Everything was set up perfectly for the Indians to extend their ten game winning streak. They were coming home after back to back sweeps of the Rangers and Tigers in Texas and Detroit, respectively. This followed taking two of three from the powerful Los Angeles Angels and sweeping the Kansas City Royals at home.
They were getting arguably their best player, Victor Martinez, back in the line-up after a couple of months on the disabled list. The ten game winning streak had pulled them to within two games of .500 at 65-67 and they looked crisp, focused and hungry in each game.
But they ran into the buzz saw that is the Seattle Rangers, the team with the worst record in the American League and the Mariners swept them out of Progressive Field in a three game series. Sadly, it was some of the same disturbing trends that got the Tribe into the sub-.500 hole that got them swept by the American League’s bottom dwellers.
During their ten game tear, the Indians scored 73 runs (7.3 runs/game) and consistently came through in the clutch and with runners in scoring position. In the three game series with the Mariners they scored only nine runs total and hit an abysmal 3 for 29 as a team with runners in scoring position. In all three games, the Tribe was able to getting runners in scoring position with less than two out late in the game, but were unable to cash in enough to make it count.
In game one Friday, the failure to come through in the clutch wasted four scoreless innings by the Indians’ bullpen who picked up started Jeremy Sowers who existed after five innings of three run ball. The motley crew of Juan Rincon, Brendan Donnelly and Eddie Mujica held Seattle to one hit and one walk over those four innings.
On Saturday, they wasted a brilliant seven inning, seven hit, one run performance by starter Anthony Reyes who looks like the change of scenery from Saint Louis to Cleveland has done him well. The Tribe did rally in the 9th against Mariners’ closer J. J Putz but closer Jensen Lewis was unable to close the door in the 10th inning and the Tribe bats could not come through in the home half of the tenth.
Sunday, they were able to overcome a poor start by Zach Jackson with their Jeckel and Hyde bullpen one again putting up four scoreless frames on the board. This time it was Masa Kobayashi, Rincon and Rafael Perez performing the deed, allowing only one walk and no hits. But once again the offense could not come through late and the Tribe was left to wonder what happened.
That is the beauty of baseball. You never know what is going to happen. With the Indians riding high you never would have given the Mariners a chance to win the series let alone sweep it, but they did. In this enigmatic 2008 for Cleveland, you just have to shake your head and laugh.
It doesn’t diminish the fact that this club; after jettisoning CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, Paul Byrd and countless other veterans; was able to pull off ten in a row against teams not named the Seattle Mariners. Not many contending teams can pull off that long of a streak in a season.
So they need to regroup as the AL Central Division leading Chicago White Sox come into town on Labor Day. But the day after former Indian Jim Thome hit his 536th home run to tie Mickey Mantle for 14th all-time, it is the Indians who are looking for history as Cliff Lee guns for his 20th victory of the season.
It will be Lee's first attempt to win his 20th game, something no Indian has done since Gaylord Perry in 1974. He will have to do it against one of the American League’s most powerful line-ups as the White Sox lead all of Major League Baseball in home runs.
After being swept by the worst team in the American League who knows what will happen to the Indians today? Hopefully for the Progressive Field faithful and Cliff Lee, it will be back to the Indians of the ten game winning streak and not the Indians of the last three games.