Monday, August 31

Good baseball against bad teams

At the start of this past week, the Tribe found themselves with a better record than just two of their American League competitors, Kansas City and Baltimore. Naturally, they thought, hell, let's take a road trip and play both of them! And so it was, as Cleveland continued their strong post-All-Star-break run of baseball by taking 2 of 3 from the Royals and splitting a 4-game set from the Orioles.

I have no intention of writing a recap for seven games, so I think a brief note on each series and game will suffice.

Kansas City Royals
Only San Diego's -148 run differential is worse than KC's -142, but at least Royal fans can take solace in the fact that the Royals sport neither hideous camouflage nor preposterous all-gold ("sand") uniforms. There's something to be said for dignity, even during your 83rd straight losing season.

Game 1
I was just about ready to pass out at the wheel of my car headed north to Cleveland when Luis Valbuena's three-run blast off of KC closer Joakim Soria in the 8th gave the Tribe a 7-5 lead that they would parlay into a 10-6 opening-game win. Did YOU think Valbuena was going to be this solid this soon? Me neither.

Game 2
Zack Greinke absolutely buzzsawed his way through the Tribe lineup, to the tune of 15 K's in 8 innings, powering the Royals to a 4-2 victory. Andy Marte's gigantic 6th-inning home run was more comic relief than anything. I mean, our whole lineup can't touch this guy and suddenly Marte jacks one 400 feet? Good times.

Game 3
I dunno, we scored 4 runs and they only got 2, so we won the game and the series. Not much exciting here, just a well-played victory. Good thing we waited so long to call up Matt LaPorta.

Baltimore Orioles
My friend Mister X put it best when this game came on: "Hey look, two teams who used to be in Major League Baseball."

Game 1
My second game-winning Tom Hamilton home run call of the week came courtesy of none other than...wait for it...Andy Marte, who seems to have developed some comfortability at the plate as he gets consistent playing time. Trailing 4-3 with two down and nobody on in the top of the 9th, LaPorta singled up the middle and Marte followed him with a home run to left on a 3-2 count. I thought FOR SURE it was going to be one of Hammy's fake warning-track excitement calls, but it was the real deal. A cheap infield hit and a bad call helped Baltimore mount a threat in the 9th, but Kerry Wood got a big K to preserve the 5-4 Tribe win.

Game 2
Bad Fausto and Bad Bullpen both decided to make appearances in Saturday's game, a 13-4 whipping at the hands of the Orioles. Hey, sometimes even mediocre teams playing improbably good baseball get routed.

Game 3
Well, OF COURSE we won another game thanks to a home run by Marte. This time it was a three-run job that put the Tribe up 4-2 after a long, soggy rain delay. Cleveland hung on for a 5-3 win, as Chris Perez collected his first Major League save. I really, really enjoy watching Perez pitch - I've almost totally repressed my memories of Jose Veras.

Game 4
I slept through a lot of this, and, apparently, so did the Indians in a 5-2 loss. Justin Masterson yielded one bad 4-run inning and that was basically the ballgame. Marte and LaPorta each had their 10-game hit streaks snapped.

After the dust settled, the Indians now stand at 58-72. They were, at one point, 36-57, meaning they're enjoying a respectable 22-15 stretch. Importantly, they're doing it with young, exciting players who figure into their plans for the next few years like Valbuena, Perez, Cabrera, Masterson, and LaPorta.

The road trip concludes with a sturdier test, as the Tribe head to Detroit for 3 against the Tigers. I, for one, am intrigued for the MLB debut of Carlos Carrasco on Tuesday. Well, more than I am for Carmona's start, anyway.

Tuesday: RHP Carrasco vs RHP Edwin Jackson (10-6, 2.96)
Wednesday: LHP Aaron Laffey (7-3, 3.40) vs RHP Rick Porcello (11-8, 4.27)
Thursday: RHP Carmona (3-9, 6.20) vs LHP Nate Robertson (1-1, 6.84)

Go Tribe!

Thursday, August 27

FCF at the races: Lorain

The third installment of the FCF racing team's 2009 season took place this past Sunday at Lakeview Park in Lorain, for the 7th running of the Lorain Triathlon. As usual, Nick took home some hardware while I took home some vaguely injured body parts. Good times!

The weather all morning was ominous, with clouds big and dark enough that it you saw them in a movie you'd balk at their obvious symbolism and heavy-handedness. It seemed unlikely that we'd get through the race without some precipitation, (even though it's sparkling Downtown as I write this) and we indeed did not. The cloud omen proved true in another way, as upon opening Nick's trunk we discovered that his bike tire had developed an incurable (for us) flat, marking the third time in six triathlons his bike has experienced a pre-race deflation. We've nicknamed his cycle "The Red Devil" in honor both of former Tribe manager Charlie Manuel (given that moniker during his playing days in Japan) and reflecting its evil influence.

Fortunately, this quick-thinking blogger realized that, since the International race (in which I was participating) started 18 minutes after the first Sprint wave (which included Nick), and since I am not a particularly fast swimmer, that Nick could do his swim and bike and return my fully armed and operational battle-cycle to the transition area before I emerged from the water. Hence the photo above of my bike with a league-leading two race numbers affixed to it. Plan set. Ready, break.

It was sprinkling at 8 am as we prepared to delve into Lake Erie for the swim portion of the race. Well, as Nick prepared to, anyway. Like I said, he did the Sprint course while I elected to tackle my first International distance race. In kilometers using the swim/bike/run race order, the course breaks down as such:

Sprint: 0.6/23/5
International: 1.5/35/10

Needless to say, I am far more of a badass than Nick. Our resident Browns expert once again cruised to an impressive finish in the kiddies race, earning 7th-place overall (out of 128) despite some unfamiliarity with handling my awesome bike. Nick scored 2nd in his division, as his 1:09:10 finish (7:20/39:36/20:21) was just 10 seconds slower than Jason "The Zangmeister" Zangmeister. Nick maintains that he would have taken home the age group trophy on his bike. However, Nick's 21.6 MPH is a career best; I maintain that his bike is totally lame.

My race was a bit more interesting, I think. There were only 25 competitiors in the International group, and the full distance tends to draw tougher fields. I'm accustomed to easily finishing top third in races, but here I got only 18th out of 25. Yikes. Among those who toppled me were The Zangmeister's father, John "The Zangmeister" Zangmeister. I also lost to Indians media relations director Bart Swain. I remember him passing me about 1/3 into the 10K, though I didn't know who he was at the time. Still, it's not like I ran a bad race, it's just easier to notch a higher percentile in the Sprint class. Zangmeister.

Anyway, my small band and I hopped in the lake (which was warmer than the air) later than anticipated thanks to an unusually pokey female Sprinter, but eventually got rolling. I'm not going to sugarcoat this: I had a tough time with the swim. First of all, I've never done 1500 m in open water. After today I can proudly say that I've done about 2500 m in open water, considering how far I ended up off course. The waves made it hard to stay straight, and the microscopic nature of the buoys made it hard to chart a course. My goggles were foggy from the get-go, and several times I simply had to tread water, pop off the lenses, and try to find where the hell the little orange and yellow balloons had run off to. This, apparently, is not recommended swimming technique. One guy told me post-race that a lifeguard had blown a whistle at me for ending up too close to the breakers. I totally believe this, and will add it to my bulging file about how much I despise lifeguards.

At 30:50, I was one of the last out of the Black Lagoon, but that, coupled with our late start, meant that my bike was ready for me upon reaching the transition zone, free of flat tires. Score! I took down the bike course in 1:05:12, which is pretty good for me. That works out to a 20 MPH pace; I only posted a 19.1 MPH in the Sprint a year ago. A train crossing delayed a few guys in my group; I wasn't stopped, but they got 15 seconds knocked off of their times, which seems fair. My cycling highlight was one enthusiastic volunteer telling me: "You're almost there! Time to put the hammer down!" I appreciate the support, but:

a) This is my first lap and I still have about 16 miles left
b) It's "throw" the hammer down

Hopped off the bike feeling pretty solid as I faced down a 10K, which I cleared in 51:59. This pleases me; the 8:23 pace crushed either of the 5K paces I put up in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I'm back, baby. It drizzled most of the time, but I missed the heavy stuff. The highlight, by far, was a comical move I made about 2.5 miles in. Heading in from my first of two 5K laps, I spotted an 8-foot portable basketball hoop by the side of the road and decided to throw down a monster two-handed jam on it. It was awesome. For my trouble, I got two of the most bewildered looks one could imagine from fellow racers, and a pulled left hamstring. The leg was OK - I finished fine and it's not bothering me now, but at the time it was simultaneously spectacular and annoying.

So, I ended up with a 2:30:24, which I will absolutely take since it felt like I was in the water for about four hours. Like I said, I only scored 18th, including 3rd of 3 in my age group, but I felt good about my effort, and even better about the excellent maple donut I got post-race.

The FCF Triathlon Series wraps up next week in the Erie area, at the scenic Presque Isle triathlon. Ideally, we can avoid the ridiculous cold and mud pits that tarnished last year's race, and hopefully Nick can acquire a functional tire.

Wednesday, August 26

Buckeye Preview Part II

A Look At the Schedule...
For a complete look at Ohio St's '09 opponents, check this out. The Buckeyes open on September 5 (10 days!!) at The Shoe against Navy. Don't expect OSU to totally dominate this one, despite what most media members and the point spread will tell you. Ohio St generally struggles each year against one non-conference opponent that they should beat easily (Ohio in '08, Akron in '07, Marshall in '04). Expect that to happen here, especially as Navy actually went 6-6 and made a Bowl game last year. That being said, at no point during this game will I be nervous about the Middies pulling the upset.

The following week is the big one, when USC comes to Columbus. We all remember last year's beatdown, but there are several reasons why this year's outcome could be far different. While both teams lost a ton of talent to the NFL, SC will be starting a new Quarterback (Carroll has yet to decide whether it will be Matt Barkley or Aaron Corp) whereas Terrelle Pryor will be back under center for OSU. Of course the biggest difference is where the game will be played. Away from the polo shirts, surfer dudes, and frosted tips that populated SoCal last year, this time the Trojans make their way into one of the toughest places to play in the country. A couple of months ago I didn't think Ohio St stood a chance in this one, but the closer we get to this game the more confidence I'm building. A new QB playing in a very hostile environment at night could be very reminiscent of Pryor's struggles in the Coliseum last year. This game could make or break the season for both teams.

After USC, Ohio St could be close to double-digit favorites in every game for the next two months. They take on Toledo on Sept. 19, a game that will be played at Cleveland Browns Stadium, which I think is a really cool idea for these two Ohio teams. We see MAC teams upset big-name programs every year, but don't expect that to happen in this one. Big Ten play comes early this year as Illinois makes the trip to Columbus to close out September. QB Juice Williams has people in Champaign thinking Heisman, and WR Arrelious Benn is one of the biggest playmakers in the country. This will probably be the toughest conference test other than Penn St, but it's in The Shoe and the Illinois defense is very weak with the departure of CB Vontae Davis, so I'm not too worried about this one.

Ohio St travels out of Ohio for the first time to visit Indiana on October 3 before coming back home to face Wisconsin on the 10th. Indiana is never any good and this is supposed to be a very down year for the Badgers. There shouldn't be too much trouble winning the rest of October's games against Purdue (away), Minnesota, and a rare late non-conference game vs. New Mexico St.

November 7 is the biggie, when OSU heads to Happy Valley. Penn St came out of The Horseshoe with a W in last year's thriller, so the Bucks will have revenge on their mind as they try to do the same this year. If OSU can get by USC (a really big if), there is a good chance that both of these teams will come into this game undefeated and be not only playing for a Big Ten title, but also a spot in the National Championship.

Iowa is back on the schedule after a two-year hiatus and visits Columbus on the 14th. As they do every year, Ohio St closes its season with "that school up north," this year in michigan. You look at this schedule and see 10 very winnable games with showdowns against USC and Penn St that will likely decide the Buckeyes' fate.

A Look At the Defense...
Malcolm Jenkins is now a New Orleans Saint. James Laurinaitis is now a St. Louis Ram. Two of the most decorated and talented defensive players in the long history of this storied program have moved on to the NFL. LB Marcus Freeman and CB Donald Washington have also departed. With those guys gone, this unit is looking for a new leader to step up. Look no further than SS Kurt Coleman. Coleman (pictured above) is a three-year starter and was third on the team in tackles last year and is expected to be the star on this year's defense. His defensive backfield mate Anderson Russell is also back to man the free safety position for the third straight year as well. This is the best safety duo in the Big Ten, and will be expected to do it all to cover up for the lack of experience at linebacker.

Corner Chimdi Chekwa had an excellent 2008 season, but was usually overshadowed by the incredible things that Jenkins did. Chekwa will replace Jenks as "boundary corner," and has some large shoes to fill. Andre Amos takes the place Washington left at "field corner." Amos has showed lots of promise in his career and has played sporadically over the past three seasons, but has always been bothered with nagging injuries. Juniors Devon Torrence and Jermale Hines are the top reserves.

To add insult to injury (or in this case injury to insult), the most experienced returning linebacker, Tyler Moeller, was injured in camp and is out for the season. Put that on top of Laurinaitis, Freeman, and Curtis Terry graduating, and the linebacking corps is in some trouble. Coaches have loved Ross Homan's skills for the past two years, and he will finally get his opportunity on the weak side. Austin Spitler has impressed coaches and teammates with his outstanding effort in practice. Now it's time to translate that to game day as he takes over for Laurinaitis in the middle. The strong side was supposed to be Moeller's spot. Now sophomores Etienne Sabino and Andrew Sweat are competing, with the edge looking to go to Sabino. His name might sound familiar, as he was the one who scooped up Jenkins' blocked punt to score the lone touchdown in last year's win over Purdue.

The strength of the defense is in the front four. Thaddeus Gibson, Doug Worthington, Dexter Larimore, and Cameron Heyward make up the best defensive line in the conference. Gibson and Heyward wreaked havoc on the ends last year and should be even better this year. Lawrence Wilson, Nathan Williams, and Solomon Thomas can all get to the QB and provide great depth at DE. Wilson was slated to start in both the '07 and '08 seasons, but suffered season ending injuries each year. Worthington is back to start at one DT position, while Larimore and Todd Dennlinger will alternate at the other.

K Ryan Pretorious and P A.J. Trapasso are both gone, but don't expect much of a dropoff. K Aaron Pettrey was the kickoff and long field goal man last year, and will take over all kicking duties this year. He has incredible range (up to 60 yards) but needs to be more accurate from up close. Fifth-year senior Jon Thoma will punt. Receivers Flash Thomas and Ray Small both have lots of experience returning and should provide several big plays with their incredible speed.

This is a relatively inexperienced defense, but the safeties and line should provide some consistency. This should be the first time in several years where the offense is the better unit. It's going to be a sad sight seeing these guys take the field without #33 and #2 out there.

The Outlook...
Let's make no mistake about it, last year's graduating class was one of the best ever. Include junior draft entrees Beanie Wells and Donald Washington, and this team lost a ton of talent. There is, however, several young faces looking to make a name for themselves. The Cleveland fan in me wants to be pessimistic (the Browns are going 5-11 by the way), but I can't help myself when it comes to this team. If they can upset USC on Sept. 13, there is certainly a chance that we'll see OSU back in the National Championship. Tressel has done an incredible job of beating the teams that he should beat over his career (Illinois in 2007 comes to mind as a rare time where he hasn't). If I had to make a prediction right now, I'd say 11-1 with a loss to SC and a fifth straight Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.

First game: September 5 vs. Navy, 12:00, ESPN
I already talked about this game at the beginning of this post, so I'll just make a prediction.
Ohio St 22 Navy 14


Sunday, August 23

Buckeye Preview Part I

Football season's almost here! It's that time of the year again, and I'm full of excitement. Let's get right to it.

A Look Back...
With a loaded defense full of playmakers, plenty of offensive weapons, and the arrival of the nation's top recruit Terrelle Pryor, expectations were high as ever in Columbus going into the '08 season. Unfortunately, Ohio St fans were forced to face reality in September after a 35-3 thumping at the hands of USC. That reality was that, while this is a very talented team, they're not quite on the level of the nation's top teams. After the embarrassment in SoCal, coach Jim Tressel really didn't have much of a choice but to bench All-Big Ten QB Todd Boeckman in favor of the fan favorite Pryor. TP certainly had some growing pains (the 16-3 win vs. Purdue), but he also showed the flashes of brilliance that made coaches all over the nation pop wood when he was in high school (the 20-13 win vs. Wisconsin).

Once OSU got into conference play, things got back to normal with victories over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan St. Then Penn St came into The Shoe for Homecoming. In a game dominated by defense, Aaron Maybin came up with the biggest play of the year for the Lions when he sacked Pryor and forced a fumble near midfield in Ohio St's attempted game-tying drive, sealing a 13-6 victory for PSU.
The Bucks rounded out regular season play with routs of Northwestern, Illinois and michigan. Iowa's upset over Penn St gave Ohio St a piece of an unprecedented fourth straight Big Ten title. The Buckeyes headed to another BCS bowl, also their fourth in a row, to take on a Texas team upset about not landing a spot in the title game. Ohio St hung in there in a game not many people expected to be close, but fell just short as Danny McCoy hit Quan Crosby with a last minute TD pass to give the Longhorns a 24-21 victory. Although Ohio St's season fell short of expectations, another Big Ten Championship and BCS appearance is a great achievement.

A Look at the Offense...
Gone are Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie, and Brian Hartline, one of the most talented set of skill position players in school history. Returning, however, is QB Terrelle Pryor. As I mentioned earlier, Pryor was very hit-and-miss last year, but that is to be expected from a true freshman. He obviously has the talent, but if he can improve his consistency and maturity, which should come with more experience, he has Heisman written all over him.

The new starting running back is Daniel "Boom" Herron. Replacing an All-American is not an easy task, but Herron has the skills to be a star as well. Last year's backup Maurice Wells is also gone, but RB depth has never been a problem in Columbus. Brandon Saine (who ironically was nicknamed "Zoom" in high school because of his speed, giving OSU a "Boom & Zoom" backfield) provides a ton of explosiveness and true Freshman Jaamal Berry was last year's "Mr. Ohio." (Let's hope he turns out more like Ted Ginn and Chris Wells, and not so much like Justin Zwick, all of whom had won the award previously.)

The receiving corps lost talent, but will feature very similar-type players to last year's group, even though both starters from the '08 squad are gone. Dane Sanzenbacher will be the Brian Hartline over-the-middle-possession receiver, and DeVier Posey will be the Robo deep-threat big-play guy. A la Hartline, Sanzenbacher will catch anything within reach. Both of these guys saw significant playing time last year and played pretty well. Lamaar "Flash" Thomas, Ray Small, and Taurian Washington all have a lot of talent and provide solid depth at the position. Thomas is wearing the coveted #7 jersey, so he'd better be a big playmaker. The Buckeyes also added freshman Duran Carter. Carter comes into Columbus with quite the pedigree, being the son of former OSU star and future NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter. If he can be 1/4 as talented as his father, we are in for a treat in the next four years.

The offensive line should be great, as long as they can figure out the left tackle position. RT Jim Cordle, RG Ryan Browning, and C Mike Brewster are all returning starters, and michigan transfer Justin Boren will take over at LG. Cordle started last year at center, but Brewster showed a lot of talent as a freshman and bumped Cordle to tackle. Boren did the unthinkable and went from the wolverines to the Buckeyes. He started all 12 games for "that school up north" in '07. Browning, who allowed the Aaron Maybin sack/forced fumble that cost us the Penn St game and possibly another National Championship appearance, moves from tackle to guard because he wasn't quick enough to handle guys like Maybin and Texas DE Brian Orakpo. The biggest question mark is the void at LT left by two-time All-Big Ten lineman Alex Boone. Sophomore Mike Adams looks like he's going to hold off Junior Andrew Miller for the starting gig. Jake Ballard returns at TE as a great blocker and solid end zone threat with sure hands.

If Herron can be as good as I think he'll be and Pryor can mature quickly, this offense will be very explosive and put up a lot of points, opposed to years past when OSU relied mostly on their defense.

Up next we'll take a look at the defense, the schedule, and the team's overall outlook.


Tribe win final two to take series from the M's

Believe me when I say I tried to think of a good headline for about four or five minutes but the wife just baked up a batch of brownies and I've zero creative ability with that smell distracting me.

After dropping three straight games at home to the Mariners back in July, the Indians have won five of the last six to finish the season 5-4 against the Mariners. Friday's season opener was not one of those wins, however. Starter David Huff was bounced early, going just 3.2 innings after being tagged with five runs on six hits while walking four. With that early departure the Indians turned to their long arm in the pen. That's right: Tomo Ohka, so you can figure how that went too. Offensively the Indians did score four runs which isn't too bad but it wasn't enough. Matt LaPorta had a double and Shin-Soo Choo knocked in half the Indians runs with no one scoring more than once and the Indians striking out six times. Indians (52-69) lose 9-4.

Saturday's game featured pitching ace Aaron Laffey turn on the mound for the Indians. Laffey quickly surrendered three runs in the top of the first inning, but somehow that didn't sink either the Indians offense, or Laffey for that matter. The first inning was a surprise since Laffey had two guys out and only one base runner on first, but a single brought the first run in and a Russell Branyan home run (#30) scored the other two. After that, though, the Mariners didn't get so lucky and the Indians started chipping away at the Mariners lead. The bottom of the third saw the Indians hitting three straight singles to start the inning but only scored one run when Asdrubal Carbrera hit into a double play. Travis Hafner hit a solo shot in the fourth to bring the Indians within a run of tying the game, and in the seventh Andy Marte's sacrifice fly did just that tying the game at three apiece. You have to fast forward to the 11th before any more scoring occurs, where Luis Valbuena's solo home run ended the game. Good work by Laffey, Chris Perez, Kerry Wood, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, and 0.1 innings of Rafael Perez for the win, for holding the Mariners scoreless for ten innings. Tribe (53-69) win 4-3.

Today's win was special, mostly because it represented Fausto Carmona's first major league win since May. In notching a win Carmona went seven innings, only surrendering one run on five hits. Offensively the Indians exploded for four runs in the sixth which was helped out by a Mariner error that allowed the first baserunner, Jhonny Peralta, to reach base and later score. Peralta had already hit his tenth home run of the season before the Tribe's outburst. The bullpen of Chris Perez and Tony Sipp pitched the final two frames, and the Indians (54-69) win 6-1.

If you haven't noticed, after his disastrous debut, Chris Perez has been lights=out good. Tony Sipp isn't too bad either. Word on the internet has David Huff being shut down soon, so expect to see one or two new starters. Jamey Carroll gets a shout out by Buster Olney who wonders why Carrol hasn't yet been traded considering his second half on-base percentage of .484 against lefties.

Tomorrow the Indians start a three series against a team that actually has a worse record. Yes the Royals suck even more than the Indians.

Game 1: Jeremy Sowers, LHP (4-9, 4.82) vs. Gil Meche, RHP (6-9, 4.73)
Game 2: Justin Masterson, RHP (4-4, 4.36) vs. Zack Greinke, RHP (11-8, 2.44)
Game 3: David Huff, LHP (7-7, 6.80) vs. Luke Hochevar, RHP (6-6, 5.60)

Jeremy Sowers has shown promise at times this season, or should I say generally throughout his career. Justin Masterson's last start was good but followed an abysmal outing. Hopefully the good Masterson continues to show up and that Huff's disappointing previous start is due to his tiring late in the season. Don't expect to see Huff pitching in September.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Fashion advice

Do not wear a New York Yankees CC Sabathia, or a Philadelphia Phillies Cliff Lee, jersey or jersey shirt. If you do, you are a douche. That is all.

Friday, August 21

Los Los Angeles Angeles de Anaheim

Still the dumbest name in pro sports, regardless of in which language one chooses to write it. Unfortunately, that handicap wasn't enough to stop the Angels from taking two of three from the Tribe at Progressive Field this week.

Tuesday's series opener pitted Angel rookie Trevor Bell (whose abbreviated name, "T Bell", makes me want to make a Run for the Border) against Indians enigma Fausto Carmona (whose pitching makes me want to run out of the room.) Nick and I met up for a nice get-together with The Cleveland Fan's crew pre-game before heading over to watch the Tribe drop a tough 5-4 contest.

Neither pitcher was especially sharp early, particularly Carmona, who yielded five runs in the first three innings. At one point, every batter in the Angel lineup sported an average greater than .300. When do you suppose was the last time that happened this late in a season? Someone get Elias on the horn.

This was sort of a strange game batting-wise. The wind was clearly blowing out towards center, yet of the two teams' combined 25 hits (13 for California, 12 for Cleveland), only Vladimir Guerrero's two doubles went for extra bases. The Angels left a lot of men on base, but still managed to peck away with 1, 2, 2 runs in the first three innings off of Carmona. They would not score again the rest of the game thanks to a solid six innings from the combination of Carmona (2-8), Jensen Lewis, Rafael Perez, and ToddJess, but they didn't need to.

Unfortunately, the Indians offense stranded their fair share of men on the basepaths as well. Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera (four hits) each reached base four times at the top of the order, but Cleveland could only muster four runs for the game, including three against Taco Bell (1-0). Jhonny Peralta delivered two bases-loaded RBI singles, but Travis Hafner defused both rallies with a strikeout and a double-play ball that ultimately sealed Cleveland's fate and dropped them to 51-67. Frustrating game to be at; hell, even Ketchup won the Hot Dog Race.

Wednesday was, quite frankly, too blah of a game to write much about. Angel starter Jered Weaver (13-4) scattered seven hits (including four two-baggers) in a complete-game shutout, while Tribe starter Jeremy Sowers did not scatter the four hits he yielded in 6 2/3. The Angels collected three runs in the 5th on a two-run single by Howie Kendrick and a groundout by Bobby Abreu to plate Kendrick. That was it. 3-0 Angels. Thanks for coming out.

OK, fine, Shin-Soo Choo and Luis Valbuena each collected two hits, and Chris Perez (1.1 IP) and JessTodd (1 IP) each tossed hitless relief. We seem to actually have some non-vertigo-inducing bullpen options these days. Nick is of the opinion that C Perez has the best Cleveland bullpen "stuff" since Paul Shuey. I think he has the best Tribe hair since Marty Cordova. Nevertheless, the 5th-inning blip was enough to drop the Tribe to 51-58.

Cleveland looked pretty lethargic through the first half of the series closer on Thursday night, at least at the plate, but erupted for seven big fat runs in the 6th to cruise to an easy 11-3 victory and salvage a win from the series.

The Angels notched a marker in the first against Tribe starter Justin Masterson (now 1-1 with the Tribe), but the Indians pushed across one in their half of the first to tie it on Sizemore's bloop double and Choo's RBI single. It stayed that way through five, as Masterson (6 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 BB) settled down while counterpart John Lackey (8-6) sawed through the Cleveland order with ease.

Then, out of nowhere, the Tribe offense came to life, in a manner reminiscient of their six-run outburst in Sunday's series finale against the Twins. After back-to-back singles from Choo and Peralta opened the frame, Travis Hafner atoned for Tuesday (somewhat) with an RBI double to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead. A Luis Valbuena walk reloaded the bases and Kelly Shoppach's sac fly scored Cleveland's third run. Matt LaPorta (welcome back!) then struck the big blow with a two-run double to make the score 5-1. The Indians thus chased John Lackey, but the scoring wasn't finished; an Andy Marte RBI single, Sizemore base hit, and two-run double from Cabrera pushed it to 8-1 before Choo's lineout double play ended the frame. I heartily approved of that inning.

Cleveland tacked on another run in the 7th (LaPorta sac fly) and two in the 8th (Choo RBI double, Hafner RBI single, and I'm getting tired of updating this stupid paragraph as I write this during the 8th inning) to hit double-digits for the game. Now Valbuena got a hit and we're rolling stream of consciousness style now.) Prior to my parenthetical excursion, Joe Smith allowed two runs on a home run in the 8th, as part of the bullpen's ongoing run-shaving racket, but the Angels were well far out of scoring distance as the Indians improved to 52-68. That record looks sweet in a mirror: 86-25. I suppose that, technically, in a mirror, it would be 8d-52, which probably wouldn't be good enough to get us back into the wild-card race.

Next up in the Indians' "Filling Time Until Football Season Tour 2009" is a home set with the Seattle Mariners, who, the Indians absolutely mauled in a three-game sweep right after the All-Star break. It's Rock 'n' Blast weekend!

Tuesday: Lucas French, RHP (2-3, 3.74) vs. David Huff, LHP (7-6, 6.55)
Wednesday: Doug Fister, RHP (1-0, 1.93) vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP (7-3, 3.38)
Thursday: Felix Hernandez, RHP (12-4, 2.66) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (2-8, 6.31)

That's right - we'll be facing, on back to back days, a guy named "Fister" and F-Her. Any time "Lucas French" is the third-funniest starting pitcher name in a series, things are looking good.

Go Tribe!

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!

Sunday, August 16

Ten Points: Browns/Packers

1. Grading the quarterbacks.
I guess this is where we have to start. Brady Quinn was the "starter", and handled the opening series and the final series (fourth, sequentially) of the first half. Eric Mangini gave Derek Anderson the two series in between.

Let me preface any analysis with full disclosure: I want Brady Quinn to start for this team all season, regardless of the results. This excellent piece by TCF writer Erik Cassano summarizes my stance on the quarterbacks, as well.

Quinn is largely an unknown at the pro level, but we've seen enough of Derek Anderson to know that he isn't a viable starting quarterback. We don't know what we have in Quinn, but considering his tremendous collegiate success (if not for the Bush Push, Quinn may have won the Heisman Trophy and Notre Dame may have made the Rose Bowl), status as a top prospect (friend of TCF Scott Wright ranked Quinn the second best player in the 2007 draft), and the premium draft picks the Browns invested in him, Quinn must start for at least a season. The Browns need to find out whether or not Quinn is an NFL starter, and if not, then the front office can start looking elsewhere for a signal caller.

Back to the game - Quinn led a solid 11-play, 56-yard drive to start the game for the Browns offense. Highlights of the drive included, a 29-yard end around to Josh Cribbs, and two third down conversions on passes to Mike Furrey. Look for Furrey to make some noise as a slot option. Quinn had one ill-advised throw while trying to avoid a sack (unblocked blitzer) that could have resulted in an interception. Quinn has to learn to either eat the sack, or make sure he's throwing the ball where nobody can make a play on it.

The drive stalled on the Green Bay 13-yard line when Quinn was unable to find Cribbs. It looked like Cribbs didn't run the right pattern, and Quinn was expecting him to break more towards the sideline. That's why these games don't count.

Phil Dawson kicked a 31-yard field goal, but holding was called on Hank Fraley. Holding calls on field goals are rare. It's such a bang-bang play that frankly, there isn't much time to hold. But Fraley's hold was pretty egregious, and the Browns were backed up 10 yards. Dawson tried again from 41 yards, but missed wide right, so the Packers maintained their 7-0 edge.

After the Packers marched down the field for another touchdown, Derek Anderson got his first chance of the exhibition season. There wasn't much to talk about. An incompletion and two running plays netted just four yards, and the Browns were forced to punt. We didn't learn much about Anderson on his first series.

We learned more on Anderson's second series, and it wasn't encouraging. After Mason Crosby bonked a 60-yard field goal off the left upright (note that it had the distance - Crosby has a huge foot), the Browns took over at midfield with prime field position. On first down, Anderson had a dangerous incompletion nullified by a defensive holding call, and Jamal Lewis dove into the line for a yard on the next play. On the following play, Anderson threw a 35-yard wounded duck that was picked off at the Packers' 11-yard line. In fairness, Anderson was hit as he threw, but on the other hand the pressure was in front of him, and he shouldn't have taken the extra time to load up on the throw.

That was all for the D.A., and his stats for the day were 0-for-2 with an interception. It wasn't much fun to be Derek Anderson last night.

If Mike McCarthy's goal was to showcase Mason Crosby's range last night, he succeeded. Brady Quinn and the Browns took over at their 45 after Mason Crosby missed a 55-yarder that once again had the distance. The clock read 1:50, so it was a good opportunity to see if Eric Mangini's harping on the two minute drill in practice had paid off.

Quinn started off red hot, completing his first four passes. The highlight of the drive was a 22-yard pass to Josh Cribbs, and without grabbing Cribbs' face mask, Green Bay's Anthony Smith wouldn't have tackled the Kent Stater. Coupled with the 7-yard (half the distance) face mask penalty, Quinn had led the Browns to the Green Bay 7-yard line. Jamal Lewis dove into the line for a yard, and then Quinn did a nice job threading the defenders to hit Braylon Edwards for the team's first touchdown of the season.

Braylon's hands of stone struck again, and with his trademarked unnecessary leap, Edwards dropped a sure score, and my post traumatic stress syndrome started acting up again. Quinn was intercepted on the next play when he tried to force a ball between Edwards and Anthony Smith. It was a bad pass, but Braylon certainly didn't work too hard to break it up. Still the ultimate team player, eh B-17? I don't like him, and it's solely because he went to Michigan!

That was it for the headliners, and Quinn finished 7-for-11 for 68 yards and one interception. Brett Ratliff played the entire second half. On a final Anderson/Quinn note, it's worth mentioning that Quinn completed several quick slants to receivers who were moving. One of my biggest complaints with Anderson over the last couple of seasons is that he struggles to make accurate passes unless a receiver is stopped, which limits yards after the catch, and also makes it easy for defenders to jump routes and pick off the ball.

2. What about Brett?

After seeing him light up the Browns last summer, noting the fact that Mangini went out of his way to trade for him, and reading that he's been making some noise in training camp, I was anxious to get a look at Brett Ratliff. I haven't been this disappointed since I actually spent money to see Spider-Man 3.

Ratliff didn't have the "deer in the headlights" look of Anderson, but he was lousy, plain and simple. And in fairness to Anderson, he had just two short series to work with, while Ratliff had the whole second half. Just about the only thing Ratliff had going for him was that Packers backup QB Brian Brohm was actually (and shockingly) worse. The final stats on Ratliff were 7-for-13, 84 yards, 2 interceptions. Gross.

While I'm certainly wary of Anderson being named the starter, if Ratliff doesn't show much, much more over the next three games, I'm not at all comfortable with trading or cutting Anderson. You need a backup quarterback who can fill in competently for a few games - or at least walk and chew gum at the same time - and for at least one half (a very small sample size, obviously), Ratliff didn't look like a capable backup.

3. Yeah, about that running game...
While Brady Quinn was clearly the best of the quarterbacks last night, even he didn't look his best. At least some of the quarterbacks' struggles can be attributed to the fact that the Browns running game was absolutely abysmal. Take away Josh Cribbs' 29-yard end around, which is not a conventional running play anyway, and the total for the Browns' plowshares was 30 yards on 14 carries. But hey, at least they broke two yards per carry.

Mangini's been preaching a power running game, but it didn't make the trip to Lambeau. Although the pass protection was serviceable, it didn't look like the line was getting much push on running plays. Jerome Harrison had a huge missed block during the two minute drill at the end of the first half. James Davis might be able to take a bite out of Harrison's playing time if he proves he can block consistently.

4. Take the defense's performance with a grain of salt.
The Packers were able to score touchdowns on their first two drives, but I'm not too worried about the defense (yet). Shaun Rogers didn't play, and most defenses have problems when you take their best player away, especially when he plays the most important position in the 3-4.

Aside from that, the scheme was obviously very vanilla. The Browns didn't get pressure unless they blitzed, but that's not particularly unusual for a 3-4 defense. Only rushing three or four guys on several third downs definitely hurt the Browns. Given Rob Ryan's reputation, I don't expect that to be the case during the regular season. It's also worth mentioning that the blitzes we did see were pretty effective, and certainly much more creative than what we saw from the Crennel regime, who probably thought a "corner blitz" was one of the ways you win at bingo.

We also need to keep in mind that the Browns play three of their four exhibition opponents during the regular season (Packers, Lions, Bears), which is bizarre, and means that neither team will likely get too fancy in these games.

5. Check Craig's List for available receivers.
To say the receivers were pretty garden variety might be putting it lightly. Braylon Edwards' only recordable stat was a drop, although he also displayed a terrific lack of desire to block anyone on Cribbs' end around.

Mo Massaquoi grabbed a 6-yard catch, and Brian Robiskie picked up 15-yards on a bubble screen in the second half. It is probably a mistake to expect a huge contribution from either rookie at the beginning of the season.

The two guys who stood out (and understand that "standing out" is very relative given the group's performance as a whole) the most were Mike Furrey and surprisingly, Josh Cribbs. Furrey, as I mentioned earlier, had a pair big catches to move the chains on third down, and finished up with 3 catches for 26 yards. He might not be the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but at least Furrey is sure-handed. Cribbs appears to be making progress as a receiver, although he'll likely still be susceptible to the occasional route running mistake like he made in the first quarter. If Cribbs could develop into a modest contributor at receiver, but maintain some trick play flair (please make him throw more!), he could be utilized similarly to Antwaan Randle El in Pittsburgh circa 2004-2005.

6. Bad Alternator.
I understand that he's trying to run a perfectly fair competition, but switching quarterbacks after one drive is a good recipe to ensure that neither emerges the clear victor. Sure, the idea is to make sure that both guys get a shot with the first teamers out there, but it might be smarter to just give each QB a quarter, or two to three consecutive drives to give them a chance to find a rhythm.
7. Cousin Mose(ly).
Defensive end C.J. Mosely, one of Mangini's former Jets, stood out in the second half with a sack, good pursuit of the quarterback, and a solid stuff on one particular running play. Mosely's play is encouraging, and might be a sign that defensive line depth could be one of the strengths of the team. Corey Williams is reportedly having a much better camp now that he's completely healthy and has had more time to adjust to the 3-4, and we already know that Robaire Smith can play, it's just a matter of whether or not he can stay healthy.

Check out the depth chart according to the official site. Kenyon Coleman, Shaun Rogers, and Williams are listed as the starters, while Smith, Mosely, and Ahtyba Rubin are the second string. Obviously defensive linemen are frequently substituted, but you have to feel pretty good about those three reserves. Those three guys probably make a better defensive line than the Browns fielded in 2005, 2006, and maybe even 2007, too.

8. Mack Attack.
Considering that he hasn't exactly earned glowing reviews from training camp thus far, I'm a little worried about the development of first round pick Alex Mack. When you take an offensive lineman in the first round, let alone a center, you expect him to step in and play from day one. But Mack has had trouble learning the offense, and apparently he's also struggled against pro defensive linemen. Count me among the worried.

Mack played most of the second half, and although he had a holding penalty called against him, it was a pretty lightweight call. (Cue John Madden's "You know, there's really holding on every play, it's just a matter of how much the refs are willing to tolerate.") All I know is that if Mack doesn't replace Hank Fraley before the opener, or at least at some point during the season, it will be a very bad sign.

9. Wright on schedule.
Eric Wright is starting to look like a difference maker at cornerback. The highlight of the night for Wright had to be his excellent man coverage of Greg Jennings on a deep sideline route - not an easy task, considering Jennings posted 1,292 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. The Browns haven't had a cornerback playing this well since Leigh Bodden was in his prime.

10. Finally, some good news for Bernie.
Amid all the bad news regarding his divorce and financial problems, it was good to hear Bernie Kosar delivering the color analysis along side Jim Donovan. It is no secret that things haven't been going Bernie's way lately, and it breaks my heart to see him down on his luck. To me, Kosar embodies Cleveland sports more than any other athlete.

While LeBron James continues to play the hot high school girl with a dozen prom invites, Kosar actually manipulated the NFL's draft rules to play in Cleveland for the team he loved in his youth. Although Kosar was about to be Belichicked out of Cleveland just when my interest in the NFL was peaking, there is no Browns player to whom I have more emotional attachment.

Much to the delight of my father, Bernie and I share the same birthday (November 25). When Kosar was cut in 1993 I was only six, but the next day I showed up in the school guidance counselor's office, my face covered in tears. (After all, she said to visit if we ever needed to talk about anything serious.) I refused to go to swim practice the following afternoon, and "Philcox" became a dirty word in my vocabulary. "Todd" remains one of my least favorite names. When the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl in the '93-'94 season, I was the only kid who was excited that Kosar was allowed to take the final knee.

But cutting the digression short, Bernie really is an excellent analyst. As a player, he won games between the ears, and from his analysis you can see why. If he wanted to, Kosar could probably nab a network color analyst gig, but I wonder if he might not prefer to coach.

Kosar made a failed run to coach his alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes, a few years back. While Kosar has no coaching credentials and understandably wasn't hired as the head coach, he would be more than capable as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator at either the professional or collegiate level. Maybe he just likes being retired. At any rate, I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing Bernie the best of luck with any and all of his future endeavors.

Thursday, August 13

Tribe drop two in a row to lose series to Rangers

Look: a crappy but accurate headline! In light of these last two defeats and my general lack of interest in writing what is probably my 31st Indians series wrap this year, I'm not going to go over the individual games but just hit some general points of interest.

- Aaron Laffey might as well be the best pitcher we have right now. In a recap of his win to open the series, some Indians writer said Laffey was making a good case to be included in the rotation that already will include Carmona and Masterson. Hell, Laffey might as well be our 2010 Opening Day starter if I had to pick someone right now.

- Fausto wasn't too bad the other day; the Indians just couldn't give him any run support.

- Tom Hamilton informed me that the Indians have not hit a home run in the last six games at home and this is a Jacobs/Progressive Field record.

- The Rangers' pitching coach came straight out and said the Indians are a bad off-speed hitting team. Straight ball we hit very much.

- The Rangers are a good team and have a number of good young arms pitching for them.

- I hear it was in the mid-70s today in Cleveland. I would have really liked to been there today, except for the losing part.

- Hey did you know Jamey Carroll has more post All-Star Game starts than Kelly Shoppach? Neither did I until I read the most recent post from the DiaTribe.

- Chris Gimenez is now hitting .190 and looks to be having a rough go of it in this his first call-up.

- 17 of Luis Valbuena's 50 hits are doubles.

- Despite his dominating performance at AAA, Rafael Perez has given up three runs in 1.2 innings since being recalled.

Game 1: Justin Masterson, RHP (3-3, 4.22) vs. Scott Baker, RHP (9-7, 4.85)
Game 2: David Huff, LHP (6-6, 6.72) vs. To be announced
Game 3: Aaron Laffey, LHP (6-3, 3.25) vs. Nick Blackburn, RHP (8-7, 3.99)

The Indians head off to a three game series at the baggy dome against the Twins of Minnesota. Yes it is another three game road trip. Last time Masterson was cut off after 60 pitches and interim-Manager Eric Wedge has indicated that Masterson will probably get to go 75 or 80 pitches this time out. Hey look who it is, my favorite opposing pitcher...TBA! Carl Pavano originally looked to be on tap for Game 1, but instead took his first loss as a Twin today. Moving on, we have staff ace Aaron Laffey taking the mound to close out this road trip.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Wednesday, August 12

Your '09 Browns: Outside Linebackers

Previous Previews
Running backs

After taking our first look at the offense, let's switch gears and check out the linebackers. To make things a little easier to digest (and because they are two very different positions in the 3-4 defense), we'll look at the inside and outside linebackers separately, starting with the OLBs.

The Cast
Bonafide starter:
Kamerion Wimbley
Possible starters:
David Bowens, Alex Hall, David Veikune
On the bubble:
Leon Williams, Titus Brown

Glancing back...

Last season was a massive disappointment for the entire defense, but if one part failed more than others, it had to be the outside linebackers. The OLBs are the playmakers of the 3-4, and if they aren't getting to the quarterback consistently, then it's a safe bet that nobody else is, either.

Wimbley (right OLB) saw the field the most, while Willie McGinest received the bulk of the reps on the left side. Rookie Alex Hall took some playing time away from McGinest, but mostly in passing situations. Many fans, including yours truly, wanted to see more from Hall, but Romeo Crennel was more likely to win a marathon than play a rookie.

Hall recorded a sack in three consecutive games (at Ravens, at Begnals, Giants) early in the season, but apparently that wasn't enough for him to earn more playing time opposite Wimbley. Antwan Peek, who was allegedly a great pass rusher, spent the season on the injured reserve. Peek still banked roughly $2.4 million last year. (Another free agent bullseye, Phil.)

One of the most frustrating things about the Browns over the last two seasons has been the apparent regression of Kamerion Wimbley. After logging 11 sacks as a rookie in 2006 and appearing to be a keystone player, Wimbley's sack totals decreased to 5 in 2007, and 4 last season. After being one of the few guys who made the team watchable in 2006, opposing scouts probably noticed that Wimbley's repertoire consists solely of a speed rush around the outside.

Leon Williams is the last holdover from the Crennel/Savage regime. Williams was a fourth round pick out of Miami in 2006, and at 6-2, 250 pounds, he certainly looks the part of a physical linebacker. But 2008 was a very disappointing season for the kid from The U. Splitting time between inside and outside linebacker, Williams had only 38 total tackles and no sacks (down from 85 tackles and 4 sacks in 2007). In spite of his physical gifts, Williams has trouble getting to the quarterback, which makes it difficult to be an effective outside linebacker.

I used to scream for Williams to receive more playing time, as Romeo Crennel was known to favor the vets. However, if Williams doesn't turn any heads with a (hopefully) more objective coach running the show, maybe he's just never going to make the jump. After all, this is a guy who fell to the fourth round largely as a result of inconsistent collegiate performance.

Looking forward...

Thankfully, we won't have to watch McGinest run around the field in slow motion "Baywatch" style anymore, as he was not retained. The guy should have been cut after 2006. Antwan Peek won't be back either, and it's probably safe to label that experiment a failure.

There is some new blood at OLB, but probably not enough. David Bowens (former Jet), and David Veikune (second round pick from Hawaii) have been added to the existing corps of Hall, Williams, and Wimbley. The 23-year old Titus Brown is also competing for a roster spot. Brown had a cup of coffee with the Browns last year after spending most of the season on the practice squad.

The success of the position as a whole is largely dependent on Wimbley, and 2009 will be a watershed season for the former Seminole. If he doesn't make significant strides, then it's time for the Browns to cut bait and look elsewhere for a pass rusher. (I said it at the time, and I'll keep saying it: Haloti Ngata should have been the pick.) The Browns need Wimbley to deliver at least 8-10 sacks, thus becoming a player that opposing offenses have to account for and consider while game planning. Wimbley isn't a bust yet, but if all he delivers is one more year of sub-mediocrity, then the label should be applied.

David Bowens is ideally a backup, but unfortunately the Browns are pretty thin at outside linebacker. Bowens was signed to a four-year, $7.2 million contract, which will probably just make him a more affordable version of Willie McGinest. I doubt that the Browns will keep Bowens for the duration of that contract. Mangini isn't looking for Pro Bowl production out of the 32-year old; consistency, depth, and veteran leadership are why Bowens is on the team.

Wimbley will definitely start on the right, so any depth chart mysteries will be associated with the left side (STRONG SIDE!). According to the preliminary depth chart, Bowens currently has the edge to start opposite Wimbley. That makes sense; he knows Mangini's system best, Hall is more of a situational pass rusher at this point of his career, and Veikune is still a project. In fact, Veikune might split time between OLB and ILB.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Leon Williams makes the final cut. Williams has to prove that he can play at least one of the linebacker positions well, as opposed to playing them both decently. In other words, he has to prove he isn't a "tweener". Titus Brown has allegedly been making a real push to earn a roster spot, as well.

Bowens will likely start on the left side against the Vikings on September 13, but it remains to be seen whether Mangini will give the two starters the lion's share of the playing time, or rotate OLBs frequently (e.g. Alex Hall in pass rushing situations). Regardless of what happens on week one, look for Hall and Veikune to see more action as the season progresses, especially if Bowens starts to show his age or the Browns fall out of contention.

Monday, August 10

August and Everything After

August isn't the the best month for sports. The weather tends towards the warm side and the only real game in town is baseball. Those people excited about NFL camp are generally ignored. The fact that our Indians are having one of their worst seasons in fifteen even twenty years doesn't help either.

Last week I mentioned the fact that the Dolans look to lose $16 mil on this 2009 version of the Indians. That, along with the fact that it seems all we can hope for is making the playoffs every four to five years, still is weighing on me. I even thought about making a whole post about it but the last thing this blog needs is more Indians coverage (by me at least). So I decided to just roll it into a series recap. Previously I had thought of the Indians as the only real smart kid on the block (yeah I know that's silly in hindsight). Sure, we were never going to have a big payroll but we would have smart decisions on young guys and make decent decisions on signing grizzled veterans to cheap one-year deals. The more I think about it, though, the Indians can't possibly be that dissimilar to other clubs, right?

The good news is the Al Central will never be as big spenders as the East and West coast teams. Although the White Sox picking up both Jake Peavy and Alex Rios this year may look like big money, their decision to pick up Rios and his remaining $60 million make me actually feel more secure in the Indians' front office decision-making process. As long as the Indians aren't one of those teams that appears to not be trying or just throwing occasional crazy money at the problem (Why did the Cincinnati Reds need Scott Rolen again?) then I should be happy.

Speaking of those White Sox of Chicago the Indians had a weird three-game road trip wrap yesterday and boy have these last few series taught us a lot about the AL Central. Friday was the Jeremy Sowers/Mark Buehrle pitching matchup we had all been looking forward to. And you know what, Sowers probably pitched his best game this year and I will not criticize him for the rest of the season. Sowers went seven innings limiting Chicago to just two runs on six hits. Buehrle, on the other hand, hasn't been the same since his streak of recording outs. Kelly Shoppach pretty much was a one-man offense accounting for three hits, two runs, and four RBI on a two home run night. Tribe (47-62) win 6-2.

Saturday's game was pretty much a spring training game. Having traded Carl Pavano last week the Indians had to find a spot starter. I asked FCF writer and editor Andy who he though would start - Justin Masterson or Tomo Ohka. He later informed me that Masterson was the announced starter. This was a little surprising since I knew Masterson couldn't have gotten enough work in to go very deep, and I was right. What I forgot about was how these games don't really matter as wins or losses. No, this game was more an opportunity to get Masterson some work as a starter. So the good news is Masterson did pretty well. He reached his 60-pitch limit after four innings but only gave up one run on four hits and four strikeouts. Not too shabby. The bad news was that he was replaced in the bottom of the fifth by Ohka. Ohka lasted 0.1 innings and allowed four runs on four hits. This, unfortunately, squandered a decent effort by not only Masterson but the offense as well. The doubles machine that is Jhonny Peralta continued on driving the Indians' success at the plate, but it wasn't enough to overcome asking our bullpen to cover the post-Masterson innings. Indians (47-63) lose 5-8.

Sunday's game was most notable for the offensive outburst (outburst) of Jamey Carroll. If the Indians hold to their usual 2009 script, that can only mean Carroll should be claimed off waivers any day now. Carroll only had two hits but one of those was a home run, just his second of the year, and the other was a double that scored two to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead after trailing 3-0. Pitching-wise, David Huff had one of those ho-hum games. He was tagged for three runs in the second but settled down and ended up going 6.1 and allowing four runs. I guess not imploding is a good thing. White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras, on the other hand, could only muster 4.2 innings. Reportedly manager Ozzie Guillen was quoted as saying that the Cuban-born Contreras didn't pitch well due to the heat. Really? Because doesn't make a lot of sense. They got summer in Cuba right? Tribe (48-63) win 8-4 and take another series.

I don't remember the last time I looked at the Indians in the standings. Wow my preseason prediction of the Royals not finishing in last place isn't looking too good.

Game 1: Dustin Nippert, RHP (3-0, 2.73) vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP (5-3, 3.58)
Game 2: Tommy Hunter, RHP (4-2, 2.63) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (2-6, 6.66)
Game 3: Scott Feldman, RHP (11-4, 4.01) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (4-7, 4.75)

Hey you remember the Texas Rangers right? They were that team the Indians faced on the crap-tacular opening series way back in April. Look at those Ranger pitcher records, weird. You know who I like in game 3? That's right, Jeremy Sowers.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Friday, August 7

Even Steven

With today's trade of Carl Pavano to the Twins, the Indians have now dealt 7 players since they first started selling off spare parts in June. The move is pretty universally hailed as representing a write-off of the 2009 campaign and quite possibly 2010 as well. I'm not disputing this, but I nevertheless decided it was worth looking at the numbers to see just how much the moves, particularly the high-profile moves of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, have actually changed our club (other than making it more affordable).

Admittedly, I did this a few days ago, but I don't think the results are any less valid. As usual, I pulled all my data from Baseball Reference.

Let's look at the hitters first. A point I've tried to make several times throughout this season is that, although the Tribe is a lousy team, (albeit one that has won 10 of 15 games and is now up 3-0 on the ChiSocks) they really aren't a bad hitting club. They sport a team OPS of .773 (OPS+ of 100), an OBP of .347, and have scored 553 runs, good for 7th, 5th, and 5th in the AL, respectively. So how does the team, as currently constructed, stack up against the year-to-date performance? I added the numbers so far for the twelve players who figure to get the most at-bats over the next two months: Sizemore, Cabrera, Choo, Peralta, Hafner, Crowe, LaPorta (maybe?), Marte, Gimenez, Valbuena, Shoppach, and Toregas, and compared it to the current all-team season total. Some of the newbies represent small sample sizes, for sure, but those mostly will be washed out by the players who've compiled the most plate appearances.

Those 12 player have, thus far, posted an OBP of .349 and OPS of .779, slightly better than the overall club's year-to-date performance. A few things make this analysis somewhat non-rigorous; pitchers batting drag down the YTD numbers, I might have made a mistabulation here and there, I left Jamey Carroll out of my 12 since he shouldn't be playing anymore, I didn't use park factor (though Progressive Field is exactly neutral for the year), and the contributions of the new guys are underweighted. But it's hard not to at least see the central conclusion: after dealing Garko, Francisco, DeRosa, and Martinez, the Indians for the moment don't appear appreciably worse as an offensive club. As much as I and everyone else loved Victor, if we get some MLB-caliber pitchers out of the trade, we'll easily come out ahead, considering the catching/guitar playing depth we have in the organization.

Regarding my comment on Carroll - it's not that I don't appreciate his contribution this year. I just think they need to give more young guys time, since Carroll isn't a long-term solution for the Tribe. Your everyday lineup should be this:

CF Sizemore
SS Cabrera
RF Choo
3B Peralta
DH Hafner
LF LaPorta/Crowe
1B Marte/Gimenez
2B Valbuena/Donald
C Toregas/Shoppach

It's time for me to single out Choo for praise once again: the dude is getting on base at a .401 clip, hits for power, makes the league minimum (next year too!) and does about everything you'd want a baseball player to do. He just hit a triple and scored, as a matter of fact. 4-0 Tribe! Anyway, let the players who figure into 2010 play every day and see what they got. For that matter, our rotation should be pretty obvious:


Bring up Rondon and Carrasco if they're ready, otherwise let these 5 ride out the year. I'm not even going to bother with the bullpen, except to note that it actually has provided a bit of stability, especially Sipp, Smith, and Wood at the back end.

And with that we get to the pitchers. For the year, the Tribe has a dreadful 86 ERA+ - better than when I last wrote about the club (and better after some strong pitching over the past 4 games), but still dead last in the AL. Losing Lee (ERA+ of 144) is obviously a big blow; losing Pavano (84), not so much. Anyway, I recalculated with the guys who figure to pitch the rest of the year (which included Pavano and I don't have a calculator with me nor the inclination to redo it): Huff, Sowers, Carmona, Laffey, Wood, Lewis, Smith, Chris Perez, Ohka, Sipp, Veras, and Masterson. The same caveats apply as with my batter analysis, but we arrive at 82, somewhat lower than without Lee. Four points here is not insignificant - we are clearly worse off without the Phifer, certainly more so than without Victor, but not devastatingly so.

The main point is that yes, we lost some key players, but for the moment, we don't really look to be a worse baseball team, both on paper or on the field, where our lead has been cut to 4-2. Go Tribe!

Thursday, August 6

First the bad news

Indians beat writer Anthony Castrovince has a wonderful wrap of two interview/press conference the Indians held over the last two days. The two major things to note are that the Indians are looking to lose $16 million this year and over the last four years the Indians have only one playoff apprearance and that is probably as good as our front office thinks it can do with what it has been given.

Yeah, these aren't very cheery revelations. We could have come to this conclusion on our own but having to be told it is a lot like learning there is no Santa Claus. Looking back on it, competing on a regular basis seemed a little farfetched but cheering for a sports team is often about blind belief that your team is just as good as any team and has every right to win every night.

But enough doom and gloom - the Indians won another series today!

Tuesday's series opener against the Twins was David Huff betraying everything I had said in my last series preview. Huff only went 4.2, giving up 11 hits and being tagged for seven earned runs. You might be asking about that offense of ours. Don't even worry about it since we didn't break up the shutout until the bottom of the ninth. Back-to-back doubles (the only ones the Indians had in the game) in the ninth by Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner with one out was the sole scoring this team could muster. Jhonny and Travis also represent the only two players with multiple hits. Jensen Lewis pitched in relief of Huff and proceeded to give up a first-pitch three-run homer to Chris Gomez. So Jensen Lewis is back! Chris Perez and Tony Sipp both pitched hitless one strikeout innings. Tribe (44-62) lose big time 10-1.

Wednesday's game was easier to watch, or listen to, believe me. First of all, we had Aaron Laffey on the mound. You might remember Aaron as that pitcher with a winning record that we can expect to pitch for this team next year. The offense tonight was provided by the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 9 spots in the lineup. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Trevor "not Matt LaPorta" Crowe had two hits and scored two runs and added an RBI. Asdrubal Cabrera was three for three with a pair of RBI's. Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo also had two RBI apiece. Laffey on the other end of things had things locked down. Laffey pitched a career-best eight innings, scattering six hits, allowing one run, and striking out, what I believe might be a career high too, five. Mark DeRosa's player to be named later Jess Todd made his Indians debut, pitching a scoreless one hit, one strikeout ninth. Tribe (45-62) win, kind of big time, 1-8.

Well if those games didn't have enough tension for you then today's game should have been more to your liking. Fausto Carmona, making his second start since being recalled from a stint in the minors, allowed a base runner in every inning he worked, often the leadoff hitter too. Carmona, however, worked out of those situations, just as you expected him to implode. Fausto finished the day with six innings, six hits, and three walks, holding the Twins to just one run. Tony Sipp turned in a solid 1.1 innings of relief before allowing a base runner and being replaced by Joe Smith who got out of the eigth unmolested. The Indians' offense wasn't having much success agaisnt Nick Blackburn who has pretty much owned the Indians to the tune of a 4-0 record coming into today. Peralta's sac fly in the fourth might help explain to you how he went oh for three with an RBI but Trevor "Michael Brantley" Crowe's seventh inning double scoring Hafner is what put the Indians up 1-2. Kerry Wood, who hasn't pitched in five days, comes in and gets his club leading 15th save. Indians (46-62) win 1-2.

The Indians won another series and are winners of 10 of their last 15. I want to say I like the energy the new guys like Crowe, Chris Gimenez, and Wyatt Toregas bring, but it could be that the Indians winning is what I'm attracted to right now.

Game 1: Jeremy Sowers, LHP (3-7, 4.97) vs. Mark Buehrle, LHP (11-5, 3.79)
Game 2: Carl Pavano, RHP (9-8, 5.37) vs. To be announced
Game 3: David Huff, LHP (5-6, 6.81) vs. Jose Contreras, RHP (4-10, 4.95)

Who runs these teams with records like 56-53 but can't set a rotation? I guess when you're possibly in contention picking who you want to pitch takes a little more thought. Or maybe when you have more than one option it could be difficult too. Now I'm not a betting man, but who do you like in game one?

Our fine Indians radio announcers pointed out that the Tribe have this three game series, get Monday off, return to Cleveland to face the Rangers for three, only to leave town again and head to Minnesota for three games, and get Monday off again to return home for a proper homestand.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Monday, August 3


I didn't realize until just now that he's officially listed as out with a "non-football injury" and that no details have been disclosed by him or the club. Braylon himself, when asked how he got injured (from the PD):

"Talk to coach Mangini about that and see what he says."

Subsequently asked whether he did it playing basketball:

"Talk to coach Mangini."

Fortunately, I can translate Braylon-speak! What he meant was:

"I'm trying to conceal how I got hurt."



Nice to see a guy who so frequently blames others for his mistakes once again not owning up to something. Come on, man.

FCF at the Cleveland Triathlon: Year 2

FCF co-founders Nick and I made our triathloning debut in the Cleveland Triathlon last year, and this weekend returned, determined for even better things. We each placed second in our age brackets in 2008; the results were quite a bit different this year for both Nick and Andy, for vastly different reasons. At right you see a camera phone pic I took of Downtown today, including the harbor where we swam and parts of the bike and run courses.

Having learned our lesson about not eating well the night before a race from our adventures the week before at Pittsburgh, we were much healthier on Saturday evening this time out. There were a few complications; I had to borrow Nick's backup swimsuit after misplacing mine, and we had to take a trip to Bike Authority to fix a punctured inner tube on Nick's bike, but all was well. We went to Progressive Field, where the Indians completed their Ways to Lose Baseball Games Bingo card by balking in the winning run in the 12th. Knowing we'd have to get up before 5 am the next day, we cut bait after the 10th inning.

As veterans, we were much better informed and prepared this year. Most notable change: we showed up on time. This allowed us to get reasonable transition area position and get settled in before hitting the water. We hopped in during the second wave, right after the Super Sprint people did their little race. I tend to belittle the Super Sprint, and I suppose International racers do the same for the Sprint distance, but Super Sprint really is short.

This year's race featured 290 entrants, up from 214 last year, making the swim a bit more hectic. Nick was 20th out of the water, kicking it out in 9:55, while I was 120th out at 13:34. His was 1 minute slower than last year; mine was three minutes slower. There's no T1 (swim to bike transition) listed, but it seems the bike time incorporates that. Hard to tell. On the bright side, Lake Erie was the perfect temperature to swim in.

The cycle was where each of us made our most significant improvements, thanks to better gear and, at least on my part, more of an emphasis on cycle training. There was a little bit of rain on the course and some wind blowing east, but nothing we couldn't handle. I cycled in 52:08, 47th-best and almost four minutes faster than last year; Nick blazed in 47:47, dropping more than five minutes from 2008. Knock about 1:30 off of those if they indeed include T1, and you see what bike monsters we are. Apparently concerned about not looking silly enough. Nick added this comical aero bar-mounted water bottle for this race. Good times.

Conditions were very good for the run; better than my time was, anyway. As I've mentioned, I had knee surgery now 11 weeks ago, and my running isn't nearly where it should be. Well, today the knee was physically fine (yay!), though I was a bit tired rolling off the bike. The problem: I've got no training base on foot anymore. So structurally I was sound, but ran out of gas quicker than I'm accustomed to. That's not accurate - one has to have something in the first place to run out of it. The result: a lame 27:56, for 78th place. Nick was the 5th-best runner, at 22:07.

We definitely both improved in transition; Nick took a minute off his T2 (bike to run) and I dropped 30 seconds from my own. I mentioned before about T1, but Nick certainly got back a lot of time there. When the dust settled, Nick ended up at 1:19:48, ~10 minutes faster than last year; at 1:33:36, I managed to best my 2008 time by a minute, injuries and all. Nick's effort was good for 6th overall (up from 21st last year); mine put me at 58th (from 43rd). Yes, I ran faster this year and dropped 15 spots. As with last week, if you give me my last year's running time, things improve considerably; I would have had 41st. Oh well, this is a Cleveland race, so there's always next year.

The age groups are where it gets interesting. Nick destroyed his age group, beating the next "20-24" year-old guy by approximately 15 minutes. That's ridiculous. I would have placed second in Nick's division, but I'm not in the Young Bucks Division anymore. No, this year, I'm in the "30-34" bracket. I use the quotation marks because, in case I wasn't clear on this last week, I'M NOT 30 YET. As I said, I would have placed 2nd in Nick's division, and I would have gotten 5th in 25-29, right behind a friendly fellow named Kyle who puled away from me in the run. Inasmuch as I'm 29, that seems the most relevant piece of information. Unfortunately, the geniuses at USAT have decided I'm 30 (I'm not), leaving me right in the middle at 10th out of a group of 19. It's tough being old. For the record, Nick would have got 2nd in my group as well.

So, the big race for the year is over, and I think we both have to be pleased with our progress. Next year, I can see Nick gunning for Top 5 overall. Barring any unforeseen knee operations, I'm looking to break 1:30. This year, we're looking at Lorain and Erie, both of which will be a little more low-key than the big one. I can say this for certainty: they will both have better-looking t-shirts than this abomination . I think my face in this photo communicates my thoughts on the shirt more effectively than words could. Really, pink/brown/orange on a tan background? Did they have surplus tan shirts and pink ink? This thing is amazing. I can't believe I wore it out of my house after the race. But everything else about the day I enjoyed.

Sunday, August 2

Look we scheduled these things so we still have to play them.

If you haven't already I recommend you read Anthony Castrovince's blog post today Sooner or later, it all comes down to money and Paul Cousineau's A Lazy Sunday and The End of an Era. Specifically AC's article pretty much summaries what I was trying to get at in my last post, but in a more professional manner. PC touches on the how he has to explain to his wife the loss of Cliff Lee and Victor Maritnez. Often those closest to us and even ourselves sometimes forget how this is a business, and trying to win is part of that business, but so is making money. Unfortunately having the usual Cleveland sports mindset, especially in baseball I think, we often cling to players we like and can identify with since come the postseason we're not exactly sure what to do with ourselves. So without the continuous hope of contention and the idea that players are moved for competitive reasons, often when we lose Jim Thome, or Omar Vizquel, or Victor Martinez we wonder why. We have a hard time believing people when they tell us in the long term this will make the team better when we're not that kind of city. We don't expect success but we do expect to see Victor behind home plate. That and trying to rationalize this to my dad during our weekly chat is not going to be easy.

OK enough of the past - on to the present. Friday saw the return of Fausto Carmona. Following the 2007 season, Fausto was signed to a long term deal (which we have been horrible at lately: see Hafner, Carmona, Westbrook) thinking that he was the post-CC ace of this team. Well thanks to Cliff Lee I finally got to witness a Cleveland Indians pitcher win 20 games, but unfortunately Carmona has been on a free fall that took him all the way to the Arizona rookie league. But he's back. Previously I talked about how he has been sort of reined in. My fear was that while he may walk fewer batters he would also be less dominating. Logically I should be happy with a guy who can go seven innings. Turning Carmona into more of a pitcher and allowing him to better control his emotions is probably the best we can hope for over the rest of his contract. So what did we get from Carmona Friday? Only 5.0 innings with two earned runs and four walks. OK? Not exactly what I wanted but it's his first day back and on a staff like this two runs in five innings is close to the norm. So what happened next? Well pretty much your usual 13-inning game, involving relief appearances by Jose Veras, Rafael Perez, Tony "I'm just being used in single batter situations these days" Sipp, Joe Smith, a 1.1-inning blown save by Kerry Wood, and then somehow four innings of scoreless relief by Tomo Ohka. Offensively, Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits and three RBI, and Trevor Crowe's three hits and three runs scored was pretty nice, but it was a 13th-inning double by Jhonny Peralta and a single by Jamey Carroll that provided the Indians with the win. Tribe (43-60) win 5-6 in 13.

Saturday's starter for the Indians was Jeremy Sowers, a guy I've been down on for a while. However, on this night, Sowers pitched infuriatingly well. Often I just want him to suck and be released, but I guess I'll just have to wait longer. Sowers' 6.0 innings and two runs represent the high end of what Sowers can be expected do. The real treat was seeing newly-acquired Justin Masterson's Indians debut, where he tossed three scoreless while only surrendering two hits. Unfortunately this was another extra-inning game and the Indians relief corps can't be relied on twice in two evenings, can it? No, I guess not. Jose Veras is probably the only guy on this team who I can clearly question right now. Ohka showed he can provide long relief but Veras can't possibly play into the Indians future. Luckily Veras did me a favor by balking in the winning run, as if to say "Look! Look how bad I am!" Tribe (43-61) lose 4-3.

Today's starter was Carl Pavano. I've written at least three times in this blog that not trading Pavano makes no sense. And it appears that either this was dismissed by the readers of this blog either because they agreed with me or thought me too stupid to correct. It now appears that the Indians will get a Type B free agent compensation pick for Pavano which probably outweighs any return they would have gotten for him on the trade block. Today Carl Pavano showed why he is the ace of this staff. Well because he's the oldest and has the most number of wins over his career, I guess. Anyway, my kidding aside, Pavano cruised - and I mean cruised - today. In the top of the seventh Pavano struck out Carlos Guillen on three pitches, got Ryan Rayburn to fly out after two pitches, and Brandon Inge to fly out on one pitch. Six pitches and three outs. Of course Pavano pitching with an 11-run lead probably didn't hurt. 11 runs, yes 11. Both Grady Sizemore and Cabrera homered with a guy on and two outs. Andy Marte had his first double of the season, which scored Jhonny Peralta and Luis Valbuena. Actually, just assume everyone had a two-run XBH. Pavano finished the day after eight innings, allowing six hits and only one run, which came in the eighth, the only inning in which the Tigers had more than one hit. Jensen Lewis pitched the ninth , striking out two in his return. Carl Pavano won his ninth game, which is more than he had in four years as an overpaid Yankee. Tribe (44-63) win 1-11.

Up next is a three-game set at Progressive Field with the Minnesota Twins. Your pitching matchups:

Game 1: Scott Baker, RHP (8-7, 4.86) vs. David Huff, LHP (5-5, 6.39)
Game 2: Francisco Liriano, LHP (4-10, 5.56) vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP (4-3, 4.08)
Game 3: Nick Blackburn, RHP (8-5, 3.83) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (2-6, 7.13)

David Huff isn't exactly a thrilling pitcher, prospect-wise or to watch even. He does, however, represent a solid starter that can't be counted out against anyone. I think of him as the new Jake Westbrook. In game two the Indians face the Minnesota Twins' version of Fausto Carmona: Francisco Liriano. He was shut down before his last scheduled start due to forearm tightness. Despite what I may have said above about him, I still think Fausto can come back to be a decent number two or three pitcher for the Indians. He did OK against Detroit after the first inning and Thursday's game will hopefully be another step in the right direction.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)