Well it hasn’t been pretty but it still is positive Indians fans. For a change, the offense has not been offensive and causing us to lose. The Indians are competitive and were in all of the games on the homestand. Now the team takes their game on the road again out to San Francisco to begin a three city, 9 game road trip in the National League.
The bad news about this is that Travis Hafner will not be allowed to use Travis Hafner in the lineup except for the role of a pinch hitter. Last night Manny called this fact “sad.” I agree. After all Indians fans know this glaring fact in 2011. With Travis in the starting lineup, the Indians are 22-13. Without him starting, they are 18-20. For the next 9 games he will not be starting. The team will have to find a way to win without him in the starting lineup.
I had a fan tweet me asking why he could not play the field. As Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the operation he had on his shoulder won’t allow it. He had trouble swinging a bat from it and throwing is too risky for the shoulder on top of swinging the bat.
This is why the Indians are expected to call up Shelley Duncan once again since Travis Buck was sent down to AAA Columbus once again yesterday, to add “umph” to the lineup with Hafner out. I look forward to seeing how Acta uses match-ups creatively to help score more runs against these Giants. Also I think more will be expected from Choo and A. Cabrera to move the runners and drive in runs starting tomorrow night.
The Giants come into the series 26-29 vs. righties and 5-4 in Interleague play so far in 2011 while the Indians are 11-9 vs. lefties and 7-2 in Interleague play in 2011. It will be this type of matchup when the Indians face the Giants tonight. The Giants just took 2 out of 3 against the Twins and the Indians just lost 2 out of 3 to the Rockies. Interestingly, the Indians are 14-10 in 1-run games and the Giants are 20-11.
I just hope I see a smart well-played, fundamentally sound game where the Indians can play with a lot of heart and a never give-up attitude offensively and a sound job pitching trying to keep us in the ballgame in attempting to shut them down ourselves. Carrasco is the right pitcher to help advance Cleveland’s effort to pull out a win as he has shut down the opposition to 1 run in 22 2/3 innings in his last 3 starts. Let’s hope this effort continues in San Francisco.
Since I last wrote a blog, I traveled to New York to see the Indians lose 3 out of 4 in the Bronx, return home to see the Indians lose 2 out of 3 to rival Detroit and then sweep Pittsburgh at home, all while losing a beloved hitting coach yesterday while remaining in first place by 1 game over Detroit. It has been quite an adventure in the last 10 days. Now Colorado awaits.
A Bronx tale
My family arrived in Queens on Thursday. I was excited to be able to finally see Cleveland in NYC. At the time I planned the trip, it was April and the Indians were 18-8. The night of the trip, the Indians were coming off a very disappointing Minnesota series where they lost 2 out of 3 games. The Yankees were next.
Day 1 Friday New York: Indians lose 11-7.
This game was never close. In Spring Training, the Indians’s Manny Acta wanted his pitchers to throw strikes. This was not how Fausto started the game. The walks killed him. This team cannot afford to fall behind especially to the Yankees, especially with a struggling offense but this is exactly what they did.
There were Indians fans there. The ones I met had nothing that said they were Indians fans though. However, they came up to let me know how they felt that night and how proud they were of the team’s progress this year. I had a Yankees fan tell me “At least you are not wearing a Red Sox jersey.”
When I left after the bottom of the 8th inning, the Indians were down 11-3. It was wonderful when we got to the car when we turned on John Sterling that the Indians were still batting and scored their 7th run with a hit by LaPorta off Mariano Rivera. It gave me hope that perhaps the Indians were headed out of their funk.
Day 2 Saturday New York: Indians lose 4-0
The day in New York was filled with a cold constant rain. My family spent the morning going to a tour of Citi Field. Very nice. I met some people from Korea who were Shin-Soo Choo fans and really hope that Choo stay with the Indians. There are very nice people in NY that come out of the shadows to tell you how much they like Cleveland but would never admit it publically. By the end of the tour, the Indians were starting game 2 vs. Bartolo Colon.
The weather reminded me of “Dracula weather” as Acta likes to describe it. However, the Indians did not show up to haunt the Yankees. The emphasis from the Yankees point of view was that the Indians were targeting their hitters on purpose. Without warning Talbot, after hitting A-Rod , was ejected. What, no warning? It was crazy. I was on the subway when it occurred. No matter, because without an offense, we still would lose. Where was the fight? Where was the run support to help Talbot salvage this very good performance?
Day 3 Sunday New York: Indians lose 9-1
This game was over before it began. Garcia was beatable. However, I was starting to see the pressure that the Indians pitchers were putting on themselves. With no run support, they were trying to be too perfect. However against the Yankees, finding yourself down 1-0 every game was a great possibility. The Yankees like to pile on especially when they see that you are not trying to score yourself. I was wondering if the Indians were going to freefall their way down to their 4th place prognostication. At this point, it sure looked that way. Luckily Clevelanders enjoyed seeing the Mavs beat the Heat and Lebron James.
Day 4 Monday New York: Indians win 1-0
I was home. Back to work. I caught bits and pieces and score updates throughout the night for this game. The Indians’ last win happened in the same fashion. Carlos Carrasco pitched a shutout vs. the Twins, days earlier, and now was doing it again vs. the Yankees. It was very nice. Still I did not like the run support. 1 run for us in both of the Indians last two wins. This was crazy. And Detroit was next.
Day 5 Game 1 Tuesday Detroit: Indians lose 4-0
I understand I must be arguably watching the next AL Cy Young Award winner. Still, I have seen us do much better against Verlander than the 2 hits we managed late in the game. The man was piching a no-hitter against us for 7 1/3 innings. After the game I vented my frustration in a constructive way to Manny Acta that basically said that the team needs to support our pitchers more by scoring more runs. I could understand losing but I wanted the team to try harder to compete and possibly win.
Day 6 Game 2 Detroit: Indians win 6-4
My tweets worked. At least this is what my ego said. I was very leased that the Indians were not going to sit back and let a 3-0 deficit be their downfall. They came back to take a 4-3 lead. Although it became 4-4, I realized the team did not let the Tigers retake the lead. This was very important for Fausto and the team to help them regain their confidence. Also it gave the Tigers and Indians a tie for first place, again.
Day 7 Game 3 Detroit: Indians lose 6-2
The Indians started out the way you wish they did every game, with the lead 2-0. Yet to see them give right back up and let the Tigers tie it at two was discouraging. This loss was ugly. Still I was trying to find some hope in it. Instead of being down 3 games, the Indians were down by 1 game and headed for interleague play. I was really optimistic that the Indians with a return home and the Tigers going on the road that first place would be ours rather soon. I would soon be right.
Day 8 Game 1 Cleveland: Indians win 5-1 vs. Pirates
In Interleague play leading to this game, the Indians were 3-0. On Twitter, trends like to get going like #Batmagic. Well I wore my Green Bay Packers hat to bring some #hatmagic to the game. Against Pittsburgh, who won 4 in a row prior to the series. Their city’s love for football, in seeing Packers, I believed, would help the Indians. And it did.
The Indians, in a tight one, leading 2-1 for most of the game, broke it open in the bottom of the 8th, thanks to the return of Pronk hitting what looked like a homerun, even though it was a double as ruled by the umpires, even after a replay. Still 3 runs scored this inning. 2 of the runs scored on the Pronk double. The Indians were back playing well. To make matter even better, they were back in a tie for first.
Day 9 Game 2 Cleveland: Indians win 5-1 vs. Pittsburgh
This night I helped a fellow fan who was coming to town for the game. Since I had to work, I thought it would be nice to help someone out by letting them use the tickets for the game. There was going to be a post game concert with Donnie Iris from Pittsburgh and Michael Stanley from Cleveland after the game. The Indians never lost the lead in the game, leading 2-0, 3-1 and eventually winnng 5-1. Yet I never felt the excitement throughout the contest. I felt bored.
Now I think this would be shocking for the fans to read since Carrasco had a no-hitter through 5 innings. It just seemed like this offense was vanilla and needed a jumpstart, an identity. The next day, it would get one.
Day 10 Game 3 Cleveland: Indians win 5-2 vs. Pirates in 11 innings
Itwas truly a joy, as a baseball fan to take my family to the Indians game. It was Father’s Day and was really special. News came across the Twitter feed that Bruce Fields was the new hitting coach and Jon Nunnally was out. I was okay with this move because of the lack of runs and exciting hits. Also there were guys struggling like Cord Phelps. This change was going to help.
Already, after the news, the swings looked better, the offense looked sharper and my attitude about the team’s progress looked brighter. Cord Phelps and Carlos Santana alone looked like they appeciated this news as they led the team with 2 homeruns, 2 doubles and 4 runs batted in. It seemed to me that this team was ready to do great things. I hope Fields will help make this young team even better. We shall see.
The Cleveland Indians finished 1-6 on the current homestand. The Indians are 8-13 since May 18th, 2011. They were swept by the Rangers and lost 2 out of 3 to the last place Twins. These are the hard cold facts. You just have to follow Twitter and realize something is wrong. Less positive and more negative. Some people refuse to tweet since the team is struggling. So what shall we do, give up? I refuse to give up. I predicted Detroit would win the AL Central. The Indians I predicted would be 81-81. Both may still happen. However, I would like to say that to have this team where they are is amazing but how they got there is frustrating because of how it is perceived. If we started out 0-6 and now were 35-26 and 1/2 game in front for the best record as Boston is currently, we might feel ecstatic. However, Cleveland, who started out 18-8 at the end of April and now are 34-26, we feel it slipping away and act as though 90 losses are inevitable. This is how it was perceived by the media and many fans. Boston the best, Cleveland one of the worst So should we fans of the Cleveland Indians just accept this? Should we just hand Boston the AL title? Right now it looks as if this is inevitable, so why cheer? Why try? If we took this philosophy into everything we do and did, we would be hopeless. I am a man who is driven by faith, hope and love. I know that the Indians are driven too to believe. Otherwise 18 wins in April would not be possible. They are driven to hope that better times are ahead for the franchise. They are driven to love this team and support it as are us fans I understood losing to the AL Champion Rangers. What bothered me was losing to the Minnesota Twins. Now we head for New York and Detroit. I hope the Indians get back to the FUN da mentals and play 1 game at a time without worrying about the 1st place status. I think the Indians will do a lot better to do what got them to 18-8. A “Smart, fundamental, move the runner, score the run, pitch strikes, don’t walk runners, shut down the opponent with quality pitches” philosophy would do wonders for this team. This philosophy had doubters and the Indians were out to prove us doubters wrong in April. Now in June, these doubters are saying “I told you so.” They need to get back to proving doubters wrong and playing right, making every moment count. I leave for NYC later today and hope as I will see the Indians Friday what fight they can muster up. This road trip, I pray will make them better. I hope that the team’s soul can be resurrected and stay competitive. We shall see…
April was a time for the most wins in Indians franchise history (18). The Indians were surprising everyone and proving to be (01) in all of Major League Baseball. May (01) 2011, they had (19) and everyone was shocked. Now it is June (02) 2011 and the Indians are 33-21, still in first place, the best record in the major leagues by .004 percentage points. So I ask myself, why do I sense panic when we finished the greatest road trip on turf at 3-3 and lost last night and now are just 4.5 games ahead of rival Detroit?
Our philosophy as a team was set by Acta when he said that the pitchers need to attack the strike zone. Yet yesterday, Indians pitching never recorded a strikeout. We need to play fundamental defense to win. Yet yesterday, the Indians had crucial errors that either scored the runs for Texas or led to more opportunities to hit the runners in allowing them to score. Also, we sacrificed an early lead in the ballgame. These are things that never occur in our 33 wins.
As a team the Indians were 10 in the AL with 147 total strikeouts earned. In May they were dead last in the AL with 151 total strikeouts. They are 5th total this month but with no strikeouts recorded last night, they could not gain ground on the teams that were off yesterday in this category. Overall for the entire year, they are tied for 13th out of 14 teams with 328. The team needs to get better at this if they want to continue to contend this year.
The errors and/or walks have allowed for the team to go from only allowing 3 unearned runs per month in April to 12 unearned runs per month in May to 4 unearned runs already these past two days in June. If this pace continues, the lead that Cleveland enjoys for the moment in the league and division will quickly evaporate.
Reasons for concern
The Indians pitchers began the 2011 season ending April with an 18-8 record and 6 saves with a 3.49 ERA for the month. In May, the Indians were 14-12 with 8 saves and a 4.05 ERA. In June, the team is already 1-1 with no saves and a 6.00 ERA.
These stats also show the Indians’ offense had a league-leading .272 batting average, a .344 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .447 in April, all tops in the AL. In May, they fell to 11th in the AL in batting average with a .248 batting average, 10th in on-base percentage with a .380 slugging percentage and 11th in on-base percentage reaching base at .314. In June so far, the Indians are 1st again in batting average at .321, 1st in on-base percentage at .382 but are only 3rd in the league in slugging percentage at .481.
These three areas highlighting pitching, defense and offense show why the Indians appear to struggle. They lost 1.5 games in the standings to Detroit from April to May and another half game to them already in June. Factor in also that we have yet to play them on the road where the Indians do not do as well and there is reason for concern.
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?
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.
I went to the game last night with my family. What a great night for a ballgame it turned out to be! However, it did not start out this way as the Indians announced Travis Hafner was going to the DL. This added to another prominent superstar for the Tribe, Grady Sizemore.
I was happy to see Ezequiel Carrera get called up because I saw signs from Spring Training reports that this kid had potential to be special. He was always appearing to get on base. Still, the lineup did not have him starting.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, I tweeted about how the “vehicles” were going to have to play a prominent role to help the team contend. By “vehicles” I meant, affectionately, ACab-Asdrubal Cabrera, ChooTrain-Shin-Soo Choo, CARlos-Carlos Santana, and OCab-Orlando Cabrera. I added ECAR-Ezequiel Carrera to the list also. All except Orland Cabrera would play a role last night in the comeback win.
I really believed the following for the game that Travis Wood would provide the 90 MPH “gas” pitches and the vehicles better be ready to hit. Yet for 5 innings, all the Indians offense could produce was a walk to first base allowed to Carlos Santana. My Twitter went out in the ballpark and I was not even allowed to mention about the no-hitter. I read later about how the Reds Twitter account mentioned it for me. Thank you!
I turned to my son going to the bottom of the 6th and said “Turn your cap inside out.” I said “Its time to break up the no-no. ” Finding out in the bottom of 5 that it was Austin Kearns’s birthday, I said to my wife and kids, “No one should no-hit Austin Kearns for his birthday.” He promptly got the first hit for the Indians and the rally was on. Jack Hannahan and Michael Brantley each got singles and Brantley advanced to second on a fielding error by Jay Bruce. Austin Kearns scored on the play. Asdrubal Cabrera walked. Choo was hit by a pitch. Now it was 4-2. Wood left the game for Logan Ondrusek.Carlos Santana walked and the “vehicles” were in motion. 4-3. ACab scored on a sacrifice fly by Shelley Duncan. It was now tied.
The rally cap remained on for the rest of the game. It was needed. Bill Bray was pitching for the Reds with 2 outs. After a triple to left field by Shin-Soo Choo “Train” and a walk to “CARlos” Santana, another vehicle, CARrera, with two outs, surprised the crowd with a drag bunt down the first base line and was called SAFE because the Reds Joey Votto missed the tag. The defending NL MVP missed the tag of Carrera, a kid who just yesterday was pulled out of the lineup in AAA Columbus. This is what makes baseball a wonderful game. A kid gets the game winning hit on a bunt. Way to go Ezequiel!
The game ended on a double play when Jonny Gomes lined out to Chris Perez who then threw to first base to double up Fred Lewis to earn Chris Perez his 11th save. Thank God for another win! The Indians are now 27-15 and 6 full games in front of the Tigers and Royals.
On another injury report, Alex White complained of middle finger soreness and was having trouble pitching. He will have an MRI later today. Let’s hope it is nothing too serious for his career.
Last Friday, the crowds came out and the Indians Travis Hafner drove the Indians to a dramatic last at bat win. The next two days were a washout. While we fans were still all wet, the Indians took their show on the road and scored 26 total runs and gave up 4 runs against Kansas City to start off 2-0 on the road trip. Everyone was hitting and crushing Kansas City. It was way too easy. I was thinking this was the team I picked for 81-81?
Wednesday came and the White Sox were on the schedule. I was thinking positive vibes until this news came over twitter that said Travis “Pronk” Hafner was pulled from the lineup. It was easy to see, despite the enlarged strike zone and awesome effort by Jake Peavy, that the Indians did not appear to be mentally in the game.
Thursday had the news that Hafner was going to have an MRI on Friday (today). As I adjusted to the news that Hafner now was joining Sizemore on the DL, more news came that was NOT good! Travis Buck reportedly had turf toe. I think highly of Buck. Following him in Spring Training reports, I know he has the ability to have moments to launch the baseball and drive in runs.
So Sizemore, Hafner and Buck were out at least, for the night and conventional wisdom says its going to be awhile. This news hurts. I think it hurt the psyche of the team for the series against the White Sox too. We all looked as though we needed 5 hour energy. Meanwhile, Kansas City won Thursday over the Rangers and were acting like we did on Monday.
Now the 81-81 record appears to be optimistic or realistic again for the club. However, I have learned that like a mustard seed, faith can move mountains. We must hang on and watch what this club can truly do to help overcome this adversity. The kids must try to become better despite these setbacks. We shall see if they can rise to the occasion beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned. Right now, they are 26-15 and remain 5 games up in the division. Hang in there fans and pray! I know I will, win or lose.