Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Pitching = No Winning

10-1 Red Sox after 3. Ouch.

Carmona obviously learned nothing from his experience in Game 2. No control. Trying to nibble the corners. He started the game infield hit, infield hit and walk. Loading the bases in the first was awful but he battled back to get Scum Ramirez and Mike Lowell but fell behind the putrid JD Drew and threw a meatball down the middle of the plate for a Grand Slam and a 4-0 lead.

But you could tell he didn't have it again as he allowed runners on first and third with 1 out and thankfully got a DP grounded from David Ortiz to hold the deficit to 4-0. He let Drew get him again for a RBI single and his night was done. Two plus innings and an embarrassingly bad outing to show for it. Enter Rafael Perez, attain 1 out, score 10-1. Aaron Laffey on to stop the bleeding.

So the three biggest pitching assets of the Indians have C. C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Rafael Perez have come up as shit in the ALCS. And because of it, barring a miracle, there will be a Game 7 in Fenway Park Sunday night. It's up to Jake Westbrook to stop the bleeding.

The Indians hitters will have to be on their game as well as they squandered a great opportunity in the Top of the 3rd when Nixon and Blake singled to start the inning but the Indians could not score either of them. Grady Sizemore, 0-8 in the Postseason. Travis Hanfer, 0 for his last 13 as of the 3rd inning. All the bounces are going the Red Sox way. The Indians are going to have to do something to change that if they want to avoid a giant choke job Sunday.

Friday, October 19, 2007

All is Not Lost

Well that sucked.

The Indians laid an egg in Game 5 of the ALCS, losing 7-1 to the Red Sox. The series shifts to Boston for Game 6 and Game 7, if necessary.

C. C. Sabathia battled Josh Beckett for 6 plus innings but didn't have the type of outing that you would want from you alleged ace of the pitching staff. He was in and out of trouble all night and for the most part worked out of it but his performance paled in comparison to Beckett's.

Beckett's 8 inning, 11 strikeout performance was dominant from the moment Travis Hafner hit into a run scored double play in the 1st Inning, derailing and chance the Indians has of getting an early jump of the Red Sox #1 starter. Beckett may have proved himself to be an asshole both on and off the field but he also showed why he is the best clutch pitcher in MLB today.

Boston's bats woke up in the 7th extending a 2-1 lead to 7-1 and putting all hopes of an Indians comeback at home to bed. The Indians offense simply could not find an answer to Beckett which has been a difficultly for all AL teams this season. Amazingly, the Indians have not clinched a pennant at home since they won the 1920 World Series at old League Park.

But fear not, the Indians still need only win one of two games and in their last two trips to the World Series they were up won game 6 on the road at Seattle in 1995 and Baltimore in 1997. A solid start by Fausto Carmona and some offensive production will go a long way in making it happen again in 2007.

It's difficult to beat any team 4 straight times, let alone a good team like the Red Sox. If they Indians deserve to go to the World Series they will earn it. If they lose 3 straight to the Red Sox then they definitely won't deserve it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blood in the Water

After four and a half innings everything seemed very much in doubt. Tim Wakefield's knuckleball was knuckling beautifully, confusing and frustrating Indians hitters left and right. The Indians had notched only two walks and one hit, a solid double off the wall in left field by Jhonny Peralta, and looked as if they were in serious trouble.

The Red Sox had managed four hits and had gotten a runner to second base in two of the five innings. Paul Byrd was Paul Byrd. Giving up some hits while walking no one and working out of trouble. The were a lot of loud outs, but they were outs nonetheless. But you had to think that the Red Sox were in prime position to explode at any moment... until the Indians beat them to it.

A 7 run Bottom of the 5th rocked the Red Sox as every twist and turn fell to the Indians advantage. Casey Blake led of with a monster jack over the wall in left field that seemed to wake up the Tribe. Frankie Gutierrez singled to left on a ball at his eye level and Kelly Shoppach got plunked by a 60 MPH knuckler.

Then everything went the Indians way. Grady Sizemore sent a slow dribbler to second that forced Shoppach at second but advanced Frankie to third while Sizemore took first. The As-Man lifted a ball down the first baseline that Kevin Youklis bobbled 6 times before dropping and you could sense that something was about to happen. Cabrera then sent a liner back at Wakefield that spun out of his glove and deadened in between second base and the pitchers mound. A would be DP that turned into a RBI infield single. Victor Martinez followed with an RBI single through the left side which ended the night for Tim Wakefield.

Peralta rudely greeted Manny Delcarmen with a no doubt 3 run HR to right to make it 6-0 and send The Jake into a frenzy. Kenny Lofton then singled, stole second and scored on Casey Blake's bloop single to center that Coco Crisp barely missed catching on a dive. After it was all over the score read 7-0 Cleveland.

After more than 30 minuted in the dugout Byrd came out rusty and gave up 2 no doubt solo homeruns to Kevin Youklis and David Ortiz before giving way to Jensen Lewis. He may no be pretty but Paul Byrd wins plain and simple. There are no style points for pitchers, just wins. Manny Ramirez greeted Jensen Lewis with a monster HR to deep center that he stood and watch for a good 5 - 10 seconds as if he just won the game. Problem was, it only made the game 7 - 3. All that Jensen Lewis did after that was follow it with 2 scoreless innings of work which Raffy Betancourt followed up with retiring 6 straight to end the game. Final score Cleveland 7, Boston 3.

In what seems to be the theme to the series so far the Indians keep beating the Red Sox to the punch and keep shaking off the Red Sox' retaliation. Scoring 7 runs to establish control of the game and just when the Sox think they are back in it with back to back to back homeruns the bullpen comes in, completely shut them down and give them no hope.

So now the Indians are up 3-1 in the ALCS. One win to go. All the Media is going to say is that the Red Sox were down 3-1 to the Angles in the 1986 ALCS and came back to win the series. And they were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and won the series. But there is one difference, the Red Sox were a better team than their opponents. In the 2007 ALCS that is not the case. Yes, they have Josh Beckett going in Game 5. Yes, if they win Game 5 they have the next 2 games in Boston. Yes, Boston has a $200M payroll. But none of it matters.

The Indians have the Red Sox down. Their confidence is up. They know they can take the best shot the Red Sox have and attack right back. More importantly, they know they are the better team. Whether they win Thursday night or not, they have their foot on the Red Sox' neck and the smell blood in the water. And if the Indians have proved anything in 2007 it's that when the smell blood, they go in for the kill.

It's Tribe Time now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kenny and the Snake

What a game. Jake "The Snake" Westbrook was masterful. Kenny Lofton was magical. The crowd was unreal. It all lead to a 4-2 win by the Tribe over the Red Sox to take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.

Westbrook had pinpoint control all night, minus the one pitch to Varitek in the 7th, and induced ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. The three double plays were huge starting with the amazing one in the first inning off the bat of David Ortiz turned, out of the shift, by the As Man to Blake to Garko. The one in the second was huge as it got the Tribe out of a bases loaded, no out jam without a run being scored. The last one of the bat of Manny “Scum” Ramirez was a delight to the entire Jacobs Field crowd. Enter Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Borowski and game over.

Kenny Lofton continues to push this team as he ignited the crowd in the Bottom of the 2nd with a 2 run homer that barely got out of the park, and over J. D. Drew’s glove, a half inning after Westbrook worked out of the bases loaded no out jam. The As Man delivered a clutch RBI single in the 5th followed by a moment of heart and hustle from Pronk to beast out a potential double play ball to allow the 4th run to score on a fielder’s choice.

So it’s on to Game 4 tonight at The Jake. Paul Byrd versus Tim Wakefield. The Indians struggle against the slow stuff. It will be interesting to see how they work Wakefield. The Red Sox thrive against finesse pitchers like Byrd so he will have his work cut out for him. Regardless, the Indians have the upper hand and can put themselves in prime position with a win tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Should Be Expected

When is the last time the Browns went into a game and did what everyone expected them to do? I can't remember. Maybe sometime in the 2002 season, if then. As of late they have been giving win less teams their first win of the year all too frequently, including Week 3 at Oakland. But in a change of heart, the Browns came out, marked their territory, and minus a little snooze-fest by the Defense in the 3rd Quarter, dominated a completely inferior football team... which is nice.

What can you say about Derek Anderson. He's keeps learning and improving which is not something you can say about any other Cleveland QB since 1999. His two best plays were scrambling for a first down on 3rd and 2 instead of forcing it into coverage and throwing the ball away at the end of the half the preserve a FG attempt. Could he have scrambled into the end zone? Maybe, but it was a 50/50 chance and he took the sure points while up by 14. Do I still think he is the long term answer at QB? No. But he;s shown that he could be, and is definitely someone you'd have no qualms being your back-up or spot starter in a pinch. This is the NFL you need a second QB who can play or you are dead in the water.

Rob Chudzinski keeps coming up with brilliant game plans. Knowing that the Browns will have to outscore their opponents (we'll get to that later) he attacks and attacks and attacks. There is no let up. To put up 41 points without your stud running back and use his two back-ups efficiently is more impressive than the play of DA, Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow. It seems like Braylon and K2 finally "get it". Be a professional, just play football and the rest will come. Both these guys are finally paying dividends after a couple of years as disappointments. With the O Line gelling (minus one sack yielded by the HPC) and playing physical the Browns on O are starting to take it to their opponents and playing with confidence. It's amazing what playing from ahead will do for you.

The only sad state of affairs in the D. Hopefully the bye week will give the coaches a chance to implement so personnel and scheme change to help. The D line is atrocious and a huge question mark. It finally looks that the Browns have conceded that Ted Washington and Orpheus Roye's best years are behind them. Without the D line taking up space on running plays or getting penetration on passing plays, the athletic LB core is going to struggle. We've known for years that the ILBs can not make tackles (except for 5 yards down field) without help from the D line. And without the pressure on passing downs the young, green secondary is going to be picked apart. Leigh Bodden is healthy, Eric Wright is rapidly improving but Brodney Pool and Sean Jones, especially, are having a difficult time making plays like last year. None of the secondary can cover a receiver for 5-7 seconds. Not gonna happen. The D is holding this team back from what could be an even better year than it has been.

So it's of to a bye week in Week 7 followed by an away game against the win less St. Louis Rams. The Rams have major injury issues on the O line and Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson are not healthy either. Their defense is even worse than the Browns'. It looks like an eerily similar script to the Miami game. The only problem is that the Browns have not won 2 games in a row in over 3 years. But unlike in the past 3 seasons they should win this game. Why? Because the Browns are finally doing what we all expect them to do.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

7-11 Heaven!

Wow. All I can say is wow. Hopefully, the Indians can turn this into a 'Rocky IV' moment. After taking a beating from Ivan Drago in Round 1, right at the end of Round 2, Rocky Balboa lands a blow to the giant Russian, cutting him below the eye. When he gets back to his corner his trainer, Duke, utters one of the great lines in a sports movie... "You cut him. He's hurt. You see! He's not a machine, he's a man!" 7 runs in the 11th inning clarifies as a cut below the eye. With that effort the Indians tied the ALCS at 1-1 with the next 3 games at home in Jacobs Field.

More impressive is how the Indians battled from the start after getting pummeled 10-3 the night before. The jumped on top int he first inning 1-0 before Curt Schilling got settled in. Carmona had an awful 3rd which included another bases loaded walk to Scum Ramirez and a 2 run double to Mike Lowell but the Tribe answered right back in the Top of the 4th with a 3 run jack by Peralta. Grady added a solo HR in the 5th before Carmona and Rafael Perez imploded.

Carmona gave up a single to Kevin Youklis when Uncle Eric called for the normally automatic Rafael Perez to face David Ortiz. He got Big Papi out but gave up back to back bombs to Scum and Mike Lowell to make it 6-5 Red Sox. Jensen Lewis was summoned and stopped the bleeding with a great DP by Blake as the As-Man.

But once again the Indians answered. Peralta and Lofton put together back to back singles to put runners on the corners. Franklin Gutierrez drove in a run on a ground out to make it 6-6. Casey Blake struck out and Pronk was robbed with the bases loaded by the shift but the Indians tied it up after what was a brutal assault by the Red Sox in the previous half inning.

And the the bullpens took over. Jensen Lewis and Rafael Betancourt were lights out for the Tribe. Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon were as good for the Red Sox. Papelbon worked out of a jam int he Top of the 9th allowing 2 men on after he had gotten the first 2 outs. Betancourt answered for the Indians in the bottom of the 9th as the Red Sox got a runner to second with 2 outs and them battled Kevin Youklis for 11 pitches before he retired him on a lined shot to CF. The Indians went 1-2-3 in the 10th and the Red Sox sent up Ortiz, Ramirez and Lowell. Betancourt was out of gas so Uncle Eric called upon Tom Mastny who retired the heart of the Sox order 1-2-3. Mr. Mastny, like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, your something grew two sizes that day, and it wasn't your heart.

The Indians then erupted for 7 runs in the Top of the 11th (a MLB record) ignited by a PH single from ex-Red Sox Trot Nixon who was batting for Josh Barfield who was a PR for Hafner in the 9th. The As-Man then scored on a wild pitch, Ryan Garko followed with a RBI single and Jhonny Peralta followed with a RBI double. Gutierrez ended all doubt with a 3 run HR over the Green Monster. Ballgame. Tribe 13, Sox 6. Series tied 1-1.

The Indians have gotten nothing from their two aces, Sabathia and Carmona, so it now falls upon Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd to step up and take control. The Tribe has 3 in a row at home. Uncle Eric has professed winning and splitting series all season. They split 1-1 in Boston. They need 2 of 3 at home, or better. The Tribe took the Sox best shot and punched them right back.

What a difference a day makes!