Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sabathia outduels Halladay, Tribe Wins 6-1

If you are a Cleveland Indians fan it had all the makings of another 1-0 loss starting you right in the face. The Blue Jays had managed to push a run across the plate in the top of the 5th against C. C. Sabathia and Toronto ace Roy Halladay was equally, if not more, dominant. But as Sabathia was able to work out of trouble in the 7th, Halladay was not, and the Tribe took advantage for a 6-1 victory in the series opener at Progressive Field.

Scuffling Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko started the Indians' 7th with back to back singles. Eric Wedge called for Asdrubal Cabrera to bunt, but Halladay was unable to find the strike zone and walked Cabrera on four straight pitches. Casey Blake continued his reversal of fortune from 2007 as he delivered a 2-run double off the wall in left for a 2-1 Tribe lead.

Grady Sizemore weakly popped out to shortstop and it looked as if the Indians were poised to squander another opportunity. But Toronto walked Franklin Gutierrez to load the bases with one out and set up a lefty on lefty match-up of Jesse Carlson versus David Dellucci.

But Eric Wedge played the odds to perfection as he sent up Ben Francisco up to pinch hit and Toronto counter with Jeremy Accardo. Francisco hammered a 2-run double of his own for a 4-1 lead. A wild pitch and sacrifice fly made it game, set, match Cleveland as Jensen Lewis and Masa Kobayashi each pitched a scoreless inning of relief to close to door on the Blue Jays.

Despite the offensive struggles lately, the Indians have a few good trends they are starting to repeat. They won the first game of the series, as they did consistently in 2007, for the second series in a row. Sabathia seems to be back to form after his "Half an April from Hell". Lewis and Kobayshi look to have become alternative options for Uncle Eric out of the pen so he won't have to pitch the Fightin' Raffy Brothers to death.

Travis Hafner did go 2-3 with a double and a walk and looked more composed at the plate for the first time in a while, but gosh did he look awful of that strikeout in the 9th. Regardless, the Indians remain a game and a half out of first in the underachieving AL Central as they approach the quarter-pole of the season.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dellucci Delivers Late, Tribe Tops Yanks, 5-3

It looked like the same old story. Fausto Carmona was effective but wild and only made it through 5 innings. The first time through the order the Indians bats came up with one 30 foot single off the end of the bat of newly promoted Ben Francisco.

The Indians found themselves down 1-0 on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the 1st inning. The Tribe grabbed themselves a 2-1 lead on a Jhonny Peralta home run in the top of the 4th but Carmona relinquished the lead in the bottom of the inning after issuing a lead-off walk.

Andy Pettite and Kyle Farnsworth kept the Tribe silent through the 7th as Rafael Perez held the score at 2-1. In the top of the 8th the Indians finally showed some signs of looking like the pesky 2007 incarnation of themselves.

Grady Sizemore worked a lead-off walk off of an uncharacteristically wild Joba Chamberlain. Jamey Carroll sacrificed Sizemore to second and Jhonny Peralta worked Chamberlain for another walk to put to go ahead run on base. Ryan Garko popped out badly to right on a 2-0 pitch for the second out and thoughts of another rally dying a slow death arose in every one's heads.

But Eric Wedge played the book to perfection, sending up lefty David Dellucci to pinch hit for Franklin Gutierrez against the right-handed Chamberlain. The Looch stepped up and cracked a 3-run homer over the Yankee Stadium right-field short porch for a 5-3 lead. Jensen Lewis worked a scoreless 8th and Rafael Betancourt looked like the Betancourt of old with a 1-2-3 9th to notch his 3rd save of the year.

We'll see where the Tribe goes from here but maybe this can be the spark that wakes their bats from their collective slumber. Carmona's control problems are disconcerting but the 4 scoreless innings from the bullpen more than made up for it. The 8th inning was the approach that the Indians took to the plate in 2007, let's see if they can start applying it to all 9 innings on a consistent basis.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tribe Offense Continues to Nosedive

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. The Kansas City Royals shut out the Cleveland Indians, 2-0, to sweep a rain shortened 2 game set at Progressive Field. This after managing only 2 runs last night against the Royals.

Casey Blake threw a somewhat difficult ground into RF to score the Royals first run in the fifth and spoil another brilliant effort by young Tribe LHP Aaron Laffey. Laffey went 7 strong inning only giving up 4 hits, 2 walks and the 1 unearned run, that scored on Blake's throwing error, while whiffing 5 Royals hitters.

In a baffling managerial move in the 9th, Uncle Eric Wedge pulled Raffy Perez for Raffy Betancourt with 2 out and no on in the 9th and Betancourt, now sporting a 6.39 ERA) promptly gave up a solo HR to feared hitter Miguel Olivo to give Kansas City an insurmountable 2-0 lead. Insurmountable for the Indians inept offense anyways. Why was Perez pulled for Betancourt in that situation? It makes no sense. The was no strategical advantage to have Betancourt face Olivo instead of Perez. None.

The Indians offense was shut down by Gil Meche, Leo Nunez and Joakim Soria to the tune of 4 hits and no walks. 4 base runners total. But hey they only struck out 5 time and didn't ground into any double plays. Well, when you only have 4 base runners it's difficult.

The bottom 5 spots of the line-up are officially a wasteland. The batting averages after the game stand as follows: Peralta .216, Hafner .209, Garko .242 (after a 2-3 afternoon), Blake .202 and The As-Man .191. Ugly. Pure ugly. They are now 3-13 when scoring 3 runs or less. They have played 31 games and stand at 14-17. Yes, that fuzzy math means they have scored 3 runs or MORE THAN HALF THEIR GAMES.

They have a day off before heading to New York to face the Yankees for their final 3 game set ever at Yankees Stadium. If they can't score more that 4 runs in each of those games, odds are they are coming back home 0-3. You can't get worse that 0 runs... I hope.

It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.

Cleveland Indians Killing Me Softly With Their Bats

I feel like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day". Another great pitching performance by an Indians starter. The Tribe offense unable to put up any crooked numbers to put the game out of reach. A slim lead carried in to the late innings. Some soft, yet well placed hits by the opposition against a tiring starter and the front end of the bullpen. A slim lead turns into a slim deficit. The Indians hitters looking inept as they attempt to mount a comeback but are luck if they manage one hit. Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat tomorrow.

Last nights script had C. C. Sabathia playing the hard luck loser to Kansas City's Luke Hochevar. Yes, Luke F'N Hochevar. No offense to Luke, but he is no Chien-Ming Wang, Jerk Beckett or John Lackey. He's not even Brian Bannister. But Big C. C. seemed to run out of gas in the 7th and Masa Kobayashi and Raffy Perez couldn't hold the game tied as the Royals dinked and dunked their way to a 4-2 lead.

So far this season, if you have been watching the Tribe religiously, or even sporadically, you knew that chances of a Tribe comeback were slim to none. The 1 walk in the 7th and the 1-2-3 8th and 9th for the Indians was as clockwork as Bill Murray waking up at 6 AM every day in Punxsutawney. And just as brutal to make you want to throw a toaster into a bathtub with you.

Grady Sizemore seems to have some pep in his step after sitting out for a couple days and Victor Martinez is driving the ball a little more as his hamstring begins to heal but other than that, there is nothing. If fact, the only other player I actually feel 50/50 about when he steps to the plate is David Dellucci. Yes, The Looch. He's hit in 8 of his last 9 games. That is incredible for The Looch.

Travis Hafner is lost. There are many theories as to what is wrong: pulling his head too soon, not reading pitches, off the juice, etc. I don't care what it is but it must be fixed. With out him they are up a poop creek without a paddle. Ryan Garko is lost right now and Jhonny Peralta has rediscovered his lust for sliders low and away and high fastballs. Dear, Jhonny, you can't hit either of those. Every other spot in the line-up is a hole right now. I know it's been unseasonable cols in C-Town in April, but they Tribe needs to heat up and do it fast.

The starting pitching has been sick even with Jake "The Snake" Westbrook on the DL. Sabathia and the Byrd-man have worked out of their slow starts. Cliff Lee just won AL pitcher of the month and still sports a sub 1.00 ERA. "The Joker" Aaron Laffey may only look like he is 12 years old but was tossing a no-no until a plethora of infield hits did him in. All these efforts have gone wasted by the Indians offense. Until they start to produce more than 3 runs a game they will continue to kill themselves (and Indians fans) softly with their bats.