Friday, August 31, 2007

The Streak Continues

The Indians made it 6 in a row with a tense 6 to 5 victory sealed with a walk-off walk to Kenny Lofton. The Indians almost blew this game. The Indians went out to a 3-0 lead, which they squandered, letting Seattle come back to take a 4-3 lead. The Indians then came back to take a 5-4 lead before watching Seattle tie it 5-5 in the top off the ninth off a clearly tired Joe Knows Closing. Seattle fans could only watch in terror as Victor Martinez singled and O' Flaherty hit Garko with a pitch. Then Rick White (remember him, Indians fans?) walked Gutierrez, got Peralta to line out and then walked Kenny Lofton on 6 straight balls (with K-Love swinging at 2 of them to add to the drama). So, instead of a save, Joe Knows Closing gets a win. Go figure.

Some observations about the game:
  • Rafael Perez is human: After coming on to relieve Laffey in the seventh with 2 on, he gave up two straight hits to give Seattle a 4-3 lead.
  • Rafael Perez also continues to be a freak: The next inning he struck out the side in order.
  • How in the world is Rick White still employed? Why the Mariners believed that he is capable of pitching high leverage situations, let alone low leverage ones is beyond me. The amount of hatred for Rick White still lingers from his time in Cleveland. My gosh, even Tom Hamilton, who likes everyone, dislikes Rick White, and you could tell from the way he called the game last night. And if Hammy dislikes Rick White, it's nothing compared to the profane hatred of Mariners fans.
  • Indians fans in the blogosphere are a generally a pessimistic lot, although generally pretty good natured. We know disappointment, and we've come to learn to expect it. Mariners fans, on the other hand, are just bitter as hell, and profane as well.
  • I almost feel sorry for the Mariners. After getting thoroughly beat down by the Angels (at home!), they had to fly crosscountry to make up a game against a hot team without a day off. Then I think back to April and the Mariners yukking it up in the dugout while swiping a victory from the Indians after 4 and 2/3 innings of baseball during the infamous Snow Game Home Opener. And how, in the midst of the pennant race, we're going to have to make up one of our home games in their stadium. Then I don't feel sorry for those punks at all.
  • Cliff who?
  • Eric Wedge got himself tossed by arguing a non-balk call in the 4th inning. It was clearly a balk, but according to baseball rules, arguing a balk call is an automatic ejection. It was nice to see Wedgie show some spunk, but that left Jeff Datz to run the rest of the game. The thought of Jeff Datz running the rest of the game may be one reason that Wedge doesn't get himself thrown out of more games.
  • Adam Jones looks like he's going to be a hoss for Seattle. He clubbed the first of what promises to be many major league home runs last night.
  • There was great joy in Cleveland when Ichiro struck out in the seventh inning last night with runners on first and second. Ichiro, you may remember, said this recently: "To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying." He heard it from the crowd all night.
  • It's highly unlikely the Tribe will do anything today at the waiver wire deadline, but you never know. It's also highly unlikely we see anyone up from Buffalo tomorrow with the Bisons in the middle of a pennant race and the big club clearly not needing much help. Maybe it will finally be Matt Miller Time. Or maybe Lee comes up to work in the bullpen.

Mojo Watch

Cleveland Indians: The fact that they keep winning games like last night's is an indication that they've still got Full Elvis.

Next up: the White Sox, who, speaking of profanity laced tirades, recently got the what for from Ozzie Being Ozzie. We'll see if it motivates them at all. Buehrle vs. Carmona. Beuhrle has a history of being either nearly unhittable or getting totally thrashed by the Tribe. Let's hope it's that latter tonight.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Santana, Schmantana

The Cleveland Indians once again made Johan Santana their personal rented mule, this time by beating him savagely during a 4-run first inning and then hanging on for a 4-3 victory.

The Indians came out swinging. Sizemore singled, and then Asbrdrubal "Pearl" Cabrera, making his first start at shortstop in place of Jhonny Peralta, smashed one off the railing in left field to stake the Indians to a 2-0 lead. After a Hafner groundout, Victor Martinez hit one into the left field bleachers for a 3-0 lead. After Garko was retired, Gutierrez doubled, followed by a Lofton single for a 4-0 lead. That turned out to be all the offense the Tribe would need.

Sabathia clearly did not have his best stuff, but he had enough to give the team 6 full innings, and he left with a 4-2 lead. Jensen Lewis made an impressive 1-2-3 appearance in the 7th, and Betancourt gave up a run in the 8th after giving up a triple down the right field line that Gutierrez almost caught.

Joe Knows Closing came on for yet another tension-filled ninth. After giving up a leadoff single to the pestky Jason Tyner, he got the next batter to pop a bunt foul high enough that Victor Martinez could dive under it for the first out. The next batter smashed one right to Ryan Garko, who stepped on first and threw it to second, where Pearl tagged the runner to complete the unusual 3-6 double play to end the game.

Mojo Watch
Cleveland Indians:

This team right now has Full Elvis after sweeping the Twins, winning 9 of their last 11 and beating Santana for the fourth time this season. To put that last into perspective, no team had ever beaten Santana more than twice in a season until this year's Cleveland Indians. This puts the Indians 4.5 games over the Motor City Kitties, who lost again to the Royals, and 8.5 games over the Twinkies.

The Mariners come in tonight for a makeup snow date. Aaron Laffey vs. Horatio Ramirez. The Mariners have lost 5 straight, including a thorough beatdown at home from the Angels of Somewhere in Southern California in their most recent series.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pronkitude! Tightrope Saves! Spills, Chills and Thrills Aplenty!

Pronk went yard in the first inning last night to stake the Tribe to a first inning lead for the second night in a row, and the Indians survived another bizarre save by Joe Borowski to hold on to a 6-5 victory over the now not-quite-so-hot-as-they-were Twins.

Grady Sizemore also went deep for the Tribe and Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Garko and Jhonny Peralta all came up with big RBIs, as the Tribe extended their AL Central lead to 3.5 games over the Tigers and 7.5 games over the Twins. Last night the Motor City Kitties lost 6-3 to the Royals.

With the Tribe leading 6-3 going into the ninth, Joe Borowski came in and promptly gave up Brian Buscher's first major league home run. After inducing Rondell White to pop up, Borowski gave up a bunt single to Jason Tyner, and then Jason Bartlett hit what looked like an inning-ending double play down the third base line, where Casey Blake, playing on the line to prevent doubles, was hunched over ready to field the ball. Because Joe Borowski was on the mound, however, the ball hit the base and took a crazy hop right through Casey Blake's legs for a double, putting the tying run on second base. After retiring Torii Hunter on a sac fly, Borowski then struck out Justin Morneau looking with a wicked slider on the outside corner and Cleveland was able to breathe again. I'll say it again - Joe Knows Closing.

The game also featured a phenomenal catch by Torii Hunter in centerfield, who robbed Blake of extra bases with a full speed leaping catch, after which he hit the wall hard and laid on the turf for a couple minutes, clearly winded. Nick Punto also made a nice barehanded stop of a bouncer up the middle to get Ryan Garko.

With this win, the Indians have now guaranteed their fourth straight series victory, and have won four in a row and eight of their last twelve. Pronk has a 5 game hit streak and has raised his average to .256.

Mojo Watch
Pronk: Pronk looks like he's coming around.

Indians Bats: The two-out clutch hitting continues.

Indians Pitching: Although neither Westbrook nor Byrd nor Borowski cruised, they are getting the job done, and the Two Raffies (Betancourt and Perez) are locking down opponents.

Indians Overall: No reason to reduce them from 4 Elvi. They're getting the job done, this series against a good team that needed to win to stay in the pennant race. It's nice to see the Indians exposing the Twinkies for the pretenders that they are.

Next up: Santana vs. Sabathia. So far the Indians have managed not to lose to Santana this year. Here's hoping the trend continues.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tribe Finds a Pearl in Cabrera

Asdrubel Cabrera, the Tribe's "Shortstop of the Future" is looking more and more like the "Second Baseman of Today." All he did yesterday was get a clutch two-out 9th inning hit to send the game into bonus baseball. The day before he made a totally sick play where he fielded a wicked hop groundball and shoveled the ball to Peralta to start a double play - with the runner going. Plus, he's got a signature fashion statement - a necklace which appears to be pearl. Not every baseball player could get away with that.

Since The Pearl was inserted into the starting lineup, the Tribe is 7-3. They finish a road trip where they won all three series at 6-3. Small sample size? Heck yes. Were two of those teams Tampa Bay and Kansas City? Yes. But he seems to have given this team some sort of spark, and the team certainly needed it. On this road series, the Indians did something they hadn't been doing - they beat teams they should have beat. And they took 2 out of 3 from the Tigers.

It was nice to see Pronk get a big base hit yesterday - the winning hit in the 11th in fact, smoking a liner up the middle that actually fell in. Pronk has been a victim of some bad luck lately, but he looked good on that at bat. Turning point? Maybe. We'll see. We've had so many potential turning points recently for Pronk and he's not turned on any of them.

The series against those Pesky Twins will be big for both teams. A good showing here by the Tribe will likely knock the Twins out of playoff contention and perhaps even make them August 31 deadline sellers instead of buyers. Wouldn't that be pleasant to see?

Mojo Watch
Pronk: . I'm giving Pronk back some Elvis, since he got the game winning hit and all.

Indians hitting: This team actually displayed some clutch hitting over the weekend - big hits with two outs and two strikes and game on the line and whatnot. Sure, it was KC, but it bodes well.

Indians pitching:

Asdrubal Cabrera: This kid's got major Elvis going right now, and it seems to be catching.

The Cleveland Indians: Let's give them 4 Elvi for taking care of business on the road. Now it's time to come home and do the laundry and put the Twins through the wringer. We haven't seen much Leadership Pie lately. Time to go to the bakery on this key homestand.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sometimes, You Turn a Corner Only To Run Into Another Wall

Coming into last night's game agains the Kansas City Royals, things were looking pretty good for the Tribe. They had their ace, CC Sabathia, on the mound. They had a 2.5 game lead on the Tigers, after winning two exciting games in Detroit with some clutch hitting and some solid pitching. Zack Greinke, once the Royals ace of the future, was making his first start since getting demoted to the bullpen for incompetence, and was on a 45-pitch limit, so it was guaranteed that the Tribe would get deep into the Royals bullpen.

However, the Tribe once again showed "floppe diem" (fumble the day) as they wasted another fine performance by failing to get any clutch hitting (or any significant hitting at all) in a 2-1 loss to the Royals. The Royals were helped by a critical passed ball by Victor Martinez. With the tying run on third base in the eighth and one out after Emil Brown misplayed Asdrubal Cabrera's fly ball to right into a gift triple, Kenny Lofton, the hero of the previous night's game, whiffed on three pitches. His failure meant Blake had to get a hit to score the run, and he grounded out. Why not a squeeze bunt with Lofton, your best bunter and a swift runner on third, and your team in an offensive funk? Because Eric Wedge doesn't believe in the bunt.

Meanwhile, after wasting whatever mojo they had from winning the last two games of the Detroit series, the Indians were done in time to watch Detroit get a thrilling extra-inning win over the Yankees.

AL Central lead - 1.5 games and slipping.

Mojo Watch:
Pronk has no Elvis. He smashes the ball and the other team makes a ridiculous catch. He bloops the ball and it falls in.

I thought the bats had some Elvis after the Detroit series. I didn't expect they would score 1 run against 5 KC pitchers. Ouch.

The only thing keeping the pitchers from having full Elvis is the fact that they're not winning because the bats have gone cold.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back From Vacation

Q. How are the 2007 Cleveland Indians like the movie Beerfest?

A. Both wasted a lot of great pitchers with very little to show for it.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I go away to Northern Michigan to relax with my wife's family, and the Indians are still wasting great pitching performances by not scoring runs against questionable pitching. Last night, Fausto Carmona was dominant except for two pitches, and the Indians got 1 hit off a guy who was in AA a week and a half ago. The result - a 2-1 loss to the Tigers, and now their division lead is back to 0.5 games.

Let me repeat this. Jair Jurrjens (and yes, that appears to be his real name) was in AA a week and a half ago. Last night, the Indians got 1 hit.

This is getting ugly to the point where it's becoming painful to watch. At what point do you say that it's virtually impossible for a team with that many hitters with a track record to all be in slumps like this at the same time and look for some organizational cause? Do we fire Derek Shelton to shake this team up? Yet, the team is still in first place. Go figure.

Mojo Watch

Pronk's got no Elvis

Indians' bats:
Right now, the Indians' bats got no Elvis

Indians' starting pitching:

The Indians' starting pitching has so much Elvis right now that they're all wearing blue suede sneakers.

The Cleveland Indians:

Bad hitting plus good starting pitching = only moderate Elvis.