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Cleveland Indians Roller Coaster Season Shows No Signs of Slowing

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I try to stay balanced with this forum, but sometimes I just need the type of cathartic release that only comes with getting words onto paper. So, my love of the Cleveland Indians will inevitably seep out onto these pages from time to time…and this is one of those times. After this past week of Indians baseball, I learned two important things:

1)      The 2011 version of the Indians operate in an emotional carryover free zone.

2)      This team drives me to drinking far more than any other in recent memory.

Exactly one week ago, the Cleveland Indians were about to embark on their most difficult road trip of the year. 4 games against a Red Sox team that’s 27 games over .500 followed by a 3 game set versus the defending American League Champion Rangers. Tribe Manager Manny Acta knew that it would be a tough trip and one that definitely could’ve brought down the Cinderella season. The Tribe played pretty well overall, but still finished up a respectable, yet bittersweet, 3-4. Acta found no shame in finishing the trip 3-4, and he shouldn’t… but after how the trip played out… it just leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Tribe fans as well as much, much higher blood pressure. 3-4 on the road against two of the best teams in the league isn’t bad, but after being so close to 5-2, 6-1, or even 7-0, it seems well worse than it was. Let’s take an in depth look at the gamut of emotions that this week, and only pennant race baseball, can have on me… and my liver. Sorry if the humor in this piece is somewhat lacking… I didn’t have enough room on the emotional roller-coaster of this past week to give humor the room it deserved.

 

Monday August 1st

Josh Tomlin vs. John Lackey

At this point in the trip, the Tribe is reeling. After dropping 2 in a row to the Twins, they compiled an abysmal 2-6 record on a homestand that included the Kansas City Royals. Needless to say, their Central Division lead had vanished and expectations were markably low in the Cleveland sports radio landscape. I was hoping for 5-2, expecting 4-3, and would settle for 3-4. Tomlin has been remarkable for the Indians this year. Yes his 4.08 ERA isn’t setting the world ablaze, but he gives the Tribe a chance to win every time he’s on the hill. Think about this… Tomlin is the only pitcher in MLB history since 1919 to pitch at least five innings in each of his first 35 appearances. 1919 was long ago… and he is the only pitcher to ever have done that… without overwhelming stuff. The kid knows how to pitch and he does it well.

Back to the game… I cracked open the beer of the summer of 2011 Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin. It’s a fantastic beer. The Sox jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead and all of Cleveland was thinking that the game was done. During the previous 10 games, the Indians averaged 2 runs per game… and some of those games were started by the likes of Jeff Francis and Danny Duffy. Still though, the never say die Indians chipped away and As the Indians were putting the game out of reach thanks in part to Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2nd homer of the night, I was into my 2nd Lil’Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and thought… this could be the official beer of the 2011 Tribe; mostly because I want any excuse to drink it, but the win helped. Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2-bomb, 4 RBI night. This win was just what the doctor ordered heading into Tuesday and the Indians nemesis Josh Beckett. This was a game that the Tribe needed, and they got it. I was feeling pretty good about the win, expecting a loss tomorrow and fine with 1-1 to start the series.

Tuesday August 2nd

David Huff vs. Josh Beckett

Oh, great… Josh Beckett. Hard to think of a non-Indians pitcher that has undergone as much of a drastic rooting metamorphosis in my eyes as Beckett has. When he came up with Florida and was putting the finishing touches on defeating the Yankees in the World Series he may have been my favorite non-Indians pitcher not named Mark Mulder. However as he was rudely and unceremoniously eliminating the Indians from the 2007 ALCS he was, and still may be, my least favorite pitcher in the bigs. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all and would love for him to decide to come to Cleveland for 2 mill a year, but until then… when I see Beckett I get annoyed.

As the game started I was enjoying a decent, but not overwhelmingly good Chianti. Settling in for what I thought very well could be a loss, but like always, was hopeful of a win. I wasn’t sure if last night’s offensive explosion was a mirage or a sign of things to come. With Beckett on the hill it would be hard to read because he dominates the Indians. The good news is that nobody told Tribe rookies Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall as they both took him deep. The bad news was that everyone else on the squad knew full well who was on the bump and only managed 4 hits.

Kipnis gave the tribe an early 1-run lead that quickly evaporated thanks to a double-play ball that was thrown away, soon followed up by a wild pitch…Scored runs that should never have was a recurring theme to an otherwise solid road trip. Chisenhall gave the Indians the lead again and Kevin Youkilis tied it back up with a blast. If Beckett is my least favorite pitcher, Youkilis is in my top 3 of least favorite players… primarily for 2 reasons: 1) He rakes against the Tribe. Aside from Paul Konerko I can’t think of anyone that destroys the tribe as much as Youkilis. 2) He was the Santa Claus killer for me. Let me explain. A pivotal moment in any child’s development is when they realize that there is no Santa Claus. There is a kaleidoscope of emotions… from disappointment to anger to appreciation for your parents, back through disappointment and then onto, “oh to hell with it, just give me the presents.” Well when Youkilis broke in I was 21… He was 25, but since he came out of the womb a 45-year old man, his actual age was meaningless. I know that baseball has always been a kid’s game played by grown men, but for whatever reason, maybe it was because I was finishing up college myself and about to get a real job, who knows. Whatever the reason, Youkilis was the first guy that I really looked at and said… that’s not a kid, that’s a guy that eats nails and drinks out of paint cans. I still love baseball just the same was as I love Christmas, but some of the youthful innocence of the game was lost for me when I saw Youkilis, so for that, he will always be on my bad side. As far as the game goes, Jacoby Ellsbury won it in a walk off. My heart sunk, but it wasn’t a killer as I had rationalized a potential loss already, still, to have a shot to win and not always hurts, especially when victory was just one play away and Huff pitched so well… needless to say, I needed another glass of Chianti at the end of this one.

Wednesday August 3rd

Carlos Carrasco vs. Tim Wakefield

Losing on a walk-off on the road can be brutal to a team’s psyche. With 2 more to go, I was hoping for a win, but wary of a hangover. With the recently struggling Carlos Carrasco on the hill, I didn’t know what to think. He has excellent stuff, but blew up his last outing and is facing a 6 game suspension. I settled in to watch the game and was greeted with 2 quick runs from the Red Sox… Where’s the Chianti? Luckily I didn’t drink a full bottle the day before so there were a couple glasses left… and I was going to need ‘em. In the middle of this back and forth game I found myself thinking: “Wow, these teams remarkably, are quite evenly matched.” Surprising thought since the Sox are 25+ over .500 while the Tribe is teetering around the breakeven without one of their best hitters in Shin Soo-Choo. Going forward though, this Indians team has a nice few years ahead of them. As for the present… 3-3 heading to the bottom of the 9th…and a 2 out, walk-off home run by, you guessed it, Jacoby Ellsbury. I couldn’t get to the Chianti fast enough. Back-to-back walk-offs in a pennant race? I thought, uh-oh, this trip is not going to end well… but then…

Thursday August 4th

Justin Masterson vs. Erik Bedard

Again the  Red Sox jumped out to a quick lead, but it didn’t last long as the never-say-die Indians soon answered back and took the lead 3-2. It was about this time where I was thinking: “This team is impossible to figure out, they win on a walk-off grand slam and then lose the next two… they lose on back-to-back walk-offs and they come right back and win…” Foreshadowing, yes, but in Cleveland, you have to stay positive or you will be buried, quickly. The Tribe added on to their lead in the 6th, 7th, and 9th and won by a fairly non-stressful 7-3 score. Split in Boston, not terrible, so close to 3-1 or 4-0, but whatever… on to Texas with the newly-acquired ace on the hill.

Friday August 5th

Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Derek Holland

7-2 Tribe after 2 ½ innings. This is the Tribe of early in the season, the Tribe that allows me to enjoy my Friday night with a tasty beverage and smile on my face. Rangers started Derek Holland was chased after 1 2/3 ineffective innings. Ubaldo was throwing 97, life was good… and then it wasn’t. Jimenez wasn’t sharp, but handed a 2-run lead over to the Bullpen Mafia as they have been come to known as. First up, Chad Durbin, after a rough start to the season he has seemingly found his lights-out curveball as of late and has been breaking ankles with it. Next up Joe Smith with his tidy 1.28 ERA. After he pitched a perfect 7th, Vinnie Pestano blew away the Rangers in the 8th. In comes Chris Perez, the hard-throwing, dependable Indians closer: 6 pitches, 2 outs, no trouble, no damage… until… a bloop and a blast. No anger, just the onset of depression. The game wasn’t over, but it’s ending was inevitable… Even more inevitable after Manny Acta chose not to pinch hit with Travis Hafner saying “a day off is a day off.” Why a guy that doesn’t play in the field needs a day off is beyond me, but maybe there is more to the story. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop as the game entered the bottom of the 11th, and after 2 quick outs it finally did, Elvis Andrus reached on a bunt, got to 2nd on a wild pitch, then scored on an infield single where Matt LaPorta chose to lobby with the umpire instead of keeping his eye on Andrus who scored from 2nd on a ball that never left the infield. There was the anger… and the depression. Undoubtedly the toughest loss of the season; far surpassing the 1 run loss after having the bases loaded and no-outs in the 9th the previous week. Thankfully I was within arms reach of my Southern Tier 422 and it helped to dull the pain of losing another game in the standings to the Tigers.

Satuday August 6th

Fausto Carmona vs. CJ Wilson

A ton of credit goes out to Fausto Carmona in this one. I expected the Indians to start slowly after that gut-wrenching loss, but he battled and threw up 6 shutout innings to keep them in the game. A scoreless game into the 7th, when the Indians broke through for 3 big runs. Carmona probably should’ve been pulled before the 7th, he wasn’t, and still wasn’t after giving up back to back hits. A double play grounder was botched by normally sure-handed Asdrubal Cabrera and eventually led to the Rangers 4 run 7th and again, spelled doom for the Tribe. The Indians went meekly in the 8th. An 8th that included Cabrera getting picked off 1st. As Neftali Feliz entered in the 9th my buddy texted me to put on my rally cap… I didn’t have a hat near me, but I did have freshly-washed socks, that I decided to put on my head in lieu of the hat (This is the part of the story that non-sports fans will never understand). For reference, YES, the habits of the viewer play a direct role on determining the outcome of the game. How else could you explain the Penguins triple-overtime victory in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. It was obviously all because I remained statue-still for nearly 3 hours because the Pens scored to tie it with less than a minute to go game because I was in a certain position, so I was forced to remain in that position until they won it.  Back to yesterday, I cracked a Christian Morlein IPA and awaited the impending doom. Kosuke Fukudome, who has settled in nicely after a rough start, ripped a double to start the inning. After a sac bunt got him to 3rd with 1 out, super-prospect Lonnie Chisenhall had 2 fastballs blown right by him and looked overmatched… or so I thought, the next fastball, came in a 98 MPH and went out at about 110 into right field for a single to tie the game. Michael Brantley followed up with a double and the rally continued until the Tribe held a 7-3 lead. A bit of a shaky 9th by Chris Perez, but he held it together and the Tribe walked out of there with a  big win and one that should’ve brought solid momentum into Sunday.

Sunday August 7th

Josh Tomlin vs. Colby Lewis

I was back to feeling good. The Tigers lost, so a Tribe win would mean they traversed this difficult 7 game stretch with the same 3-game deficit that they began it with. Josh Tomlin was rock solid for 7 innings and the Indians were able to put up single runs in the 2nd, 5th, and 7th. Manny Acta allowed Tomlin to go out there for the 8th even though Mike Napoli had good swings on him all game long. After a leadoff walk, Acta again left him in and he gave up a single to Mitch Moreland. He called on the usually-solid Joe Smith instead of the harder throwing Vinnie Pestano who gave up a squib single to David Murphy, a ripped single to David Murphy and then uncorking a 3-2 fastball 6 feet outside to walk in Texas’ second run. He was allowd to remain in the game just long enough to give up another rip, this time to Elvis Andrus that gave the Rangers the lead. They tacked on a 5th and not even the rally socks and Morlein IPA (yes I tried, same outfit, same socks, same type of beer) could save this game. Another one given away… the pattern of heroic win and devastating loss is getting almost too tough to take. Unless they can break the pattern soon, this season could slip away.

Grand Totals (over the entire 7 day period):

3 Wins

4 Losses (All in last at-bat)

10 total beers

3/4 bottle of wine

Countless hours of missed sleep

Hard to imagine a stranger trip; 4 last at-bat losses and one last at-bat win. The Tribe finds themselves at 56-56, 4 games back with the division leading Tigers coming in to town for a 3 game set starting tomorrow. The Central is there for the taking, the Indians have the resources to do it, they just have to reach out and take it. But for my own sanity, I hope, once in a while, they can put a few games away before the 9th inning.

* for reference, I don’t drink very much (maybe 2-4 drinks per week)… so in case you were going to e-mail the number to the nearest AA facility, you can hang on to it… unless of course the Indians blow a 10 run lead in  Game 7 of the World Series or something, then I may need it.

Discussion

2 Responses to “Cleveland Indians Roller Coaster Season Shows No Signs of Slowing”

  1. *”he may have been my favorite non-Indians pitcher not named Mark Mulder.”

    Ah-Ummm….RYAN DEMPSTER!!!!!!

    Posted by Bobby Digital | August 8, 2011, 7:41 pm
  2. **”1) He rakes against the Tribe. Aside from Paul Konerko I can’t think of anyone that destroys the tribe as much as Youkilis”

    Perhaps you missed a man named Mike Sweeney….

    Posted by Bobby Digital | August 8, 2011, 7:43 pm

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