Indians

Tribe Weekend Recap: Where My Heart is Cleft Asunder

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.

Some takeaways:

  • 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.

  • mgbode

    now that Chris Perez has established himself as our team’s best hurler, the Reds have no chance

  • mgbode

    on Carlos Santana.  high OBP, ability to steal a base from time to time, works high pitch counts.   it’s a shame that we already moved Choo to leadoff 🙂

    (yes joking, I’m hoping Santana comes around and starts getting better contact soon)

  • Josh

    In 2006 both teams were good and the Indians were locked in a tight division race?  Weren’t the Indians under .500 in 2006?  I don’t remember them being locked in a division race at any time after the first month or so of the season.

  • Harv 21

    How you read a series like this sometimes depends on your perspective: did all 3 of our starters find their groove against the world champs, or did we catch the Cards in a classic post-championship year funk? As a St. Louis columnist pointed out, despite their excellent lineup over their last 19 games the Cards have been no-hit once, shut out four times, and been held to one or two runs four times. And Tomlin, Masterson and Ubaldo each came into their starts with ERAs over 5. 

    Man, is Kipnis exciting. I’l have another, Bud Grant.

  • WFNYJon

    Yeah, you’re prolly right. Getting years mixed up. I’ll blame the rooftop shots.

  • Josh

    Hey, if shots can cause people to believe a Cleveland team is in contention, it’s time to invest in a liquor store with that as the marketing campaign!

  • mgbode

    this is true and they are still missing Berkman, but they did recently get back Allen Craig and still have Raffy Furcal (their main instigator early-on).  And Beltran is being healthy-Beltran.

    I’m going to still be impressed that our pitchers held the Cardinals to what they did 🙂

  • Garry_Owen

    “Best hurler.”  Hehe.

  • Garry_Owen

    Kipnis is the best future White Sox player on our team.

    /that guy’d – I did it!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Cardinals offense hasn’t been producing like you would expect all of the changes have stunted any momentum they start to exhibit.  Granted the Indians pitching did well, better then it has the last few weeks, but St. Louis wasn’t hitting too.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Choo isn’t the same Choo at least to me.  His power has been all but zapped and he’s really the most inconsistent I’ve seen him since being with the team.  I’m wondering if all those beanings haven’t taken their toll. The move to the top spot has saved his season otherwise I’d hate to think what he’d be hitting.  Kudos to Acta.

  • mgbode

    Fine, make me go do my HW 🙂

    Avg Runs vs. Indians = 1.67
    Avg Runs in 3 previous series = 5.1   (ATL,NYM,HOU)
    Avg Runs in 3 previous series after taking out the 14 run game they put-up on Houston = 4.1

    Avg. Runs in 3 series before those 3 previous (series 4-7 ago) = 3.6   (LAD, SD, PHI)

  • cmm13

    YOU JERK!!!

    ….he’s cleary Tigers material.

  • cmm13

    YOU JERK!!!

    ….he’s cleary Tigers material.

  • Harv 21

    the average of runs scored is not what’s worrying St. Louis, it’s their line-up’s tendency to boom/bust. Hence all the games scoring 2 runs or less despite the average run production. What they are not doing is figuring out ways to grind out (yes, I did) runs when they’re not exploding. The way Manny’s had the Tribe consistently doing that with a popgun lineup has been impressive.

  • mgbode

    i’m just waiting for Boras to compare him to Rickey Henderson when his contract is up 🙂

  • mgbode

    other than against the Mets who somehow had an amazing scouting report on them (perhaps they shared it with us?), they had just about what I would expect out of 3run, 4run, etc. games on their schedule looking back.  they had a few more “explosion” games than a typical team as well. 

    more statistical analysis can be done to really root this out, but it’s a team we are no longer playing and wouldn’t have to see until the WS.  I think we’ve spent enough time on them now 🙂

  • mgbode

    yeah, Tribe hero’s going to the White Sox was so 1990s Indians players

  • JB

    *”whose bat speed,” not “who’s bat speed.”

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Mets are pitching extremely well and as you noted that explosion verse a terrible pitching Astros team skewed matters.  Regardless it was nice to see the Indians SPs perform more to the expected norm then what they had previously been doing.  They’ll need to continue because the Reds are hitting well especially at home where the ball flies.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You r both wrong he’s headed to the Yaaaaaaaaankees and back to the OF!

  • Hypno_Toad

    You’re all wrong. In a shocking move Cleveland actually steals a star player from itself and Kipnis becomes the Browns new starting QB.

  • EyesAbove

    Santana has a lower OPS than Michael Brantley right now, not good. I hope he picks it up because we need him. 

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’ve got some hope for him because I think he’s a post-All-Star kind of guy.  His short history with the Indians isn’t enough to go off of, so I’m just going with my gut.  As the city of Cleveland heats up, so will Supernatural Santana.

  • kjn

    I’m not sure what CS’s problem is. His flyball rate is down, but his line drive rate is up. And his ground ball rate is actually less than last years. What really looks like the problem is hitting the fast ball. Last year, he had a wFA of 12. Which basically means that seeing 100 fastballs would result in 12 runs. This year, that number -4.9.

  • EyesAbove

    You could very well be right about that, last year after 49 games his numbers were quite similar. 207 plate appearances, .224/.362/.388/.750, 6 homers and 9 doubles. This year he’s at 217 plate appearances, .225/.341/.354/.695 with 5 homers and 8 doubles. His OPS is down significantly, but an extra homer or 2B here or there and he would be right about where he was a year ago. Hopefully he’s just a late bloomer and we can expect a productive 2nd half.  

  • NoVA Buckeye

    he’s clearly going to the Phillies

    /Jim Thome’d

  • mgbode

    what if he meant Cindy Lu?

  • Karsten Treu

    Kip is my dude. (Note avatar). Also, Santana is hopefully getting his batter’s eyes back with a couple good cracks in the last 2 games, but if not, he should talk to someone to work it out.  We need him as a threat to make this lineup work.