Saturday, April 26, 2008

Indians Survive, Top Yanks 4-3

The was some good, there was some bad and there was some ugly. But in the end Victor Martinez delivered a walk off single and the 5th straight Indians victory, 4-3, over the Yankees.

The Indians took advantage of Ian Kennedy's wildness for 3 runs in the bottom of the second. Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal started the inning with single and Franklin Gutierrez sacrificed them to second. Casey Blake walked to load the bases and was followed by another walk to Grady Sizemore to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. A David Dellucci SF fly and a Travis Hafner single made it 3-0 Tribe after 2.

Jeremy Sowers worked in and out of trouble through five innings but ran into trouble in the 6th. After striking out Derek Jeter to start the inning, Sowers allowed a single to Alex Rodriguez, hit Jason Giambi and walked Shelley Duncan. Jensen Lewis relieved and promptly struck out Robinson Cano. Lewis looked to be possibly be out of the inning when pinch hitter Jorge Posada lofted a soft fly ball to LF.

David Dellucci was playing deep and a catch seemed improbable. Instead of simply allowing the ball to drop and only allow 1 or 2 runs to score he attempted to make a diving catch and the ball rolled to the wall for a 3 run triple and a 3-3 tie. The Indians caught a break as any other runner may have made it home with an inside the park home run.

Lewis got out of the inning without any further damage and skated out of a jam in the 7th inning after Johnny Damon led off the inning with a double. Masa Kobayashi pitched a clean 8th and worked out of a jam in the 9th after a line drive went off 3b Jamey Carroll's glove thanks to a 4-3 double play courtesy of The As-Man on a hard shot off the pitching mound.

The Indians squandered a scoring opportunity int he 6th when Yankees' 3B Alberto Gonzalez snared a Casey Blake laser beam and double off Jhonny Peralta at third. Grady Sizemore was caught stealing to end the 7th after leading off the inning with a single to snuff another potential rally.

The 8th inning saw Uncle Eric gets ejected for arguing a fielder's choice call at second base. Martinez walked and on a deep ground ball to shortstop, Ryan Garko was called out at second. Replays showed that Robinson Cano never fielded Derek Jeter's throw until his foot was off the bag and Martinez's was on it but Martinez was called out anyway.

In the 9th, Sizemore and Dellucci single with one out to bring up Travis Hafner. A Ross Ohlendorf wild pitch sent runners to second and third and Yankee skipper Joe Girardi decided to walk the slumping Hafner and face Martinez. A curious move with Hafner's struggles and Martinez's career number against the Pinstripers. Martinez delivered the game winner and Kobayashi's first MLB victory.

The win put the Indians at 12-12, the first time they have been at .500 since April 8. It only gets tougher as Chien-Ming Wang faces C. C. Sabathia in another National TV game on TBS Sunday. But the Tribe has taken the first 2 against the Yankees and seems to be gaining a little momentum.

It's Tribe Time Now.

Indians Use Wining Formula to Topple Yankees 6-4

I have to admit when Casey Blake grounded into the inning ending fielder's choice in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded I was worried that Andy Pettite would get dialed in and that would be all she wrote. But the Tribe used the formula that made them successful in 2007 to notch their 4 consecutive victory, a 6-4 win over the New York Yankees. Clutch two-out hitting, a solid yet unspectacular effort from their starter, a couple timely homer runs and bullpen domination were in full effect.

The Indians scored all their runs with two outs. That in itself is phenomenal. Now, I don't recommend this as the only way to score. Scoring as much as possible no matter how many outs their are is preferred but we'll take just scoring with two outs as long as it equals a win. Jhonny Peralta came through twice with an RBI single in the first and the 3-run jack in the fifth to make it 4-3. Franklin Gutierrez followed with another homer to make it 5-3 and Jamey Carroll delivered the ever important insurance run with a broken bat bloop in the sixth.

Now Paul Byrd got the win but many will say he had a bad outing for attempting to start Yankees Homer-Palooza 2008. My retort to that is this: IT'S PAUL F'N BYRD! He give up lots of hits and homers but can hunker down and give you a solid effort and keep you in the game. Anything more is a bonus. This has been his M.O. since he's been here. He didn't walk anybody, didn't strike out anybody and gave up three homer runs. THIS SHOULD NOT SURPRISE YOU! This is why he's the 4th Starter. The one thing I like is that Uncle Eric has been playing it safe and pulling him a little too early rather than a little too late. I think this is sound strategery for the Byrd-man. Yes, I said strategery.

Perez, Betancourt. 3 and 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, 10 outs in only 32 pitches. This is a good formula. My only concern, just like last year, is that if these guys pitch in 80+ games their arms are going to fall off and we are screwed for the Fall stretch run. Jenny Lewis needs to gets sorted out and I know they are trying to work Masa K. into the back end but where has Craig Breslow been? What did he do? He has been solid, yet unspectacular, but they need to get him some work so Perez's arm doesn't fall off.

The Indians get the National TV games on Fox today and on TBS tomorrow so let's see how they handle their recent success. The 2007 formula for success seems to have been reinstated which is a good thing. It won them 96 games last year. Keep that in mind, gentlemen.

It's Tribe Time Now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tribe Wins First Series Since Opening Weekend

Sweet Lord was that a long time coming. The Indians swept a double header in Kansas City on Thursday, completing a three game sweep of the Royals. It was the first series win for the Erie Warriors since taking two of three from the White Sox on Opening Weekend. I heard that on the broadcast after Game one and did a double take. The Tribe stands at 10-12, and somehow is only 2-and-a-half games out of first. We'll see where they stand after a four game set versus the Yankees at the PP.

So Fausto Carmona struggles, but Grady Sizemore goes 4-5 with a homer, a run, and two RBI. Victor Martinez goes 3-5 with a run, a RBI, and a two B, but the Tribe puts up a nine spot. And neither of them struck out... Brilliant! This is a simple formula boys. You two need to produce if this team is going anywhere. When you guys are dialed in, it's amazing how different this team is.

The three two-out RBI hits by Victor, Casey Blake, and Sizemore in the first and second innings just set the tone. In the third, the bottom of the order relaxed and padded the lead. I mean Jason Michaels had a two RBI single, and I was stunned. And then Casey Blake delivered another clutch RBI in the seventh. I thought maybe I was drunk, but it really did happen.

Maybe J-Mike is a little nervous because Ben Francisco is up with the ball club and has looked pretty good so far. I certainly know that Casey Blake is not nervous about Andy Marte being here. Unlike Francisco, Marte has done nothing while in the majors. Point being, Casey Blake does serve a purpose while J-Mike does not.

Asdrubal Cabrera ran into another stupid out at third base in the second, and Raffy Perez decided it was his turn to have a bad bullpen outing. There were not a lot of negatives in Game one.

The Doctor would like to thank Masa Kobayashi for closing the door on any possible KC comeback after Mr. Perez's generosity. The Doctor would also like to thank him for avoiding any appearances in certain movies that may or may not have been appeared in by previous Cleveland Indians’ Japanese relief pitchers. This fact is not overlooked by The Doctor.

Memo to the As-Man... Stop being mentally challenged on the base paths. I appreciate the hustle and the effort, but that does not forgive you from doing a Manny "Scum" Ramirez impersonation while running the bases. Keep it up, and there will be no "The As-Man Cometh!" sign from me at the PP in June. Don't disappoint my friend Rob.

What else can be said about Game two other than Cliff Lee, Cliff Lee, and Cliff Lee. Wow. I mean, WOW! Complete game shut-out with nine K, three hits, and only 29 batters faced. Wow.

My words can't do it justice. And just when you thought it was going to be wasted by the offense, David Dellucci goes deep in the seventh, and Travis Hafner wakes up with a double.
The As-Man gets a little piece of redemption with an RBI double for a 2-0 victory.

The Looch actually has me thinking that he could be an asset in a fourth outfielder role spelling Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez against certain pitchers. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I am. Maybe it's the sketchy beard. I don't know, but I think he can be useful. J-Mike, not so much.

Four game wrap-around set with the Yankees this weekend. Let's see how the Wig-Wamers do against some better competition and a National TV audience.

It's Tribe Time Now.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cleveland Indians: How a 15-1 Win Can Be Frustrating

15 runs. 17 hits. No errors. 1 run allowed on only 6 hits. 8 of 9 starters getting a hit. 8 of 9 starters scoring a run. a 6 inning, 4 hit, no run, 11 strikeout performance by the reigning CY Young Award winner. 3 innings of 1 run mop-up work for the bullpen. An all around great performance for the Cleveland Indians and yet I am not satisfied. If anything it frustrates me to no end.

Why? Because in each of the past two weeks the Tribe has pulled a one game performance like this and gone through the motions in the rest of the games. Don't get me wrong, I am not dogging the effort or the energy of the club. Its just the approach and the way the season has unfolded at the start.

In 2007 the Indians had so many obstacles to overcome it was incredible they won 96 games, the AL Central and game within a game of heading to the World Series. It really was. Whether the scheduling issues with the snow outs, the injuries to the starting rotation or even the metamorphosis of the bullpen, the Tribe overcame it all in 2007.

Throw in the fact that Travis Hafner never got his groove back, Grady Sizemore really didn't have the year he could have and the corner outfielder revolving door and it was even more amazing what they did. With all that didn't go their way last year I felt that if they could stay focused as they did last year they were one of a few legitimate title contenders. 2008 has not started with them looking like one in any way shape or form.

Hafner still looks lost at the plate. The one guy who didn't get a hit or score a run in the 15-1 romp over the Royals... Pronk. Granted, he has been hitting the ball hard and to all fields of late, but he's just not producing the way he needs to. A .213 average and 20 strikeouts in 75 at-bats is not good. This team will only go as far as Travis Hafner takes them. With him in Pronk mode the line-up is completely different.

After a hot start, Sizemore has fallen off and currently sits at a .356 average and still continues to strikeout an inordinate amount of times for a lead-off hitter (16 in 78 ABs). If Hafner is the alcohol that give the drink it's kick than Grady is the straw that stirs it. He's not getting on base enough to be a nuisance in the running game to give Hafner and Victor Martinez those RBI opportunities they need. Martinez who has average around 100 RBIs a year the past few seasons only has 7 in 20 Indians games so far.

Martinez is worrisome, too, as his lack of power and ability to drive the ball is cause for concern. A .345 average is outstanding but when only 3 of your 19 hits are for extra bases and you hit clean-up that is not going to cut it. I don't know if the hamstring is still an issue but Victor is normally a doubles machine, even for how slow he is, but this year it's not been the case.

When these three guys go 1-5, 0-5 and 1-5 respectively and you win 15-1 it is great that the others guys step up. But it also should give you an idea why the Indians have struggled to beat a rebuilding Oakland A's team and a Minnesota Twins team that is so putrid on offense I am surprised if they score 3 runs in a game.

No offense to David Dellucci, but when The Looch has the third highest batting average and second highest OBP on the team that is not good. When Frankie Gutierrez has to go 3-5 and Casey Blake has to go 4-4 to raise their averages over .200 it tells you the offensive struggles the team has had. Vic, The Looch and Ryan Garko are the only guys hitting above .260. If the Tribe has the same focus at the plate as they did in Kansas City on Tuesday (and in 2007) they can come out of their offensive funk. If they don't, it's gonna be a long summer of wasting great starting pitching.

As far as CC is concerned, it was great to see him have an outing where he mixed his pitches and hit his spots well. That's what Cy Young CC does. But it was against Kansas City. No offense, Royals fans, but you are not an offensive juggernaut. Let's see how well he does against the Yankees and go from there. The rest of the rotation has worked itself out of its funk but Jake Westbrook's injury is disheartening. Let's see if Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers take advantage of the opportunity.

The post-Iron Joe Borowski bullpen is beginning to shake itself out as Jorge Julio, Raffy Perez and Masa Kobayashi seem to be getting into a groove. We will see how Raffy Betancourt adapts to the closer's role and if he can handle the pressure. Jensen Lewis continues to be shaky which makes my ordaining him as the future closer look foolish. My bad, Jenny, I didn't mean to jinx you. I still think either he of recently promoted Tom Mastny needs to get "right" if the bullpen is going to compare to the 2007 version.

So yes, a 15-1 win can be frustrating to some. Hopefully it is the beginning step towards the ultimate goal. If it is a weekly aberration, as it has been, then the Indians are in deep doo doo. The Tribe has the talent to contend, they just need to start using it on a nightly basis.

It's Tribe Time Now.