Indians Mettle Will be Tested Over the Next Month
Steve Eby | On 18, May 2013
Litmus test n : 2. a critical indication of future success or failure
The following month will tell a lot about our Cleveland Indians.
Over the past month, the Tribe has been one of, if not the hottest team in baseball. They have defeated six former Cy Young Award winners—including the two from last year—along with some defending division champs, preseason playoff favorites and other teams that are said to be overachieving. They have done it with a perceived “weak” starting rotation and have battled injuries from their centerfielder/leadoff hitter, second baseman, first baseman/cleanup batter, catcher, closer, setup man and two starting pitchers. Even after all of this, the real work is only just about to get started.
Over the course of the next 27 days, the Indians and the city of Cleveland will probably find out exactly what kind of team we have. The Tribe is about to endure the toughest stretch of their schedule and will most likely tell whether they are contenders or pretenders. Starting with the Tigers visit to Progressive Field on Tuesday, Cleveland fans are in for a treat, but will the treat turn out to be sweet or sour?
May 21-21 vs. Detroit Tigers (ESPN Power Rankings #6)
Who else would this stretch start with? After years of beating up on them when I was younger, the Tigers have quickly become the Indians biggest nemesis in the division. The games between the Great Lakes rivals are often hardcore, emotionally draining, back and forth contests and will put the Indians to the test immediately.
May 22-26 at Boston Red Sox (PR #5)
Going to Fenway Park is never easy and the Red Sox have had a much better start than a lot of people expected. Sure, they have hit a rough patch the last week or so, but this is still the same team that swept the Indians at home last month. Led by the solid production of Dustin Pedroia, a rejuvenated Mike Napoli and the strong arms of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox have kept themselves in the race since the beginning. And you thought the Red Sox were going to be bad this year, huh?
May 27-28 at Cincinnati Reds (PR #10)
Remember when the Reds and Indians used to always play on the weekends? What happened to that?
Nevertheless, the Tribe will take on the Cincinnati Rats on Memorial Day and the day after before skipping town. The Reds were one of the preseason darlings in the National League and it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t still be. Cincy has lived up to their billing as a top-tier team and will be playing very meaningful games well into the fall. A better-than-ever Shin-Soo Choo will face his former mates for the first time, breathing new life into the Battle of Ohio.
May 29-30 vs. Cincinnati Reds
This is a weird, stupid section of the schedule. After playing the Reds for two in The Natti, both teams will head up I-71 to finish their four game set in Cleveland. I guess this quirk happens to some teams every year, but that is usually in October. This is in May, so it’s dumb.
May 31-June 2 vs. Tampa Bay Rays (PR #17)
The Rays haven’t really been as good as their five fans had hoped, but they are still a good team with an outstanding pitching staff. The Indians experienced this first hand back in April, as they lost two of three down at Tropicana Field. Matt Moore has turned into one of the better pitchers in baseball and Evan Longoria is still really good. Don’t take last year’s AL Cy Young winner lightly either, despite the struggles of David Price.
June 3-5 at New York Yankees (PR #7)
If you scroll up four paragraphs, you can read about playing at Fenway and how the Red Sox were supposed to be terrible…the same applies here and the Yankees are also still a good team. The injury riddled Yanks have taken three out of four against the Indians in Cleveland so far—and this time they’re going to be at home and are getting healthy.
I hate the Yankees so much.
June 7-9 at Detroit Tigers
Back to the D where the Tribe took two of three last weekend. Hopefully, we will still care at this point and the Indians will not be hanging on for dear life in the standings like they were last August. I like to refer to that weekend as the Motown Disaster.
June 10-12 at Texas Rangers (PR #2)
Next, the Tribe will head to Arlington; a place that has NEVER been kind to them. The Rangers have won two of the last three American League pennants and, despite losing Josh Hamilton, are still one of the best teams in the game. The Indians seem to win in Texas about one out of every ten games, so I always cringe when I see this place on the schedule.
June 14-16 vs. Washington Nationals (PR #11)
The Stretch from Hell ends with a visit from another playoff team. The Nats are young, exciting and extremely good. With the Tigers kicking this off, Washington will be a good way to bookend the stretch of facing baseball’s best.
The Indians certainly have their work cut out for them, but if this team has proven anything so far in 2013, it is that they can rise to the occasion and persevere. Let’s all hope that they can keep it up and prove themselves to be among baseball’s elite.