Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tribe v. Sox - Repeat Performance

It was all too similar to Game 1. A superb outing by the starting pitcher. Boston scoring first with the help of an error. The Indians coming back to take the lead but not jumping on the Red Sox when they had the chance. The Sox taking the lead and the Indians battling back. A key member of the Tribe bullpen getting out of a jamb in one inning only to give up a home run in the next. When it was over the Indians had to look themselves in the mirror as losers of 9 of their last 12 games.

The script was the same, the players were different. Paul Byrd went 6 strong innings of 6 hit, 1 run (unearned) and notched 6 strikeouts. Franklin Gutierrez made the error that contributed to the run and then got picked off second in the 3rd and cost the Indians a run of their own. The Indians had 2 on with 2 out in the third and failed to score. Had 2 on with 1 out in the 4th and failed to score. Had two on with 1 out in the fifth after scoring 2 and couldn't score again. Had the bases loaded in the 7th and only scored once. Once again failing to put the Red Sox away when they had the chance. Once again having it come back and bite them in the 9th.

Jensen Lewis worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the 8th to keep the score tied at 3, but then gave up a game winning home run to Jason Varitek in the 9th and another run to boot, making it 5-3. Game, set, match Red Sox. Another potential win turned into a loss for the 5-9 Cleveland Indians. Only a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers. Yes, the Tigers who started 0-7.

A slow start may have been expected but not like this. The bullpen could not have been expected to have a lights out year like 2007 but it seems as if each night another Indians' reliever fails to come through. Great starting pitching is wasted by a putrid offense that fails to score in bunches or land the knockout blow. That spring in their step the Tribe seemed to have last year is clearly not there and they need to do some soul searching to find it.

In 2007, the Tribe had to overcome a lot of things. Injuries to the starting rotation, a rebuilt bullpen, sub par years from Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, rookies thrown into the fire, home games in Milwaukee, the Opening Weekend Snow-out and subsequent scheduling debacle. And despite that they made it to within one game of the World Series.

In 2008, everything seemed lined up for a serious title run. Everyone was healthy and tested. Very little roster turnover. Players primed for bounce back years. A team ready to make the next step. Unfortunately, their next step in 2008 has been backwards. They need to do a complete 180 if they want to fulfill the potential they have. It's still early but the early results are not pretty. But until then Tribe fans will have to swallow their pride and realize the better team won the first series in 2008 just like in the 2007 ALCS.

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