The Indians-Angles game had a little bit of everything that made you think that the Tribe might be ready to jump out of their early season funk. The return of Victor Martinez. Jhonny Perlata's swing looking like in did in Winter Haven. Jamey Carroll showing Cleveland why Colorado loved his hand, heart and hustle. Another dominant, all be it a bit wild, performance by Fausto Carmona. Some clutch hitting in the 9th when it seemed all was lost. But it all was for naught as the bullpen cost the Tribe a chance to get over the .500 mark.
Rafael Betancourt gave up a solo home run to former Twin Torii Hunter in the bottom of the 8th to give the Angles a 2-1 lead in a game where the Indians' offense had done nothing but a Jhonny Peratla solo shot in the 4th. But against a wild and eventually hurt Franciso Rodriguez, the Angles closer, Travis Hafner earned a lead off walk and Martinez delivered the tying run with a double down the RF line. Peralta then brought home pinch runner David Dellucci with a double of his own but was thrown out trying to advance to third. After a Ryan Garko walk and Franklin Gutierrez single, Casey Blake delivered another single for a 4-2 Tribe lead.
Enter Joe Borowski. Chone Figgins flew out to left and then Iron Joe imploded along with the Indians chances for victory. Borowski's poison pill in the walk. At least when the ball is put into play there's chance it's hit at someone or it's foul but your defense had a chance to make a play. Well walks to Gary Matthews and Garrett Anderson were sandwiched around a Vladimir Guererro single. Torri Hunter delivered a walk off grand slam for a 6-4 victory and ruined my Tuesday at 1:15 AM.
The Tribe had some growing pains last year and they have had some similar issues in the first week of the season in 2008. The re-appearance of "bad" Travis Hafner. Martinez's hamstring injury and subsequent offensive shut down. The lack of clutch hits. Defensive lapses. The lack of production from LF (Coming soon to a city near you... .000 hitting David Dellucci and .056 hitting Jason Michaels!). All things that are treatable and not super surprising.
But the one thing that was the Tribe's "rock" (no offense to your wife Jim Thome) was the bullpen. Betancourt has now allowed 7 hits and 1 walk in only 2 1/3 innings. That's a WHIP of 3.43 and opponents are hitting .583 off of him. Borowski has given up 3 hits (2 HR) and 4 walks in the same amount of innings pitched. A small sample size but still staggering. If the back end of the bullpen continues to perform like that, the Tribe is in big trouble.
I believe the Indians only lost 1 series from April to June last season, the 3 game sweep in New York at the hands of the Yankees. They now are on the brink of losing 2 of their first three series of the season. Yes it's early and yes I expect them to come out of it but it's disconcerting nonetheless. The Angles are one of the top teams in the AL and with Boston and Detroit on the horizon it doesn't get any easier.
It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.