Keep the line moving, Indians summer on the way
Hey, guess what? The Tribe is only five games out in the Wild Card race!
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday it looked like the season was on the brink, but a 5-1 West Coast swing has the team on the sunny side of .500 for the first time all season.
The hot weather has warmed up the bats and maybe it's just heat stroke but optimism for a fun summer has returned.
There are plenty of great signs.
C.C. Sabathia is now a man. It is easy to forget that he is only 24. Maybe it started with the home run in Cincinnati but for me it was the Minnesota game on May 26 when he gave up three runs in the fourth inning. A better effort was needed and he responded by holding the Twins to just one more hit and no runs into the ninth. Since that inning, he has been the ace the Indians have lacked since the start of the Jacobs Field era. He has been big time lately. He hasn't lost since May 15. Since that date, he is 3-0 and has allowed just 11 earned runs in five starts.
Since that game on May 15, the Tribe has lost 11 games. Only two of those losses were by more than two runs and neither of those two losses could be called blow-outs. The Indians have a chance to win every day. They just need to do the right thing at the right time a little more.
Jake Westbrook may be the victim of much of that bad luck but he has proven to be a solid starting pitcher. He hasn't complained about his misfortune and recently, when he lost 3-2, he blamed himself for the loss saying I should have only given up one run. Karma insists that the second half will be his chance to reap.
The much maligned Scott Elarton has been splendid the last month. He is 3-0 in his last five starts with a sparkling 2.70 ERA. He has struck out 13 and only walked seven. Outstanding production for the number five guy.
Kevin Millwood came as advertised and it appears like his stint on the disabled list was just a short vacation. His stuff in the weekend bullpen session was said to be nasty. Millwood’s short DL stay was also a confidence booster for Jason Davis who showed he can be a dependable option in case of injuries.
Cliff Lee along with Grady Sizemore may one day prove the Bartolo Colon trade the best one in club history. In his last seven starts, Lee has allowed more than two earned runs just once. His ERA in May was 2.35 and so far in June is 2.37. He looks like he is on his way to becoming another ace as well.
The bullpen has been so good that the Tribe's closer of the future, Fernando Cabrera, is stuck in triple A with a 5-0 record and surreal 0.93 ERA. He has struck out 40 and walked just 4. But there is no room in the Bigs for him because the pen has been lights out.
And the bats are starting to come around.
Sizemore is becoming a star right in front of our eyes. He is hitting over .300 in the lead-off spot and he had two more hits Sunday to raise his season average to an even .300. But it was his one dumb moment that showed what kind of player he really is. Giants starter Kirk Rueter picked him off first base with a great move and the kid made the Giants chase him down. He didn't give up. He had no chance to get away but he still gave it his all. He plays hard on every play and that is why by the end of the season, he will have the most popular jersey in the stands.
Jody Gerut and Coco Crisp have returned from the disabled list playing great baseball. Gerut is hitting .314 since his return and is hitting .586 in his last 7 games. Crisp has picked up his game as well. With Sizemore, the three have solidified the outfield providing a strong defense.
Ronnie Belliard has remembered his love for the game. Since his scolding at the hands of Wedge, he started to swing the whipping stick. He is hitting .293 and is leading the team in homers and is second in RBI. His smile has returned.
Quietly, Aaron Boone has righted the ship. He is 10 for his last 26 and granted one week doesn't make a season but he is hitting .263 the last month. All-star numbers, no, but his professionalism has served him well and I predict by September, he will be a fan favorite.
So where does that leave Casey Blake? A great clubhouse guy, he has been pressing. Now his at bats are more precious. With the rest of the team heating up, he may be without a spot. He responded with a big homer Sunday and he is insurance for almost every position on the field.
We haven't even talked about the Tribe's three biggest bats in Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Ben Broussard. Victor lost the braids and is starting to get his groove back. Pronk has fought through an injury and he is too good a hitter not to have a big second half. Big Ben carried the team during the early season drought.
Heading into last night's game with the Rockies, the Indians were 31-30 despite not hitting for all of April and May. Just five games out.
The Tribe still have much to prove against the White Sox or the Twins. They came up short in both road series at the start of the month but despite being off the National radar of the playoffs, they are not out of it.
There are other positive signs. Heading into this home stand, the Tribe had 23 games left until the All-Star break, 15 of which are at home. Their opponents' combined record is 179-190 after Sunday's games. Then they open the second half with a huge four game home series against the White Sox. A chance to make a statement before playing 14 straight games against the Royals, A's and Mariners who are a combined 73-113.
Numbers only mean so much but the fat part of the schedule is on the way. The team is starting to swing its way into shape.
And then there is the greatest indicator of all.
Wedgie shaved his mustache. He said he didn't want to get into why he did it.
Yeah baby! Even he believes it was the follicles fault. Strap yourselves in, this summer is going rock!