Posts By Bob Toth
Much has been said, especially over the last few weeks, about the struggles on the field, both offensively and defensively, of the members of the Cleveland Indians lineup. Slumps are becoming far more evident, errors have been a significant issue throughout the second half, and some players simply look tired.
Welcome to the dog days of summer.
After a much needed day off on Thursday, the Cleveland Indians will resume their road trip with a weekend stay in Oakland against the Athletics.
The Indians (65-56) have been able to keep pace in the playoff race, despite offensive woes that have adversely affected the outcome of many second half games. Entering play on Friday, the Indians were three and a half games out of the wild card race and six and a half back in the American League Central behind the Detroit Tigers. They are a perfect 4-0 against Oakland this season, sweeping a four-game set in Cleveland earlier in the year.
In the last week, the Athletics (68-52) lost their long lead in the American League West to the Texas Rangers. They have won just five of their last 14 games and, with the exception of 14 runs in Toronto on August 9th, have struggled to score runs. They trail the Rangers by a game and a half in the division, but are currently the second wild card team.
The Cleveland Indians may welcome the chance to get out of town for a change.
After a brutal 1-6 homestand against the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, the Indians (63-55) move on to Minnesota to start a nine game road trip against the Twins. They remain seven games out of the American League Central Division race, but are four back in the wild card hunt.
The Twins (52-63) will play their third straight series against an AL Central rival. After dropping two of three in Kansas City, they beat up on the White Sox in Chicago over the weekend.
While much of the focus during the Indians most recent losing skid has involved placing the blame on the starting rotation for not keeping Cleveland in ball games, there has been another troubling trend that has been much less discussed.
The starting rotation has played beyond the expectations of most fans this season, and rightfully so. Justin Masterson was coming off of a disappointing 2012 campaign, the jury was still out on Ubaldo Jimenez, the transitions of both Scott Kazmir and Brett Myers were undetermined, and the younger, inexperienced arms of Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer were truly an unknown commodity. It is just shy of a miracle that the rotation has turned out to be the strength of the ball club.
The offense, however, has generally been found lacking.
In one of the biggest series in the last half dozen years for the Cleveland Indians, they squandered a huge opportunity to cut the advantage of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division race.
Instead, the Indians (62-53) missed four separate chances to gain ground and may have played themselves right out of consideration in the division. They remain within reach of the wild card, at three games back, but now trail the Tigers by seven. As they face off with the Los Angeles Angels for the first time this season this weekend at Progressive Field, they will look to improve upon their 16-4 record against the American League West this season.
Are you ready, Cleveland? This week, Progressive Field plays host to an American League Central Division battle between the Detroit Tigers and the home Cleveland Indians.
The Tigers (64-45) completed a perfect 8-0 homestand after dismantling the White Sox on Sunday. In those eight games, they outscored the opposition by a combined 48-10 and had a pair of shutouts started by Max Scherzer, who has now won 16 games on the season. They bring an eight-game winning streak into Cleveland and have won 12 of their last 13.
The Indians (62-49) have won ten of their last eleven. They have played inspired baseball at home, winning each of their last eleven at Progressive Field. They have swept each of their last three home series and have won four straight, not losing since the Tigers took three of four from them a month ago. They trail the Tigers by three games entering the series and have a game and a half lead in the AL Wild Card.
You know it already. I know it. The Cleveland Indians know it. The gate numbers at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario have been a disappointment and far, far below what is expected of a team in the Indians’ position in the standings, especially after a big spending spree last offseason.
The excuses have been plentiful this season from the fans.
The Cleveland Indians returned home after a 2-4 road trip to start the second half of the season and completed a perfect 7-0 homestand against Texas and Chicago. They resume interleague play with a three-game series in Miami this weekend against the Marlins.
The Indians (60-48) have strung together eight straight wins and eleven in a row at Progressive Field. Their strong play has moved them into possession of the second wild card spot in the American League as August begins. They trail the Detroit Tigers by two games in the American League Central and are 7-4 in interleague play.
The Marlins (42-65) are 7-7 since the All-Star break. They lead the all-time regular season series between the two clubs, 8-4. They are just 3-8 in interleague play this season. They enter the series with the Indians 21 games in back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
One month ago, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox met at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. A successful four-game sweep later, the Indians left town for Kansas City tied for first place.
This could be an interesting time for the White Sox (40-62), one of the few teams across baseball known to be in selling mode as the calendar approaches the end of July. The White Sox team that enters town for this series will very likely look at least slightly different when it leaves after Thursday’s game.
The Indians (56-48) played inspired baseball this past weekend against the American League West’s second place Texas Rangers. Cleveland pushed its post All-Star break record to 5-4 and extended a stretch of good baseball at home. With a pair of shutouts, they now own a Major League high of 14 shutouts on the season, with eleven of them coming in Cleveland. They are on a season-best seven game home winning streak
As the July page of the 2013 calendar ends its tenure and August eyes its turn, the Cleveland Indians are keeping an eye on ways to improve their roster, already vastly better than the one the team fielded at this time last year. The problem this season, just like during last year, is that the store shelves are barren of any considerable, acquirable talent.
Too many teams remain in contention. Thanks to the rule change adding an additional wild card team to both the American League and National League pennant chases last season, there are more teams in the fray trying to bolster their rosters than there are teams looking to cash in on veterans on their clubs. With more teams still in races, it means far fewer sellers.
In the microeconomics of baseball, with an increased demand and an unchanging or even decreasing supply, the price to pay will be far more than the norm for teams looking to boost their chances of reaching the postseason.
The last time the Cleveland Indians encountered the Texas Rangers, they helped to end the worst stretch of baseball played by the Indians this season. This time around, they will again look to the Rangers to help improve a second half record that has started off at just 2-4.
The second-place Rangers (56-46) trail the Oakland A’s by three games in the American League West and are a half-game back in the wild card race.
The second-place Indians (53-48) trail the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central by three games as well, but are three games back in the wild card pursuit.
Bad defense and an awful base running blunder resulted in Cleveland handing Seattle their eighth consecutive win, as the Indians fell to the Mariners at Safeco Field on Tuesday night, 4-3.
The Cleveland loss prevented an opportunity for the Indians to earn a split on their six-game road trip. They fall to three and a half games behind Detroit in the American League Central Division race after the Tigers won their third consecutive game on Tuesday night.
All four of the Indians’ losses on the road trip have been by one run.