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Tribe's cold bats putting pressure on rotation

Rodriguez's strong debut not enough as Indians fall to Royals
@MandyBell02
April 13, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Jefry Rodriguez got the call on Thursday that the Indians needed him to take Mike Clevinger's spot in the rotation Saturday against the Royals, and the 6-foot-6 righty did just about everything he could to give his team a chance to win. But the offense was unable

KANSAS CITY -- Jefry Rodriguez got the call on Thursday that the Indians needed him to take Mike Clevinger's spot in the rotation Saturday against the Royals, and the 6-foot-6 righty did just about everything he could to give his team a chance to win. But the offense was unable to step up, resulting in a 3-0 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

No matter how solid Rodriguez’s Indians debut was, there was very little that he could do behind an offense that recorded just two hits on the evening -- a single and double by Miller -- off Royals starter Homer Bailey.

“[Bailey] kind of sped our bats up with his fastball and then he spun a breaking ball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We knew there were chances there were going to be some times like this. It’s hard to go through, but [we've] got to keep fighting. Got to fight for everything you can get.”

Without Francisco Lindor (left ankle sprain) and Jason Kipnis (right calf strain) in the lineup and prior to Carlos Gonzalez officially being added to the roster Sunday, the Tribe has struggled to find success at the plate. Heading into Saturday, Indians hitters led the Majors in strikeout percentage (28.9 percent) and now own the worst batting average in baseball (.185) after the team’s 2-for-28 performance. They’ve been held to six hits or fewer in nine of their 14 games and just one run or fewer in three of their last four contests.

“I mean they’ve done a really good job against us,” Francona said. “We haven’t done much the last two days. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.”

Despite the offensive stats, the Indians have been able to maintain a winning record of 8-6, but not without adding a lot of pressure to their starting rotation, which is now missing its No. 4 starter due to an upper back strain. Even a two-run, five-hit performance by Rodriguez wasn’t enough to keep the club in contention.

“I mean obviously he’s huge, and the ball’s moving all over the place, he’s up to 97 [mph], really good changeup and the breaking ball, too,” Miller said of Rodriguez. “ I thought he did a great job. Obviously I wish we would’ve got something going for him because he definitely did his part.”

After walking 28 batters in 38 2/3 innings as a starter last season (38 overall in 14 appearances), Rodriguez did not issue a walk for the first time in nine career starts on Saturday, throwing 68 percent of his 91 pitches for strikes.

“We tried to simplify the game plan just because we wanted to see him attack the strike zone,” Francona said. “There’s time in his development where he’ll start to make pitches in certain counts or look for areas, but we just wanted him to attack the strike zone.”

“I think mainly confidence,” Rodriguez said. “This is what I’ve been working on since Spring Training to just be on top of the hitters.”

Anderson makes first appearance since 2016
Cody Anderson was called up Saturday, a day after the team had to use the majority of its bullpen to throw over eight innings. In his first big league appearance since Sept. 28, 2016, he played a part in saving the Tribe’s ‘pen, working the final two frames of the game.

“I thought he was a little over-amped when he first came in, which it’s understandable,” Francona said. “He settled down and threw some really good breaking balls and some really good changeups. … Part of our goal tonight was to get our bullpen back in order, and we did.”

Anderson missed the past two seasons as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. After a single, a wild pitch and a walk began his first inning back in the Majors, he was able to limit the damage to just one run, with a big help from Jake Bauers, who threw out a runner at the plate from left field to end the seventh.

“He’s been fighting to get back for a while,” catcher Kevin Plawecki said. “I mean obviously the way the inning started probably wasn’t the way he wanted, but he bared down, made some pitches when he needed to and was one pitch away there from giving up nothing. ... He’s got some great stuff. I look forward to having him contribute more.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.