Last night was probably the most fun you had watching a Tribe game this season. The Indians, decked out in replica throwback uniforms to celebrate 1920′s night, won their fourth straight game matching their longest win streak of the season. They will have their hands full today trying to extend the streak against Stephen Strasburg in front of more than 30,000 at Progressive Field.
But last night was all about the Tribe, specifically Fausto Carmona who turned in his most dominating performance since his Cy Young contending season of 2007. Rick Manning said it was the most focused he had ever seen Carmona. His sinker ball was filthy and harkened back to scenes from the infamous bug game against the Yankees where hitters were completely fooled as the swung over the top of pitch after pitch. He struck out 7 and, most importantly, walked zero as he gave up 3 hits and only 1 run on a homer by Ryan Zimmerman to the porch in left. It was a dominating complete game in which Carmona faced only 1 more than the minimum – not since Billy Traber threw his notorious 1 hit CG shutout against the Yankees in 2003 has a Tribe pitcher faced only 28 hitters in a CG.
Carlos Santana would have been the major story on any other night were it not for Carmona’s performance. Word came down yesterday afternoon that he would be catching Fausto, which may portend the end for Mike Redmond in Cleveland. Santana, who “looked the part” in his debut but failed to get a hit, got on the board in a major way Saturday night. He ripped a JD Martin pitch right down the line inside the bag at first for his first major league hit – a double that scored two and extended the lead to 5-0 in the 2nd inning. The ball was immediately taken out of play to commemorate his first big league hit.
You had to imagine getting his first hit might take the pressure off for the rest of his night at the plate. This was apparent in his next at bat in the bottom of the 5th when he led off the inning with a bomb into the right field stands – his first hit and his first homer in back to back at bats. The team gave him the silent treatment when he got back to the dugout as the game became more and more enjoyable for Tribe fans. It was reported that the ball had been retrieved or bartered for from the lucky fan in right field who caught it.
Travis Hafner and his contract take some serious abuse amongst Tribe fans but he has had a few productive days. He hit a sacrifice fly fairly deep to center to put the Indians on the board in the first. For the second straight night, he drove the ball hard to right – a ripped shot of the wall which he tried to stretch into a double but wasn’t close to being safe. He has 6 RBIs in his last four games and has driven the ball hard to right this weekend, a key to the win streak. Russell Branyan hit a towering homer that just cleared the fence and carried into the Tribe bullpen. Branyan also has 5 RBIs during the 4 game win streak and has gone 6 for 14 during the stretch.
The success of Branyan and Hafner during the streak, in addition to Austin Kearns, have combined with exceptional pitching to give the Indians some serious momentum coming into the game against Strasburg. Manning seemed optimistic about the progress of both Masterson and Carmona and what that could mean for the success of the staff over the rest of the season. The only blemish was an injury to Trevor Crowe. They were calling it a knee contusion after the game and were uncertain if he would have to hit the DL. Austin Kearns was moved to center and Shelley Duncan came into left to replace Crowe in the outfield. A Michael Brantley call up may be on the horizon.
The Tribe bats will face a much stiffer test today against Stephen Strasburg (more on that in an hour). David Huff, who has struggled mightily this month, will take the mound for the Indians as they go for their longest winning streak of the season.
(Photo: Thomas Ondrey/Plain Dealer)