Hitting Reset on the Indians Season
Mike B. | On 09, Jun 2014
When I was a kid, I played a lot of sports video games and whenever the opposition in RBI Baseball or Tecmo Bowl suddenly started striking out my team or intercepting every pass, I did what every rational 10-year old would do.
Pressed reset, took the game out and banged on it a couple times and started over.
It feels like the Indians pressed reset three weeks ago, today. After a three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics and a four game losing streak, the Indians were about to open a three game series with the Detroit Tigers. They were just 19-25 and already stood 10.5 games back of the Tigers and the series and Detroit was coming off a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, in Boston. It appeared as if the series could be an early knockout punch to the Tribe’s, “Unfinished Business,” from a season ago.
Then, the Indians hit reset.
The Indians swept the Tigers in their three game series, cutting their deficit to just 7.5 games in the standings as the Motor City Kitties left town. It has been the springboard to a 13-7 record since the embarrassing weekend with Oakland. Defensively, the Indians no longer look like their gloves are made of plywood. A bullpen, left without a closer and defined roles, seems to be re-defining roles with the help of Cody Allen in the ninth inning and Bryan Shaw setting him up. The rotation seems to have found itself, spurred by two solid starts from Justin Masterson and consistent efforts by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley continue to make pushes to have their names on the American League All-Star roster. Despite being the worst road team in Major League Baseball, they’ve won two of their first three on a 10-game road trip.
The Indians have always been streaky in the Terry Francona era. Even in the middle of their 13-7 streak, they lost four in a row—including a three game sweep in Chicago. But what might make the Indians’ reset even more amazing is that the Tigers have struggled just as quickly as the Tribe has took flight. Since that same May 19 morning, Detroit is just 6-14 and the Indians are now just three games back of first place. Making up seven and a half games is tough to do in three months, but doing it in three weeks is remarkable and takes an effort from not just one team.
Cleveland now sits at 32-31 and with 99 games to go are back in a race for the division title. They aren’t perfect, and maybe not a serious World Series threat yet, but they’ve come a long way since their reset three weeks ago. The keys to the summer many expected when spring training opened could be in some individual resets of their own.
After 51 games, Carlos Santana was hitting .151 and playing poor defense. Santana suffered a concussion on May 25 and was forced to the seven-day disabled list. He returned to the lineup Friday night after a week and has gone 4-for-8 and drawn four walks. It’s a small step, but his batting average has jumped 15 points this weekend. A productive Santana is a step toward the championship direction.
Likewise, Nick Swisher is supposed to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday evening in Akron and Zach McAllister began his climb back last Thursday. A reset in each of their games and positive production moving forward would make the Indians a much stronger team and one that could contend with the Tigers all summer long and into the fall. Swisher and Santana’s defense were major liabilities prior to their trips to the disabled list.
Swisher is hitting just .211 with three home runs on the season before being placed on the disabled list on May 27 with a hyperextended knee. His absence has helped Lonnie Chisenhall play his way into the every day lineup. Swisher’s subtraction has been a short term addition to the Tribe’s offense and defense. If he returns as the player they signed to lead the team on and off the field, the offensive machine could take flight.
McAllister may have been the Indians’ best starting pitcher through four starts, but since he may be their worst. McAllister was 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his first four starts. Since then, he’s been 0-4 with 9.51 ERA. His strained lower back allowed the recall of T.J. House—who has pitched well since assuming a spot in the rotation—but may be the reset McAllister needs to re-work mechanics and find that early season niche again.
When I was a kid and hit reset on the Nintendo, I felt a little guilty and hoped no one noticed. If the Indians’ reset continues, hopefully everyone will take notice.
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images