The Cleveland Indians are doing exactly what we wanted so far on this road trip. They are competitive, in every game. I think fans would agree if we could finish at .500 after Sunday, we would all be satisfied. The Indians start Saturday’s action with a 21-10 record and still 4.5 games in front of the Kansas City Royals so far on May 7, 2011.
This week has presented plenty of challenges. This is what happens when you face the best pitching staffs. Right now the Athletics are ranked #1 and the Angels are #2 while the Indians are #3 in the American League. Thus, the scores have matched these rankings.
Tuesday, the Indians were down 1-0 before tying it in the 7th inning and then scoring 3 off reliever Brian Fuentes, the former Angels closer to win 4-1. Wednesday, despite giving up only 3 hits and 3 runs, starting pitcher, Josh Tomlin came up with a loss, 3-1 as Trevor Cahill and the Athletics relievers held Cleveland hitters to 1 run on 7 hits. Thursday, the offense reappeared. It looked tougher than the box score showed as the Indians were able to score 4 runs on 11 hits off Oakland pitchers to outlast Oakland 4-3 in 12 innings.
Last night into this morning, the Cleveland Indians showed up with an anemic offense again as Santana had the only two hits until the 10th inning off Angels pitching. Yet the Indians pitching was able to take the Angels to 11 innings before losing 2-1. Now the Indians face Jared Weaver, Cy Young candidate #1 and Dan Haren, Cy Young candidate #2. If reading all the tweets from Indians fans, most do not give us a chance to win either of these games. However, hope shows we have a shot.
Weaver, in his only loss last Monday against the Red Sox, gave up 3 runs and 6 hits in 6 innings pitched. The Angels lost the game, 9-5. The key for the Indians will to score against the Angels who have in the last 3 games have scored 4 runs and had 11 hits. This will not be easy. However, in order to be considered the best, you have to beat the best. To really be taken seriously as a contender, the Indians will need to take a page from Boston and show that they CAN score against the Angels pitching staff. Tonight they get another opportunity.
I recently gave my opinions for the National League teams and now its time for the American League teams. First up are the teams in the American League West.
The Mariners have a new attitude infused into the management side of things with the debut of Manager Don Wakamatsu. General Manager Jack Zduriencik continued to make moves by dealing J.J. Putz as part of a trade with the Indians and Mets for players like Franklin Gutierrez while also trying to recapture some memories of the glory days with the re-signing of Ken Griffey Jr..They are searching for a closer and will probably have a few closers. With all this indecision and instability, fourth place will still be the result. Still, there will be improvement and excitement returning to the northwestern U.S. soon. At least that is the hope.
The Athletics are like a ticking time bomb. If the young pitching and the new hitters on this team like Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday click together, this will be an interesting team to watch to see if they can contend. They have excellent pitching prospects and a solid bullpen. The question is if they can explode fast into contention or have to trade away Holliday or Giambi by July to rebuild. I think the latter. Third place will be a result.
The Rangers will be a scoring machine. The key to the Rangers success will be the pitching. With Mike Maddux as their new pitching coach and Nolan Ryan as their team president and the best minor league system, they should improve, yet will it good enough to contend for the division. I think their starters are not good enough to do this. I may be wrong but I think third place will be the result because the starters and relievers just do not strike me as star calibur players ready to help this team compete with the Angels. They are close, just not close enough. Second place will be the result.
The Angels lost key free agents in Texieria and K-Rod and replaced K-Rod with Brian Fuentes. I think they may have enough to repeat as division champs. However, it will be a tighter division for them. I think the risk taking in fundamental baseball that Scoscia has makes them a contender and they are deep enough to have spot starters to fill in to start the season. I pick them to be first but I’m nervous about it. it will all be about carrying momentum for them and getting off to a fast start if they want to truly win, otherwise it may be a dogfight to the finish.
It has been an eventful day. At 5:30 a.m. the weather in Cleveland wasn’t exactly like this.
It was actually a day that would be sunny, dry and in the 40’s with no snow on the ground as we left Cleveland. However, one who can go to Arizona surely understands why…not only do we go to see baseball but to leave this behind.
At 7:30 we checked in only to wait for a 9:05 takeoff. However when you know as a fan you are leaving the snow and headed for warmer days, there are smiles all around.
We landed in Phoenix around 11:30. The local game time at Goodyear was 1:05. While several may have been rushing to get over to see “Opening Day” as one passenger said, my family was taking in the AZ landscape and scenery and catching up on 30 plus years with family and friends. I felt foolish taking this picture after church today being Ash Wednesday because there was nothing religious about it.
The reason I bring this up in a baseball blog is what happened afterwards. There is a term for people who come from cold climates to warm climates know to citizens in AZ. I and others like me are known locally as snowbirds. What I consider weird is just being a snowbird.
Now I have a greater appreciation for rivals in the Cactus League. Two such rivals from the AL West, the Athletics and Angels are literally blocks from each other. I went down a main road saw this Arizona skyline on the top of a hill
and this also on the same hill from a different direction
This was all beautiful to a person who has been through a Cleveland winter but where was the baseball?
Literally, I came down from the hill with my family, went to an intersection (Oakland A’s fans rejoice). and saw this at the border of Phoeniz on Priest Rd.
It was the Oakland Athletic training complex and stadium. Cleveland plays there Saturday.
Here is where the rivalry starts. I blinked after our family tour guide took some simple lefts and down the street at what felt like down across the street was this stadium and complex.
In defense of how close these stadiums appear, my relative who has lived there said at one time there used to be a clear dividing line between Tempe and Phoenix. Now it is so built up, it seems like they are within walking distance. Its actually about a 5 minute drive. It reminded me of baseball in New York at one time when the Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants all were in certain boroughs of the same city. Talk about rivalries.
Speaking of the Giants, they visited the Tribe today in Goodyear and beat my Indians 10-7. However a great time was had by players
and fans alike.
Tomorrow I will go to my first ever Cactus League game for the Tribe. After what I saw today, I look forward to seeing everything up close and personal, literally. I will be off a few days going up to the Grand Canyon and visiting with more family and will have even better photos to share. I have been waiting all year for it and am ready for my first live taste of Cactus League play from the Indians. Aaron Laffey is scheduled to start. I look forward to it and will definitely enjoy it.