Tuesday, August 18

Too bad we don't play in the AL Central

Why? Because they've got some really weak teams in that division. Our Indians have now nabbed four straight series wins over Central foes - if only we were in the Central and played those teams 18 times a season...wait, what? Oh. Never mind.

Cheap introductory device aside, the Tribe has looked strong of late against the mediocre denizens of their own division, rattling off an 8-4 mark against the "top" three clubs in the Central. That run includes taking two of three from Minnesota this past weekend, the second time in as many weeks the Tribe managed to do so, in the process puncturing Minnesota's playoff aspirations. It's nothing personal, Minny - the young Tribe have also taken Detroit and Chicago each down a peg in recent weeks, and figure to play a pivotal role down the stretch with six more against los Tigres, six with los Gemelos, and three more against las Medias Blancas. If the Tribe had played the Central this tough all year (and stayed the hell out of the NL, against whom they posted a 5-13 black eye), I might be watching Cliff Lee pitch tonight instead of Fausto Carmona's ghost.

A while back I wrote about how much I hated this team, but I've since managed to talk myself off of that ledge. After the fire sale, resolved to keep on keepin' on and even suggested we might not be any worse after the trades, a view that both statistics and the Indians' recent play support. It's gotten to the point where I'm again looking forward to watching and attending Tribe games, even though I know they might not do a whole lot of winning these next couple of years.

Neither my regained optimism nor their recent success against the AL Central was anywhere to be found during Friday's opener against the Twins, a ghastly 11-0 loss where absolutely nothing went right for the Indians. They collected all of two hits (three baserunners) off of Twin starter Scott Baker (10-7), who cruised to a complete-game shutout in just 94 pitches. The Twinkie offense erupted for nine runs in the 3rd and 4th innings off of starter Justin Masterson (3-4) and reliever Jess "Todd Jess" Todd. Masterson didn't exactly get "rocked" per se; the Twins didn't even collect an extra-base hit off of him and Todd made his line look worse than it had to, but his five BB's were concerning. Masterson struggles to get out lefties, and the Twins' middle-lineup trio of lefty masher bats (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel) went a combined 8-12 with 3 walks, 5 runs, and 9 RBI. Wow. Tomo Ohka allowed the remaining pair of runs on a two-run blast by Kubel that may or may not still be flying. The loss dropped the Tribe to 49-66 on the year.

In other news, the Metrodome sucks. You can't play Major League Baseball in a place with a plastic field and a trash bag instead of an outfield fence. What an embarassment.

Saturday brought better things for our Wahoos, as the Clevelander bats backed David Huff to the tune of a 7-3 victory in a game that I had no idea was scheduled to take place during the day. Huff (7-6, somehow) was characteristically OK, better than usual but not superb, pitching four scoreless frames before yielding two Twin (no that's not redundant) runs in his 5th and final inning.

By that time, the Tribe had jumped ahead 7-0, plating one in the 2nd, two in the 3rd, and four in the 5th. Shin-Soo Choo got the ball rolling with a solo shot in the 2nd , Grady Sizemore followed suit in the 3rd, and the Tribe collected their remaining five runs one at a time via three RBI singles (Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner, Wyatt Toregas) and two sacrifice flies (Choo, Jhonny Peralta). Five of the runs were charged to starter Anthony Swarzak (3-6). For the Tribe, Jamey Carroll singled three times and scored twice, while Hafner collected three hits and Cabrera and Choo each notched two.

The Indians would not score after that, but Rafael Perez and Joe Smith kept the Twins at bay with three scoreless frames and Tony Sipp allowed one run in the 9th (a Mauer solo blast) to account for the final score. The 7-3 win gave the Tribe their 50th triumph on the year against 66 losses.

Sunday's game started ominously similar to Friday's, with the Twinkies jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the 2nd against Tribe starter Aaron Laffey (7-3) on an RBI groundout by Joe Crede and a two-run shot from Delmon Young. Having missed Saturday's game, that meant I had seen 14 straight Twin runs come in with nary a Tribesman crossing home plate. Going back even further, I missed the 1st-inning run the Tribe plated against Texas in their 4-1 loss on Thursday but saw the rest of the series, including a 5-0 loss the previous day. Thus, since attending their 5-0 win on Tuesday, I'd seen the Wahoos yield 23 consecutive tallies without getting one themselves. Yuck!

Then the Tribe dropped the bomb.

Trailing 3-0 and facing Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn (8-8) in the 3rd, they went ahead and did this:

Shoppach Home Run
Valbuena Home Run (that thing was titanic)
Marte Hit by Pitch
Sizemore Home Run (see comment on Valbuena HR)
Carroll Single
Cabrera Double

Now that's baseball! Cabrera would come around on Peralta's RBI single, and the Tribe had themselves a 6-run inning. Choo would double home Sizemore for the Indians' 7th run in the following frame, and the Tribe offense took the rest of the afternoon off. The Twins pushed across their final run against Kerry Wood in the 9th; coupled with yesterday's 9th-inning tally, I think the Indians are simply unwilling to relinquish their hold on the AL's worst ERA. It's like a weird kind of point-shaving. Run-shaving? Regardless, the 7-4 win secured the series win, put the Tribe at 51-66, and sent them back to Cleveland on a positive note heading into home tilts with the Angels and Mariners.

First up are the mind-bogglingly lucky California Angels, who are a staggering 10 games ahead of their 3rd-order pythagorean expectation. Just last year I pointed out how much better their record was than it should be and they're at it once again. Maybe there's something to why we consistently underperform our Pythagoreans and California outpaces theirs. I dunno. The Tribe dropped two of three to the Angels in late July and look to avenge that at Progressive Field this week. Your pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Trevor Bell, RHP (0-0, 6.75) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (2-7, 6.37)
Wednesday: Jered Weaver, RHP (12-4, 4.12) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (4-8, 4.88)
Thursday: John Lackey, RHP (8-5, 3.73) vs. Justin Masterson, RHP (3-4, 4.70)

Go Tribe!

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