Tribe Weekend Review: The Most Unlikely of Sweeps in the Most Unlikely of Seasons

OK, so heading into Friday’s series opener with the Cincinnati Reds in the Battle of Ohio, the Indians had Grady Sizemore already on the disabled list and were forced to place smokin-hot DH Travis Hafner on the DL as well with an oblique strain. Early indications were that Pronk would miss four to six weeks. Travis Buck, who had just come up to replace Sizemore and has been hitting the ball well, was a late scratch Friday night with turf toe. Things looked blique for our fair Wahoo Warriors and as I wrote on Friday for Cleveland.com, this felt like a real dangerous time for them. The schedule is a murderers row of teams through the first week in June and the injuries were piling up.

So what did the Indians do this weekend?

They swept the Reds right out of Progressive Field, winning all three games in different fashion. This was truly the most unlikely of sweep in this most unlikely of seasons.

It is said one of the marks of a great team is when everyone contributes one through 25 and a new hero emerges seemingly every night. This weekend was certainly a test of that theory.

Take Friday night for example. The Indians flat out couldn’t touch Travis Wood for the first five innings. He was perfect headed into the sixth inning and facing a Tribe lineup that was once again depleted. Then in the sixth back to back one out singles from that vaunted duo of Austin Kearns and Jack Hannahan not only awakened the offense, but got a crowd of 33,000 plus back into the game. The next thing you know, the Tribe scratched and clawed their way back to tie it at four.

Two innings later, Manny Acta, the man with the midas touch in 2011, pulled back DH Shelley Duncan when Reds skipper Dusty Baker called for right-handed reliever Nick Masset. Who do he call for? Rookie Ezequial Carrera, called up earlier in the day to replace Travis Hafner. The speedy Carrera was about to take his first Major League at-bat with the lead run on third in the bottom of the eighth. According to the kid, Acta said to him ” ‘If you know you can bunt, go ahead. That’s your game.'”

So he did. And of course, like seemingly every move Acta has made this season, it worked. Carrera beat out the drag bunt, scoring the game-winning run and making himself a cult hero after just one AB. “Ezequiel has the ability to bunt at any time,” Acta said. “We were just looking for an infield hit; the bunt probably was the best chance to do it. The execution was not perfect, but perfect enough.” Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Indians lost starter Alex White to a finger injury three innings into the game AND they made three errors which cost them three of the four Reds runs?

Frank Herrmann, another member of the I-71 shuttle squad did a terrific job keeping the Indians in the game until the bats woke up. As did Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, and Vinnie Pestano. They cannot be overlooked in this one.

Literally Friday night’s game was a stolen victory. The Tribe was all but dead for the first five and a half innings. They then came alive without any sort of real “big” hit. In fact, the five runs they scored were on just five hits. They took that momentum into Saturday’s late afternoon tilt. In front of a sell-out crowd on Shin-Soo Choo jersey day, the offense again struggled out of the gate. The difference in this one was Indians starter Josh Tomlin.

Once again, Tomlin was spectacular, shutting down the Reds for seven innings. Like a night before, his defense let him down in a big spot in the seventh. A failed double-play ball mishandled by Orlando Cabrera allowed the lone run of the game at that point to score and the way Homer Bailey was pitching, JT looked like he’d be a hard-luck loser for the second time this month. Instead, another unlikely source saved the Tribe’s bacon.

Readers of this site know how high I have been on Travis Buck. The former ASU Sun Devil and A’s first round pick was brought back up when Sizemore went on the DL after driving in 21 runs in 18 AAA games. He is a major leaguer and should be getting at-bats. With the rash of injuries, Buck is not only getting those AB’s, but he is hitting fifth, protecting Carlos Santana. With the wind blowing in all day, no hitter on either team was able to drive the ball deep. That was until Buck came up in the seventh. With Asdrubal Cabrera on first, Buck put one into the right-center field bleachers to put the Indians ahead 2-1.

Once again, Acta had a hand in the biggest play of the game. According to Buck, Acta pulled him aside and called him out. “He told me that I need to start being able to pick spots and put good, hard swings on the ball. He basically said, ‘You’ve got to be able to attack pitches where you think you can really do some damage, rather than just trying to put a pitcher’s pitch in play.’ I’ve never had a manager come to me like that.”

Again, does Acta do anything wrong these days?

Even when he pulled Tomlin, who had given up just  one run on three hits in 85 pitches after the seventh, it worked. Pestano and Chris Perez closed out the 2-1 win. A win that once again came with just five hits.

Yesterday, Actaball looked for a sweep of the Reds and hoped to get some more offense to protect the shakiest of the starters, Carlos Carrasco. Naturally, they obliged with 12 runs on 13 hits in a blowout series sweeping victory in front 26,833 fans.

The star of this day was Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians shortstop is an All-Star this year unless he gets hit by a truck. Next to Jose Bautista in Toronto, I defy you to find me anyone playing better the AC. All he did on Sunday was collect five hits and five RBIs, including two homers, extending his career high to nine. Everyone loves Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and looks at him as one of the best hitters in the game. Consider this. Miggy has eight homers and 30 RBIs. AC has nine homers and 32 RBIs AND he is hitting .309. In his last 13 games, Cabrera is hitting .396 with four homers and 11 RBIs. He is a serious AL MVP candidate right now.

While this game belonged to the Tribe shortstop, the contributions of Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the order. Brantley, who MUST STAY IN THE LEADOFF SPOT, was 3-4 scoring twice and driving in two runs. Choo was 2-3 and drove in two runs of his own and is starting to show more signs of coming out of his early season swoon. He hit .381 this week (8-21). Both Choo and Santana have got to come strong while Hafner is on the DL.

If I’m Acta, knowing that Sizemore could be back for next weekend’s series in Tampa, I strongly consider putting Grady in the five hole where Hafner normally resides. Right now, he’s been going with Buck or Duncan, and as much as I like them, they are not suited for such a key spot in the lineup. Grady however is, and he is not needed in the leadoff spot the way he is in the middle of the order right now. Moving Brantley back in the seventh spot in the order at this juncture doesn’t make the team better. Putting Grady in the five hole while Hafner is out, does.

Again, these are nice problems to have. Despite all of the injuries (Alex White joined Hafner and Sizemore on the DL and will miss 8-12 weeks with a finger injury) the Indians swept a team that entered the weekend a half game out of first in their division. They are now an insanely good 18-4 at home and have six series sweeps on the season already. They had just four all of last year. The best part is the fans are finally starting to show. The Indians drew 99,086 this weekend, their largest three game attendance figure since September of 2008.

Up next for the Tribe is a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox. Justin Masterson (5-2, 2.52 ERA) starts things off for the Tribe against righty Clay Buckholz (4-3, 3.42 ERA). Over the next five games, the Indians have to face Buckholz, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, David Price, and James Shields. If there is ever a week to expect a swoon, its this one.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

 

  • Tim

    Just a quibble both ESPN, MLB.com, and the PD reported the attendance as 26,833. Which honestly I was a little disspointed with when I first saw it yesterday

  • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

    “…things looked blique for our fair Wahoo Warriors…”

    Well played, sir.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com TD

    Tim – typo on the “3” now been fixed

  • Joe

    Great article! Funny thing is, if you try to listen to some LOCAL Cleveland sports talk this morning starting at 9AM to hear about the first place Indians and the beatdown they put on the the first place Reds while sweeping them over the weekend, you won’t find it. Instead, what we get is Aaron Goldhammer for the 2nd day in less then a week talking about “gayness in sports” including coming out of the closet, etc. Last week John Ameche, a former NBA player was on, and the topic was driven into the ground. But, it is back today for a\over an hour and a half so far with no signs of letting up! Rizzo is off – maybe they don’t think there is anything better to talk bour (see first place Indians comment at the start of this rant).

    Then the whole Ray Lewis commentary is completely ignored as we have to hear about gayness and use of the “N” word, etc. ZZZzzzZZZzzz… Unbelieveable!!! LeCharles Bentley and Deron Cherry apparently don’t want to talk about what Ray Lewis had to say – the gay topic is more relavent? Why? Well done running the show today, Swirly-boy, Rizzo would be so proud. Actually, the way he does NOT take charge of his own show – he probably won’t care.

  • mgbode

    7 sweeps. The M’s series was 1 game, but technically a sweep still (a sweep is winning all the games in a series, no?)

    Love how our team is battling through all these injuries and we have a new hero every night (well, Asdrubel may get MVP honors for himself). That said, the road is about to get rocky. Expect a couple pitfalls, but I think we can manage it.

    our upcoming schedule:

    BoSox
    @TB
    @Tor
    TX
    Minn
    @NYY

    Only Minn is below .500 on that list.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    This sweep was awesome. I work in an office full of Reds fans, so it’s been a bit quiet so far this morning.

  • NJ

    You failed to mention the most important thing about tonight’s game – it’s on ESPN2. That means I can watch an Indians game at home for the first time this season! Yah, actual national attention! All it took was two months, a .650 winning percentage, the best record in baseball, and a series against the Red Sox. One day we may even get more attention than horse racing.

    Over/under on how long until I turn the sound off? 2.5 innings.

  • GhostToMost

    This Asdrubal guy is pretty good at baseball. :D

    I hope we take 2 of 3 from the Sox, then maybe folks around the country will start taking this team seriously.

    Also, it was nice to see some good crowds this weekend, even if it took the bribe of promotions to get them down there. I was half expecting 14,000 to show up yesterday, but 26K on an afternoon with no fireworks or jerseys being given away is pretty good.

  • Harv 21

    My heart is loving this but my head does not understand how this is happening. Guys hitting .240 keep getting big hits. Pitchers get hurt, Sizemore and Hafner are gone, but then call-ups go in and just perform. Alex White comes up and looks like Jared Wright circa ’97. Now he’s already done, but you get the feeling someone else will just do it.

    Current working theory – actually my only working theory – is that Acta has put these guys in some weird voodoo trance. This lineup is not that good. None of the rookies look panicked or lost. I think he’s convinced these idiots that they should be winning.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    @ GhostToMost

    Respect is great and all, but I’d be just as happy if the media ignored this team all the way to a title. If nobody wants to give the Tribe their due, then so be it. I don’t have much respect for the worldwide leader at this point anyway, so their won’t be much love lost.

    Also, I’ll take the under on NJ’s bet of 2.5 innings before muting the ESPN announcers. If you don’t happen to mute it, over under on the number of innings it takes for the announcer to refer to the Indians as a “plucky upstart”, “underdog”, or “unexpected success”. Or, how many innings before they ask “but really, how long can this lineup and pitching staff keep it up?”

    ALL SEASON SUCKAS!!!

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Also…@ Harv…

    I think I can answer your question. The name on the back of the jersey doesn’t put the bat on the ball or deliver the pitches. I think this team has left a lot of people asking…

    “Who are these guys?!?”

  • cmiller

    I am worried about the rest of this month just want us to still be on top of the central by june ifyou look at the white sox tigers and royals schedule during our tough stretch you will see they don’t have a cake walk either. So june with a 5 game lead looks promising. Just hope that this stretch doesn’t hurt the teams confidence keep rolling tribe who knows maybe we have the red sox number like the white sox have ours

  • Ben

    I got to see a catcher throw a ball that hit the LF wall…that is really impressive. The thing that bothers me about that play the most is the LF for the Reds…why was he looking back in???

  • http://www.zfcomics.com dgriff13

    I was in attendance for the Friday night game, and it was amazing how 1 hit brought a crowd that was half-asleep (myself included) back to life in an instant. My own mother even said “Geez, you’d think someone hit a homerun.”
    I was in pure disbelief of the bunt play, and from my angle I thought he was tagged out… but man did that place erupt. Chanting, screaming, high 5’s everywhere… it was a great atmosphere. Even with 1 in 5 (seemingly) spectators being Reds fans, heh.

    Started the evening off with a meal at Great Lakes, a little stroll around of West Side Market, taking the fatty Wagon to the game, and the post-game fireworks…. All in all, I had a great weekend back home. (and oh yeah, there was a wedding in there somewhere, LOL)

  • GhostToMost

    @ C-Bus

    I understand where you are coming from. And while I dont read or watch ESPN anymore (unless there’s a game on that I just HAVE to see), it is a bit irksome when I hear about guys like Keith Law saying the Tribe will be a sub .500 team by seasons end.

    I mean, if they dont consider the Tribe a “serious” contender, thats fine. But to continue to say that this is a losing team is kind of a slap in the face. Not that it matters a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it would be nice to take 2 out of 3 from ESPN’s second favorite team, just to stick it to them a bit.

  • Mark

    @GhostToMost – I don’t think guys like Keith Law are saying things like this out of spite or any type of animosity toward Cleveland. I really don’t. He basis his opinion on stats. The stats say the Tribe shouldn’t keep this up and the players like Tomlin should regress. The idea is “there is nothing in their previous performances to suggest that they can keep it up so they won’t.” The beauty of being a fan, especially a Cleveland fan, is to root for hope when everyone else tells you “you suck.”

    Now ESPN as a whole has little interest in promoting the Indians. We don’t fit their storyline and won’t help their ratings. I doubt we’ll see much of the Tribe on national tv unless we are playing the Red Sox, Yankees, or White Sox.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I really think the obsession with the Yankees/Sox at ESPN is a reflection of the talent pool they pull from. They are located in Connecticut…a state that lies squarely between New York and New England.

    I remember reading in some article somewhere that the place is overrun by Yankee/Red Sox homers.

  • mgbode

    @Mark – I understand on Keith Law. He usually has a decently thought out opinion.

    but, you also have guys on ESPN like Karabell saying they’ll take the under on the Indians finishing .500, which is ludicrous. he said it a week ago (5-2 week for the Tribe), but now the Indians would have to finish 52-62 to get to 81 wins.

  • 5KMD

    Don’t worry, Mark. All of the Tribe’s postseason games will be nationally televised. But they will probably all start at 1pm or 4pm.

  • Mark

    @mgbode – so what do you think Karabell is basing his opinion on, personal bias against the Tribe? Against Cleveland itself? I don’t think that. They just think that the Indians players aren’t as good as they are currently playing. I get it. The question us if the Tribe keeps this up, let’s say into August, will the Laws and Karabells of the baseball world continue to be non-believers? Do we even really care?

    @5KMD – you got that right buddy!

  • Believelander

    @11: This year reminds me of a fictional Cleveland Indians team I once loved…and now we can have Ezequiel Carrera slide into home plate and say “Don’t steal home without it!” All those AmEx promotion dollars = mad loot to buy top free agents.

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    The dumbest reason to suggest the Indians won’t finish .500 is it means they’d have to go at best 51-67 the rest of the way, or .432. Only two teams in baseball this year are playing worse than .432, and to suggest that the best team in baseball is really bottom three is silliness.

    That’s also about what they were all of last year (.426), which means they’re also saying they’re no better than they were all of last year.

  • Believelander

    @5: Let’s not forget the dangerous Tigers after New York. If we come out of that next stretch at or above .500 for all of those games, it will set the Tribe up with a 40-26 or better record, solid stuff 1/3 through the season. Especially if 3 of those 11 wins came against the Motor City Kitties.

    Basically if we can go into the All-Star break still 14 games above .500 (which includes facing the Jays, Yanks, and Reds again), we’ll be set up for the divisional-heavy second half in a weak division and the ESPN guys will have to start swallowing their words.

    @18: 52-66, actually. We’re 14 games above .500.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Ezzie is exactly right.

    It goes against all logic to argue that the Indians will finish below .500. Could they go from first to worst? Of course.

    However, that doesn’t usually happen. Sure, lots of teams fall back into the pack a bit, and with a 7 game division lead, that could still happen to the Tribe. But it is just hatin’ to say a team with the best record a quarter of the way through the season is just about ready to take a dive off a cliff for no reason whatsoever.

    What are you gonna do though? Haters gon’ hate…

  • mgbode

    @Mark – no, I don’t think he has a personal bias against the Indians, but I do think that the bias that many have put on the Indians being a bad team that is several years away, etc. has made it difficult for many to accept that this team isn’t too bad.

    in fact, in a year of parity in MLB, they are pretty good (look at all the teams you can make an argument for winning their division and it’s pretty late in the year. even the Orioles/Blue Jays in the AL East have shown decent signs of life and are within shouting distance).

    I mean, what could make them think the Tribe will go from the best team in MLB to be one of the worst teams in MLB the rest of the year? where is the logic in that?

  • Karsten

    Oh me oh my. I went to the entire series, totally worth the sunburn I acquired on Sat and Sun. Can’t get enough of it. Although I would agree, it looked like more than 26000 on Sunday, and sounded like it, but eh, hopefully it stays at or above that number this series.

  • Painesville

    Smokin hot Travis Hafner?

    My wife would agree.

  • bobby

    Brantley and Cabrera as a 1-2 coming up huge tonight. Tieing and Go Ahead hits… cannot ruin that magic!