After seeing red for 4-2 homestand, will the road be just what the Indians need?

5/21/2011 While at work during the game, I saw that this was going to be a pitching duel. Still, with the way, Ezequiel Carrera came off the bench to help the Indians win the previous night, one never really thinks the Indians are out of any close game in 2011. I tweeted with the score 1-0 that the Indians needed to hit a homer off Homer (Bailey). Sure enough, the man named Buck hit one to help propel the Indians to another win 2-1. How appropriate that a Buck kept his eye on the ball for a win against the Reds, the other team in the Buckeye state.

5/22/2011 The Indians were thinking sweep and made the effort against Edinson Volquez an easy one as the Indians behind Asdrubal Cabrera went 5-5 with 2 homeruns and 5 runs batted in. I thought it was wonderful how generous Volquez was being in letting the Indians make this an easy victory for Carlos Carrasco. The sweep was complete and really was a wonderful weekend for the team and for the fans.

5/23/2011 Timing is everything! People keep asking nationally if the Indians were for real. I was thanking God that we caught the Red Sox in April on a 0-3 slide the last time we played them. This time, the Red Sox entered only 1/2 game out of 1st place and things were definitely going to be different. Another pitcher’s duel was taking place in the rain.

With the score 1-0 Red Sox, Asdrubal Cabrera was continuing to prove why he was worthy of the hype as he hit a game-tying homerun to right center field to make the score 1-1. Carl Crawford however, matched this effort by launching a homerun of his own off Justin Masterson to make the score 2-1. It remained this way until the 8th when the magic continued at Progressive Field. Drew Sutton came in the game during this inning because Dustin Pedroia rounded 2nd base and hurt himself the inning earlier.

As a result, a ball that Dustin Pedroia was known to retrieve became a single for Hannahan as it went by Drew Sutton. Adam Everett pinch ran and went to second after an Austin Kearns groundout to third base. Carlos Santana pinch hit and could not help his stats as his slump continued and Everett remained on 2nd base. So, with two outs, and the rain pouring down, against hard-throwing Daniel Bard, (Dr. Smooth) Michael Brantley laced a single to right field to score Adam Everett from 2nd base. 2-2 was the score. Asdrubal Cabrera laced a double off the left field wall to score Brantley and the comeback for the Tribe was complete as the score was 3-2. Another victory was complete for the Tribe as Chris Perez earned another save.

5/24/2011 The homestand was now going 4 days old and approaching a fifth day. It was starting to look like the following statement was total fact, yet, in Cleveland,  too good to be true. When the Indians are at home, they win. The Red Sox were determined as they were in 2007 to stop this win streak with Beckett. I did not like this matchup due to Fausto Carmona’s last outing in Chicago.

What made it more frustrating was the fact that the Indians initially took the lead 1-0. With the lead, I figured Fausto would settle down and focus in on shutting down the Red Sox offense. However, the opposite happened. Fausto hit the first batter, Carl Crawford, that he faced in the top of the 3rd inning. This was followed by a stolen base by Crawford and a sacrifice groundout advacing Crawford to 3rd base. The next batter Ellsbury was walked. The dominant, focused Carmona that prevailed in April disappeared. Sutton sacrificed the tying run home for the Sox  and Adrian Gonzales doubled home another run to make it 2-1 Red Sox. In the 7th inning, Varitek led his team by hitting a late-inning two run homerun making it 4-1 Red Sox. The Indians added another run making the score 4-2. Yet there would be no more magic at Progressive Field as the Indians dropped a game to Boston at home.

5/25/2011 I was headed to the game and a nice crowd was arriving for a noon game. Before entering the park, I received a scoring update 2-0 Boston. By the time my friend and I sat down in the park, it was 6-0 Red Sox. This score would get worse for the Tribe. 14 runs would cross the plate that day for the Sox. My friend and I had to go to work and saw that the Indians added two runs late around the time that we began work. 14-2 would be the final score.

Synopsis: The Cleveland Indians had a pretty good homestand. They won 4 and lost 2 games. However, as they get ready to play Tampa tonight with the three best Tampa pitchers toeing the rubber against the Indians in Price, Shields and Hellickson and memories of the last time the Rays came to Progressive Field to shut us down, these games at the Trop are going to give the Indians plenty of challenges.

Offensively, it will be nice to get Grady back. He gives us a spark that the team needs by getting on base and hitting in runners. The last time he faced Tampa before going on the disabled list, Grady led the Indians offense with a homerun in his first at-bat. Carlos Santana has been getting some days off to refocus and recharge after being in the middle of a 3-22 slump. With these two issues and Pronk remaining on the DL for reportedly about 3 more weeks, I thought it would benefit the Indians to do the following when I asked the following question to Jordan Bastian, the MLB.com beat reporter.

Has there been any talk of moving Carlos Santana down in the lineup to take pressure off him with Travis Hafner hurt? Also, has there been any talk of moving Grady Sizemore down in the lineup to boost RBI production?

His response:

Indians manager Manny Acta provided Santana with a bit of a mental break this week in hopes that he could break out of his slump. The catcher did not start on Monday and he was out of the lineup again on Wednesday with a team off-day on Thursday.

Your mention of Hafner brings up one of the reasons Santana has not been moved out of the cleanup spot to this point. Hafner, who typically bats fifth, is a left-handed hitter. Shin-Soo Choo, the Tribe’s No. 3 hitter, also bats from the left side. Having Santana, a switch-hitter, between Hafner and Choo is important.

With Hafner sidelined for the time being with a right oblique injury, Acta has been forced to use Matt LaPorta, Travis Buck and Shelley Duncan in the five-hole. None in that trio is a true middle-of-the order hitter. Cleveland remains confident that Santana can be that caliber of batter.

The Tribe lacks a clear thumper to put in the cleanup spot. In spurts, Santana has shown the potential to develop into a sound run-producer. Encouraging up to this point has been that, despite his low batting average, the catcher has still been finding ways to get on base consistently.

As for Sizemore, Acta has not indicated any intention of moving him out of the leadoff spot. That said, given the struggles of Santana and Choo (though the team’s right fielder has had better at-bats of late), it might make sense to try Sizemore in the heart of the lineup.

It helps that Michael Brantley has performed admirably as a leadoff hitter in Sizemore’s absence. Sizemore should be back this weekend against the Rays, so we’ll know shortly what Acta’s plans are.

I just hope that Santana can come through and I will have to wait and see if Grady gets moved. Hopefully, Santana will start hitting a little tonight but I do not expect Grady to be anywhere but in the leadoff role once again. What ever it takes to start winning again is alright by me.

Defensively, the Indians have had 25 errors in the Major Leagues in their 47 games played so far. This is tied for 6th in the MLB. They will be playing on turf surfaces on this road trip that they are not used to seeing regularly. Will the defense be tested or make it easier for them to make the necessary plays to win?

Pitching has been the Indians best staple for the 2011 season. They have 13 saves and a 30-17 record. I have observed that the Indians have struggled when matching up their pitching with excellent pitchers from the opposition. This past homestand, I argue, we saw two aces, and lost to both of them in Lester and Beckett. This road trip we will start off with Price and Shields who we saw and lost to when we saw them in Cleveland. In the Indians defense however, after seeing Angels pitcher Haren and his 1 hit shutout initially, we fared much better against him a second time but still lost the game 6-5. Hopefully, the Indians can “surprise” us all again and win games on paper that look like losses. We shall see starting tonight.

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