Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Conundrum That is the Cleveland Indians

On Tuesday, the Indians had lost 7 of their last ten games after being shut out 3-0 by the Florida Marlins and pitching powerhouse Scott Olsen. The day before, they let the Mariners jump out to a 7-0 lead, came back and tie it at 7, only to give up the losing run in the top of the 9th. The day before that, They spoiled 9 shut out innings from C. C. Sabathia (who SHOULD be 12-1), and lose a series to the last place Reds, after a 1-0 loss in twelve innings. Earlier that day they optioned the disappointing Jeremy Sowers to AAA Buffalo to hopefully work out his troubles. It looked as if bad baseball, bad managing and Interleague Play had caught up to them as they let a 4 1/2 game lead over the 2nd place Tigers disappear. They were deadlocked at 37-26 with the Tigers atop the AL Central. It looked as if their season may have peaked. Detroit was streaking. Cleveland was slumping. We had reached Defcon 1.

Then they were down 3-0 in Game 2 versus Florida after a piss poor 1st inning by Cliff Lee and nothing that resembled Major League hitting. Then something happened. Cliff Lee hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch and half way to first base Miggy decided to make the lamest charge of the mound in baseball history. Benches emptied and the fire that had been missing from the Tribe suddenly seemed to rekindle. Could this be the awakening we needed like the series versus Toronto when Jason Phillips got in Josh Barfield's face only to be shoved out of the way by David Dellucci and the Tribe went on to win 6 of their next 8 games???

The Indians stormed back with a 6 run sixth and ended up taking the game 7-3. They followed that up by turning the tables on an opponent by calling up a soft tossing lefty (normally the Indians foil), Jason Stanford, and getting him his first win since 2003 in his first appearance in the big leagues since 2004. It wasn't pretty but the Indians did what they needed to do came away with a 3-2 win, and suddenly were 2 games up on the Tigers once more.

More than any other major professional sport, baseball is a marathon and a war of attrition. Teams are going to go through streaks, good and bad. The key is to maximize the hot streaks and minimize the cold ones. The Indians just went through a cold streak that was pretty bad, but it could have been a lot worse. They are coming home to play 14 of their next 17 at home, where they have the best record in baseball. They take on Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland and Tampa Bay (sandwiched around a trip to DC to take on the Nationals). None of whom are baseball powerhouses this year.

Can they step up and remain in first place until the All-Star game? That is the conundrum that is the 2007 Cleveland Indians.

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