Every three years the Indians play the Cardinals in Interleague Play, which means the team of my childhood plays the team of my (somewhat immature) adulthood. The last time this happened was 2009—during the depths of the Tribe rebuild. I brought up my brother and his wife for a weekend series that saw the Indians take two of three from the Cardinals, along with me doing shots on the roof of some bar downtown. You know, to prove I was no longer a child.
In between shots, the question inevitably comes up, “Who ya rootin’ for?”
It’s not remotely simple, but most often, I’m rooting for whichever team needs it the most. In 2009, the Cardinals were fighting for a playoff spot while the Indians were godawful, so I wanted the Cardinals to win. In 2006, both teams were good, but the Indians were locked in a tight division race so I pulled for them.
This weekend, things were a bit different. Both teams are battling in tough and tight division races. Both teams have certain flaws, young managers, nice core players. Both teams are fun to root for—which is probably more important than you think. I guess I was just hoping nobody got swept.
And nobody did, but really, either one of these teams could’ve swept the series with just a few breaks going the right (or wrong) way.
On Friday night, The Little Cowboy did his Little Cowboy thing, en route to a 6-2 win. Which is to say Josh Tomlin gave up plenty of hits (8) while walking and striking out very few (1 each). Tomlin threw 7 innings, but racked up only 76 pitches on the night due to a mandatory Shelley Duncan pinch hit appearance in front of his dad, Cardinals’ pitching-coach-on-leave Dave Duncan. The Cardinals’ starter was jake Westbrook, who you might remember as the guy that got 3 years and $33 million from the Dolans who never spend money on anything. Offensively, the big knock came from Johnny Damon on a two-run homer in the seventh, who’s bat speed just won’t play in the major leagues any longer. Or so I’ve heard.
Saturday was an excellent pitching matchup between Justin Masterson and Kyle Lohse. Other than a Carlos Beltran solo HR in the 3rd inning, Masterson dominated the lineup. He threw 7 innings, struck out six and didn’t allow a walk. But it didn’t really matter, because Lohse absolutely stymied the Tribe. The Indians mustered only three hits on the evening, and the game was over in two hours and fourteen minutes. For the record, Kyle Lohse is not the sort of pitcher the Indians should struggle against—he’s right handed and doesn’t throw particularly hard. Watching the offense on Saturday, you sort of wonder how they’ll ever score again.
Sunday was, in some ways, more of the same, except with a different outcome. For two straight starts now, Ubaldo Jimenez has looked like a good pitcher—even more than that, he’s pitched like a good pitcher. On Sunday, Ubaldo threw seven strong innings, striking out seven and walking no one. For those scoring at home, in his last fourteen innings Ubaldo has 13 Ks and 1 BB. I’m a long way from saying he’s figured it out, and you can literally see his mechanics falling apart as he gets tired, but these last two starts are undoubtedly excellent signs. Keep in mind though, that even after this great run, he’s still walked more batters than he’s struck out this year. Yuck.
And anyway, much like Saturday’s game, it was looking like it might not matter. Carlos Beltran—yes, him again—homered off Ubaldo in the first, and after the Cardinals’ spot starter Joe Kelly gave one back in the third, the scoring just stopped. Vinnie Pestano got himself into and out of a mess of trouble in the eighth inning when he walked the bases loaded, and then struck out Yadier Molina and Allen Craig to maintain the tie.
The game belonged to Jason Kipnis, though, who drove a three-run shot off Cardinals’ closer Jason Motte in the ninth inning. It was a non-save situation, which means that Kipnis didn’t really do anything special since we all know closers can’t pitch in non-save situations. Just joshing. It was a bomb, and this team needed it badly.
- The starting staff stepped up huge this weekend: seven innings in each game is huge.
- Carlos Santana is just not hitting. I don’t know what to do about it at this point. Yes, his OBP is still well above average, but unless that comes with some power, it’s not middle-of-the-order worthy. His double off the wall on Friday night was nice, and he lined out sharply on Sunday, but more often than not I think he’s going to ground out to second. I remember that feeling. I call it “Branyan’ing to second” and I don’t like it.
- After Sunday’s game, Manny Acta basically admitted to unintentionally-intentionally walking Beltran to set up Vinnie to face two righties. Ordinarily, this is an insane strategy, especially when Vinnie was already obviously struggling with his control. But I assumed that’s what Radinsky was telling him, and after the show Beltran put on in this series, it was probably the right move.
- Jason Kipnis is a man. He is so obviously the best player on this team right now. Just a lot of fun to watch. Someone in the comments would like to remind you that he might one day play for another team, so you shouldn’t get too attached. Also, your dog will die someday.
- There is one team in MLB against whom the St. Louis Cardinals have never won a series. Believe it or not, it’s the Cleveland Indians.
- Chris Perez had an upset tummy, and Dunkers was there to make it all better.
Don’t look now, but the Indians have now won consecutive series against the scary Tigers and the World Champion Cardinals. They sit a half-game out of first, and two and a half games off the best record in the AL. After an off-day today, they head back home to Ohio for a three-game series with the Reds, about whose outcome I’ll certainly be far less ambivalent.