 has turned into David Riske. Put him in a tight spot and he wets himself. On Tuesday night, he was in trying to keep the Rays at bay and Evan Longoria crushed one that hasn't landed yet. He like id so much, that he let Cliff Floyd do the same thing two batters later. "The Realtor" is being foreclosed on. He is in love with his fastball and everyone knows it. It's all equaled up to a 6.27 ERA and 11 HR's allowed. Last season, he allowed just four in almost double the innings pitched.
Jenson Lewis went from a guy who looked like the 7th inning bridge to Betancourt and Perez and the heir to the closer job. Now, he is a guy still searching for his velocity who seems to be handling the 5th/6th inning middle relief job just OK.
The rest of the bozos like Juan Rincon (can you say "Steroids" and "finished"), Tom Mastny (I wish the Nasty one was better, but he isn't), Rick Bauer (peace), Craig Breslow (late), Jorge Julio (pair of ones), and Brian Slocum (4A), have ridden the Buffalo shuttle with little to no success. Now word comes that Mastny is out, Brendan Donnelley is in. Matt Ginter has moved out of the rotation and onto the DL, replace by Anthony Reyes.
It's a friggin' disaster, the whole season. But you can't win games without a decent pen. Decent isn't even in the vicinity these days for our boy Wedge and his trusty lieutenant Carl "what chu talkin' bout" Willis.
Lastly, off subject - props to Wedge for benching Garko for a lack of hustle after his first at bat. These guys are still playing hard for "King Grinder" and he did the right thing with the Garko incident. Garko even agrees: "I made a big mistake right there," said Garko. "It's the first time it's happened and it will be the last."