Last Sunday I lamented the fact that the Indians never seem to win a weekend series. Then out of nowhere, the offense breaks out like they are the ’29 Yankees. 31 runs – including a shocking 11 home runs – in three games. That’s right, the team that had just two in the first seven games after the all star break, hit 11 jacks in all varieties during a sweep of the Seattle Mariners in the Pacific Northwest.
Friday night’s 9-0 win featured four long balls and seven shutout innings from Aaron Laffey, who continues to prove that he is a mainstay in the Indians rotation for years to come. The left-hander allowed three hits and retired the last 13 batters he faced. Of his 21 outs, 17 of them came via the ground ball (his specialty) or the strike out. The bottom line here – Laffey had it goin’ on. As good as he was, the bats were even better. The game was finished off thanks to a five run ninth that featured back to back jacks from Ryan Garko and Jamey Carroll (his first of the year).
Saturday afternoon’s affair was not televised anywhere, so none of us could see the fireworks that ensued. Jeremy Sowers, recalled to take the roster spot of the traded Rafael Betancourt, got another chance to show the Tribe brass that he is indeed a major league starter. Luckily for the man who likes to get off the highway at “exit 4A,” the offense carried their hot streak over into the next game. By the time Sowers reached his bugaboo, the fifth inning, the Indians were holding an 8-0 lead. How they did it was even stranger.
Chris “G-Man” Gimenez crushed a two-run shot in the fourth and Asdrubal Cabrera added a two-runner of his own in the fifth – one in which he stood and admired. That did not sit well with many of the Mariners. Chris Jakubauskas then drilled Ben Francisco on the next pitch. The great Winston Abreu then returned the favor in the ninth, plunking Jack Hannahan to open the inning. Abreu was tossed, along with Eric Wedge and the benches cleared, though it was more of war of words than anything. Sowers ended up throwing seven scoreless, just as Laffey did the night before.
“Scoring 10 runs was definitely nice,” Sowers said. “It was a good start, it was a quality start. I’m glad of the way things worked out. Did I feel outstanding out there? Not necessarily. I was able to catch some breaks and continue to throw strikes with the lead and find a way to get through seven innings.”
So the Red, White, and Blue headed into Sunday looking for only their only second sweep of the season. Facing their eighth straight left-handed starter, the Indians attack stayed white-hot, pounding Seattle 12-3 from the opening pitch. Grady Sizemore started the game with his 20th career leadoff home run. That was the first of a 12 run, 16 hit attack which featured a six run fifth that put the game away. After a Sizemore walk and a Jason Vargas wild pitch, Cabrera laid down a bunt towards the pitchers mound. Vargas, with no chance to get Sizemore at third, strangely made a throw to third which Grady beat out. The rally was on from there.
Shin-Soo Choo, who is struggling with the bevy of lefties he is facing, singled in Grady to put the Tribe in front 3-2. Garko, sticking out his elbow pad as he is known to do, was nicked for an HBP, loading the bases for Jhonny Peralta. Reliever Shawn Kelley came in to try and stop the bleeding. Peralta greeted him with a blast to left field seats, clearing the bases and breaking the game wide-open at 7-2. They would get one more in the sixth on a Grady RBI single.
It was more than enough for Cliff Lee who finally got the run support he has so richly deserved. He went seven innings, allowing just two runs – both on a two-out, two-run single from Franklyn Gutierrez in the first – and six hits, while walking nobody in 99 pitches. Was he showcasing himself for a trade before Friday’s deadline? I think he is way past that point, but he was his usual consistent self, at one point retiring 12 in a row. For good measure, Travis Hafner hit a two run home run in the sixth. Francisco went back to back with Pronk to throw more gas on the fire.
The weekend is vintage Eric Wedge action. Nobody is watching or paying attention since the games are on the west coast over a summer weekend, yet his team put together an offense explosion, got three quality starts from the rotation and managed to sneak out of the AL Central cellar. They carry a four game winning streak – only their second this season – into Anaheim to play three with the West leading Angels. Said Garko – “Everything went right for us this weekend. Everything went wrong for us at home. The balls hit hard were caught. This weekend, the balls we hit hard were in the gaps or were out of the park.”
Garko in the meantime is the hottest Indian of them all and could be playing his way out of town. Seeing everyday action thanks to the run on lefties, Garko is hitting .355 since the all-star break and .343 in the month of July. Tell me all you want that the reason for the offensive spike his more playing time; I say Garko’s history proves he loves to warm up when the pressure is off. Another Wahoo bat who had a great weekend was Hafner. After a brutal series in Toronto, Pronk went 5-11 with two homers and five RBI, playing in all three games, which he hasn’t done much of all season. Even more impressive when you take into account the Indians faced three lefties. Hafner is now hitting .295 on the year. In a season of misery, you have to give Pronk the nod for his re-emergence.
Where has this been all year? Brendan touched on it Saturday, but it would be real bothersome if the Indians went on another meaningless second-half run and gave the Dolan’s and Mark Shapiro another mirage of a reason to keep Wedge in 2010. Reality is the Indians are a very flawed team with a ton of holes that has failed to live up to expectations for the second year in a row. But for one weekend, they at least had their fun. Too bad nobody was watching.