Saturday, April 5, 2008

Indians Lose Ugly in Oakland

It wasn't pretty and there was very little to be excited about as the Indians fell to the Oakland Athletics, 6-3, last night in McAfee Coliseum. The Indians may have only managed 2 hits the previous night in a loss to Chicago, but the Tribe looked even less impressive in the series opener against the A's. It was an acid flashback to the forgettable 2006 campaign complete with bad defense, no clutch hitting and strikeouts. Lots and lots of strikeouts.

Paul Byrd struggled out of the gate allowing at least one base runner in each of the 5 innings he appeared in and at least 2 base runners in 4 of those 5 innings. He was able to weasel his way of of trouble without harm, as he did in 2007, in 3 of those five innings but a couple hit batsmen, a single and a passed ball gave the A's a 1-0 after 2 innings.

Byrd was unable to make it out of the fifth as a single, Jhonny Peralta error an another single loaded the bases with no out. Peralta's error was only the second worst defensive play of the inning as the next batter hit a slow roller to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. For reason unbeknown to man, the As-Man threw home when there was no chance of a play at the plate and it was 2-0 A's with still no one out. A sacrifice fly and 2 singles made it 5-0 before Jorge Julio came on to stop the bleeding.

The Indians has no answers on offense as the first 11 hitters that stepped to the plate made outs. Compounding their ineptitude, the Indians struck out TEN times in the game, many of them looking. Travis Hafner had two of them and looked awful in both plate appearances. Down 1-0, the Indians managed to get 2 on with 1 out int he fourth but Casey Blake hit into a double play to kill that rally. Even worse, after the Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth and Oakland starter Justin Duchscrerer left with an injury Peralta swung at his kryptonite, the breaking pitch low and away and hit into a double play. Rally killed, game effectively over.

With no Victor Martinez and Hafner still struggling, the Indians offense has had trouble getting going the last two games. The only good thing is that's it's still early, Martinez is nearing a return and Hafner did look very Pronk-like with a 9th run jack. Grady Sizemore and Ryan Garko continue to hit but if no one drives in Sizemore and there is no one for Garko to drive in it's not gonna work.

Some random notes. Franklin Gutierrez is sick with the glove. The catch off the RF wall plus the sliding catch in the eighth. Sweet lord. If Sizemore ever needs a day off I have faith Frankie can get it done in CF. Jorge Julio looked a lot better in his second outing. He did himself in with a wild pitch but was effective otherwise. Nice debut by Craig Breslow with 1 1/3 innings of 1 hit, 1 BB work. The hit should've been an error on Garko but he worked out of it. Very un-Aaron Fultz-like. Well played.

The Indians are now 6-22 since 2001 in McAfee Coliseum. I somehow feel this is Browns' OT Nat Dorsey's fault. Anything bad that happens in Oakland is his fault, in my opinion, after he FORGET TO BLOCK on a game winning FG attempt in Oakland last year. How do you forget to block on a FG attempt?!? Please cut Nat Dorsey!

Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro preach winning series as the way to approach winning the division. It is a good strategy as if you always win 2 out of 3 that gives you 108 wins, the Tribe got 96 last year, which was nice. If they want to win this series the Tribe needs to wake up and win 2 in a row. Let's go, gentlemen.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tribe Bats Slumber, Fail To Sweep White Sox

The Tribe squandered a great pitching effort by Jake Westbrook coming up on the short end of a 2-1 game to the Chicago White Sox. Westbrook held the Sox to 2 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk in 7 1/3 innings. He made two crucial mistakes, falling behind Juan Uribe in the 6th and Joe Crede in the 8th, yielding a pair of solo of home runs which saddled him with a loss. Jensen Lewis rebounded from a rocky opener to pitch a scoreless 1 2/3 innings of relief to close out the game.

On offense the Indians just couldn't solve young White Sox RHP John Danks or the Chicago bullpen as they managed only 2 hits and one run on the afternoon. The Tribe's only offensive threat of the game came in the bottom of the 7th after Ryan Garko doubled home Travis Hafner on a ball barely out of reach from RF Jermaine Dye. Dye and CF Nick Swisher then collided to drop a routine pop fly to give the Indians runners on second and third with one out but they were unable to capitalize.

As disappointing as missing the sweep was the pitching performances in the last two games were exciting to see. Yesterday, before Westbrook's strong performance, Fausto Carmona battled the cold and some control issues to shut down the White Sox. Carmona allowed 1 run on 4 hits and 4 walks but induced 3 timely double plays on a night where he didn't have his best stuff. One fly ball out in 7 innings says it all as Carmona kept the Sox hitters flustered all night.

Masa Kobayashi made his Indians debut with a couple of hits and a strikeout in a 1/3 inning of work Wednesday night as looked sketchy at best. The Indians will be patient with Kobayashi as they admit there will be an adjustment period to the American game. Rafael Perez came on to administer a couple of timely Ks to work out of Kobayashi's jam. Jorge Julio pitched the 9th and labored through it. Two hits, including a home run, a walk and a lot of pitches. I expect his leash to be short like Roberto Hernandez's last year as the Indians have plenty of young arms in Buffalo and Akron itching to get the call.

Grady Sizemore led the offense change on Wednesday and looked like he may be ready to take that proverbial leap to the next level. Three for four with 2 runs, 3 hits, including a triple, a HBP and a 2-out 2-run single to give the Tribe a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish. Not far behind him was Asdrubal Cabrera with a 3-5 outing and a couple of RBIs. If the As-Man can avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump" he may find himself in the #2 hole more often than not and provide the Indians a little more production than they anticipated.

It's off to the West Coast for the 2-1 Indians for a pair of three game sets with the A's and Angels. It will be interesting to see if Paul Byrd is Paul Byrd circa 2006 or 2007 and if Cliff Lee can bounce back from a season from hell. Maybe the warm weather will wake up the Tribe bats as its very difficult to win with only 2 hits. An appearance from Pronk rather than Travis Hafner would be nice as well. A good early season test for the Erie Warriors.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tribe Outlasts White Sox 10-8 in Opener

Well, there was no snow but the Cleveland Indians 2008 home opener was almost as crazy as the 2007 version. Two gopher balls from C. C. Sabathia in a very un-Cy Young-like performance. A 7 inning outburst followed by 6 innings of silence. Some major gifts from the umpiring crew. The Bizzaro Bullpen being bailed out by Mr. Clutch... Casey Blake? And Joe Borowski being Iron Joe again. All in all a crazy game that ended in a Tribe 10-8 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Things started poorly for the Erie Warriors as After getting Nick Swisher to start the game, Sabathia walked Orlando Cabrera and then gave up a long, line drive HR to former Indian Jim Thome to put the Sox up 2-0. The Indians promptly went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 1st with Travis Hafner taking a called strike 3.

But the Indians woke up in the 2nd inning as Victor Maritnez, Jhonny Perlata and Ryan Garko started the second with consecutive singles. An RBI ground out by the As-Man, Asdrubal Cabrera, made the score 1-0 and brought Franklin Gutierrez to the plate. Despite being down in the count 0-2, Frankie stayed in the groove that he was in down in the Grapefruit League and launched a 3 run HR to put the Indians up 4-2. Grady Sizemore added a HR for the second straight Opening Day, Travis Hafner added an RBI double and Victor Martinez added an RBI single and when it was all said and done it was 7-2 Tribe after 2.

Last year, C. C. Sabathia would have hunkered down, slammed the door shut through 7 and then turned it over to the bullpen. Not so today. C. C. gave up another 2 run jack to Thome in the top of the 3rd, this one a towering blast that the wind just kept carrying out to CF. All of a sudden it was 7-4. He rebounded getting the Sox 1-2-3 in the 4th and 5th innings but the 6th inning was a different story. After getting the first man out in the 6th he walked 2 Sox back-to-back, gave up and RBI single to make it 7-5 Tribe and his day was done.

Jensen Lewis came on to fan the next two Sox hitters to end the threat without further damage. He came out to start the 7th but t was a totally different story for their bullpen in 2008. Jenny gave up singles to Swisher and O. Cabrera and was pulled in favor of Rafael Perez. Jason Michaels robbed Jim Thome of extra bases but that only prolonged the inevitable as perennial Tribe Killer Paul Konerko delivered a 2 run single off of Rafael Betancourt to tie it at 7.

After a single to load the bases and a strikeout of Alexis Ramirez things stared to get a little sketchy if you were a White Sox fan and wonderful if you were one of the Cleveland faithful. A. J. Pierzynski hit a bouncer up the middle that Jhonny Peralta got to and made a wide throw to first. Ryan Garko made a full out stretch, on his stomach, and caught the ball. The first base umpire ruled that Garko kept his toe on the bag until after he caught the ball but the replayed showed the call definitely could have gone the other way.

The Indians good fortunes continued in the 8th after in looked as if they may have blown the game for good. After consecutive hits by Joe Crede and Juan Uribe, Nick Swisher was intentionally walked. Orlando Cabrera hit a chopper to Peralta at short and he threw home wildly an pulled catcher Kelly Shoppach off the plate. Shoppach reached back to tag Joe Crede who was called out at home plate. Replays showed that Shoppach didn't come close to applying the tag. So the Indians caught break number 2 of the afternoon.

These things happen in 3s as Jim Thome hit a ground ball to Asdrubal Cabrera who threw to Peralta for the force out at second and the Indians were awarded a double play as the umpire ruled that Orlando Cabrera deliberately threw his arms into Jhonny Perlata even through he was within reach of touching the bag with his feet. Inning over, no runs scored, score still tied at 7.

The Indians came out with back-to-back singles by Shoppach and Peratla to start the top of the 8th. With Ryan Garko at the plate you knew Eric Wedge was not going to call for the bunt. Garko struck out and was followed by a Cabrera who could only manage a weak fly out. The White Sox appeared to pitch around Franklin Gutierrez, who walked to load the bases, to get to #9 hitter Casey Blake. Blake hit .163 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs in 2007. So it only made sense that he drilled a hanging slider from Octavio Dotel off the top of the left field wall for a 3 run double and a 10-7 lead.

Now for most teams this would be game, set and match. No so for the Tribe as Joe Borowski came out to close out the 9th. I call Joe "Iron Joe" for two reasons. One, despite having mediocre stuff he has nerves of steel and like a piece of iron, no matter how many times you hit him he endures. And two, you need an iron stomach to watch him pitch because it's always an adventure. This afternoon was no different... Ground out, home run, strike out, walk, foul out, ballgame, Indians win 10-8.

In the end the Indians won which is all that matters but what an odd, odd way to go about it. A 3-3 day from Gutierrez, an awful outing from C. C., no bullpen support and the situational hitting heroics of Casey Blake. Unbelievable. The Indians either have destiny on their side or its gonna be a long, wacky year. I have a feeling its gonna be a little bit of both.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.