The Cleveland Indians may very well be the baseball equivalent of the "Call Me Maybe" song by Carly Rae Jepsen. You know you've heard it before even if you just said "What, Who?" in response to that sentence. Maybe once and awhile and you were like, "Jeeze... This song is annoying." But now it keeps getting more and more play and you're kinda like, "Okay this song is kind of catchy." You don't want to admit it, but maybe, just maybe....
Am I saying I like this song as I've heard it more and more on the radio? No, I'm trying to draw a very bad parallel here to an audience who based off my estimation realistically has never heard this damn song. But I'm thinking the way it's getting played, "Call Me Maybe" might be the song of the summer.
And I can only hope that the Indians are the team of the summer the way they are playing.
I've gone these entire two opening paragraphs and haven't even brought up the fact that they just took two out of three from the best team in the American League, the Texas Rangers. Where do we go from here? Three directions.
1) This team is playing well, but it's merely that, a streak.
2) This team is really very much like the 2011 version of the club, they'll fade and Detroit will show their staying power and pounce.
3) Take this team seriously, because they could be making some serious waves.
One thing is undoubtedly sure based off this series and the past month, regardless of if the Indians were playing well or not (because they weren't through their bad stretches too). You may have seen other writers proclaim it, but it's an undeniable fact.
This is going to be a fun summer. This team has some staying power, whether they are 2011 again or a version of that 2011 team that is going to take it a step further, they've played too well in this first month to be a flash in the pan. They've now gone up a pair of decent teams in Texas and Chicago and showed this isn't just a team that beat up on some bad clubs in April.
I'd even point to a Baltimore team that is playing way above expectations (in a tough AL East no-less) and say, a team playing that well is playing too well to be simply a flash in the pan. That isn't to say the Orioles are going to be winning any sort of division or wild card spot this year, but it is to say they'll likely have a fun summer.
They're going toe-to-toe with Toronto and New York and this weekend, they beat around Boston. They'll have their own test of a home stand consisting of Texas and Tampa Bay this week, but I wouldn't be looking at Baltimore as a complete fluke.
You look at some of the other teams atop their divisions and the Dodgers and Nationals in the NL are here to stay as well. It's clear Washington is for real with some of that talent they have and the only thing likely to derail them from contention is multiple injuries. We always knew the Dodgers had talent, but it seems the "ownership cloud" that hung over them last year was actually pretty real.
Maybe the Indians are just in a bad division. Maybe they have taken advantage of bottom feeders and a struggling Angels team. Whatever. Reasons to rebel be damned, this team could have very well swept Texas this weekend.
May 6th, 2012
Texas Rangers - 2
Cleveland Indians - 4
W: Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2) L: Yu Darvish (4-1) S: Chris Perez (11)
From the credit where credit is due department. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well. He pitched well enough to win and he did what he needs to do. I don't care how he does it, just that he buckles down and does it.
But you will not come here and see me say that Jimenez is fixed and that things are going to be different from now on. Jimenez still has work to do, by evidence of the struggles he had in the first three innings. Honestly it was hard to watch. The guy gets ahead of a hitter 0-2 and he ends up walking them or giving up a junk hit.
He gets behind the first batter of the game in Kinsler and he manages to get the out. Then in the third he walks the bases loaded after getting two outs. It's like he goes out of his way to make things more difficult when they are supposed to be easy. I know he doesn't do it on purpose, but it's like he can't close. Heck, he maybe Fausto Carmona. If we were to put him in the closer role, he might have a complete breakdown.
I guess in a nutshell he wasn't Ewwbaldo, which to me is good enough for right now after the way he was pitching. If he can keep Texas off the board for seven innings, good for him. If it helps him build confidence, all the better. But there better not be any sort of regression from this and Indians fans better not go around thinking that Jimenez is going to go out every time now and only get better. He has to prove whatever it is he and the coaching staff is working on is working.
He gave up two hits, which is great, but he still had traffic to deal with because he walked five hitters. But again, credit where credit is due, especially as the game went on. He walked Josh Hamilton to load the bases and then got out of that jam, much in part to the fact that there was two outs already and from there, he pretty much took control. He would set 10 Rangers down in a row at one point and that's nothing to sneeze at. But it's far from "terrific" after the way he started.
"Ubaldo was terrific today," Acta said. "He proves that you don't have to throw 99 to get people out, but you do have to throw strikes. He threw strikes today. He had very good offspeed stuff. His curveball was the best I've seen so far."
His curveball was pretty good. It really accounted for a lot of his swings and misses as he did strike a few hitters out on it. Maybe that's the pitch he needs working to close things out. But early on, it looked like we were going to get more of the same. Ron Washington said that if they could have put some runs up early (like in that third inning) it could have been a different story. In fact, it probably would have been a different story. Jimenez maybe used getting out of that jam to propel himself into the rest of the outing. Where as if he didn't, it could have sent him off a cliff as trouble usually seems to to do to him.
And as I've flip-flopped from giving credit and taking it away, here's where I'll get Jimenez the ultimate point of credit, and it has nothing to do with his performance.
"It's still a work in progress," Jimenez said. "It's really hard to make adjustments, but hopefully everything comes together. ... Commanding all of my pitches, that was the main thing today. I was able to throw my slider, curve, changeup, everything for a strike."
He more than anyone realizes things are not all better and he still has things to do. He knew he walked a good amount of hitters, but he was confident in that he was throwing strikes, because he was. He was really getting squeezed a lot, not often getting that outside part of the plate, especially early in the game.
The Indians benefited once again from the sun, as Johnny Damon was able to leadoff the third inning with a single that was popped straight up on the infield. Ian Kinsler wasn't wearing sunglasses and his team paid dearly as what was a routine out, turned into a rally starter. Kipnis followed, and Cabrera brought them both home with a huge double. The other defensive miscue from Elvis Andrus would lead to another run and you could argue that Darvish really was not given a just fate.
But guess what? The Indians got their hits when they needed them. Then they got an additional Kipnis bomb in the fifth to make it a four-run lead. Enough insurance for the bullpen (but not Tony Sipp) as a whole and for Chris Perez to notch the save.
That's ideally how you set it up, Jimenez seven, bullpen eighth and ninth. Winner.
I hope Johnny Damon and Michael Brantley's lack of arm strength is contagious after watching this gem from Shin-Soo Choo, followed up by...whatever it was that was.
Seriously though, that play to end the game on Friday, that play there... Shin-Soo Choo had more than a few big plays with the glove this series. Usually he's there for his arm, but he's been way better than he has in the past with the glove. He seems to be taking better routes to the ball than in the past. I've been impressed with that.
Johnny Damon did really hit the ball well in the series. He was 3-for-9 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. It's nice to see him putting in quality at-bats, coming up with big hits. He's very much stabilizing the top of that lineup, without actually being overly impactful with the bat.
With Ubaldo's quality start on Sunday, it marked the first time all year a team was able to have three quality starts against Texas in a series. That lineup is really dangerous, especially with a guy like Napoli hitting towards the bottom. But you have to really credit the Indians pitchers. Gomez and Lowe both too. Gomez's outing will go overlooked due to what Jimenez did, but he, not Jimenez, faced the Rangers best pitcher in Colby Lewis. That's a tough task to match but he not only did that, he bested him.
Lowe on the other hand had some issues and not his best stuff, but he made up for it by giving his best effort. He was able to ride some solid defense and get through what could to give the Indians a chance to win the game.
So much for that home run drought huh? The Indians hit eight home runs in the six games against Texas and Chicago. Two have come from Jason Kipnis in the final games of both series, while the other seven came from seven different players.
[RUNDOWN RANT: AN ANNUAL PLEA]
I'm not sure I did this last year, but if I did, I can't find it. But I'm sure I probably said something in passing. If anything, I probably went on a Twitter rant about it. Well now, here's a rundown rant...
Two of this club's major players thus far are two bouncy youngsters who are quickly endearing themselves to the fans of this city. Vinnie Pestano hasn't allowed an inherited runner to score this year and is practically striking out anyone that tries to get a hit off him in a big spot. Jason Kipnis has come up with more than a few big hits and up to this point, has been the Indians best all-around player, hitting, running, fielding, just being an overall joy to watch.
And both made pleas over Twitter this weekend for the fans to come out and support this team.
And it makes me wonder. Do these guys have to beg?! I mean seriously, we've got two enthusiastic players who genuinely love this city and playing in it right now. Two guys who go out there and are pretty much the epitome of what the city of Cleveland claims to be. They are the name that they wear across their chest.
In the recent history of a city that supported LeBron James and then pretty much crucified him for leaving and not being loyal, this is sure sad to see a lack of support for a team that has two players who WANT your support. They're practically pleading with fans to come out and watch them play. They appreciate that loyalty and that support you so willingly gave someone like LeBron James, who in return, threw it on the ground and stomped on it.
It isn't like there are a lack of reasons to support them either. They're leading their division, playing great baseball, the weather is nice. Do we need to be selling out in May? No, because I understand there is still that stigma attached (although I don't agree with it) in some fans wanting to come out to games. But with first place Texas in town, I was shocked at the crowd on Friday night. Then with a win, how it improved Saturday, but not as much.
In a way I can understand (as I was graduating on Saturday and I'm sure a lot of high schools celebrated prom that night as well) some of the reasons as to why it may have not been as much as you would expect. But I'm just continually mystified as to why out of all the sports teams in this city, the one that has players who play hard and are truly a representative of what this city claims to be about, they are the ones that have to beg fans to come.
Get it together Cleveland.
[YOUR MAJOR LEAGUE LEADER IN SAVES...]
Chris Perez is always quick to note that the whole "rage" persona is just that. He's a fiery competitor on the mound, who just likes to get pumped up to pitch. But off the field, he is not really the equivalent to a fictional Kenny Powers, even though he really could pull off a good stunt double with the proper hair maintenance.
Perhaps his Twitter persona is one of his best jobs though. And I'm not talking about the equally entertaining but also fictional Pure Rage Perez either. I'm talking about the real deal and how he interacts with his followers, his fans (as well as his distractiors), and even the media.
Heck, one of his recent tweets in response to MLB.com reporter Zack Meisel saying Perez has looked as good as he ever has in his stint with the Indians was simply, "how quickly everyone forgets 2010".
He's even recently taken some flack from using "Firestarter" as his intro theme once again, going on to proclaim that it pumps him up and that the intro video is for "his entertainment" and "not yours."
Hey... If it counts Chris, I'm entertaining by it.
By far, one of the most interactive players on the Tribe that is on Twitter. Be careful what you say to him, because if you don't back it up, he'll likely call you out on it. Including this gem, (who are you, Casey Kasem?).
I found it mildly amusing that he follows "Closer News" or at least saw the Tweet that said Vinnie Pestano was in-line to be a possible save opportunity in Friday's game because Perez went back-to-back nights.
Perez responded, saying "closernews" (run by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes) was wrong directly to the account. Then went out and saved his third game in three nights.
Perez followed it up by tweeting the same account after the game, asking where they were with their "astout analysis tonight". I'm assuming he meant astute, but the point was made.
Tweeters be aware... Chris Perez's Twitter persona may be better than any other of the personas out there. And if this "persona" is the real Perez, being real with people who interact with him, even better. The whole point of me bringing all this up though is the fact that he's really settled in. Heck, you can't even say he struggled. Opening Day was a blip on the radar. Perez likes to call it an out-of-body experience.
"It was just an aberration on Opening Day," Perez said. "I told people that it was an out-of-body experience. I don't know what happened. I wish I did. You can just chalk it up to inexperience, being young, being a little bit over-excited. But next year, if I get that call again, I'll be able to fall back on that experience."
We all were a little worried after that first outing. Was Perez ready? Did he get enough work in? His velocity was down, he didn't look right. I myself criticized Acta for not taking Perez out of that situation when he was clearly not ready for it.
But Perez has shown he's been ready for the other 11 situations he's been put in to nail down the game and he's delivered.
I don't think the Indians players were very pleased with the attention Yu Darvish received and how it took away from the fact that they won the series this weekend. In addition to making a plea to fans over Twitter, Kipnis and Pestano used the social media outlet to vent about both issues. Kipnis said he was tired of the Darvish questions from the media and Pestano said he'd like to hear the Indians get credit instead of discrediting the other team.
A couple of transactions over the past weekend. The first is the fact that the Indians dealt Ryan Spilborghs, to the team that came into Progressive Field, the Texas Rangers. Spilborghs had not really done much with Columbus after a disappointing spring in the Indians camp. He hit .250 with a home run for the Clippers and is now off to the Triple-A affiliate of Texas, Round Rock. Quite simply, a spot to clear some much needed room in that Clipper lineup.
The Indians also dealt for a player, acquiring right-hander Loek van Mil from the Los Angeles Angels for cash. The catch here with van Mil is that he's 7'1". It also makes the second pitcher the Indians have acquired from the Netherlands this year. Hernicus-unite. van Mil is 27, really not much of a prospect and is headed fro Double-A after pitching in Triple-A for the Angels. The Aeros simply need a waste arm. If were to somehow make it to Cleveland (don't count on it) he'd be the tallest major league player ever.
One transaction the Indians will not have to make is a corresponding move to get spot-starter Zach McAllister up on the roster for his start of Monday's double header. Thanks to the new rule, to which the Indians can take advantage of for the first time this season, McAllister will simply be called up on Monday and sent back down after the day is over. The rule is a good one if you ask me and one that should have come sooner in this day and age when teams typically need to make a move in preparation for such a contest.
"I think it's a great rule," Acta said. "It really put teams in a tough spot sometimes, when you have to make a move and option a guy out, and sometimes keep a guy up here or not have a guy up here for 10 days that you wish to have up here. I think it was a great decision."
McAllister is the right pick for this spot start, as he's really pitching well for the Clippers and based off his spring, really has earned the opportunity. He's also well prepared in this role, as he did it a few times last year and maybe now that he's got that major league experience under his belt, he can move forward.
"Last year was good for me, a good learning experience," McAllister said. "It helped with my confidence and let me know I can pitch up here. Spring Training was good, too. I was very happy with how I did in the spring, and I'm looking forward to continuing that success."
The Indians expect to use Johnny Damon a lot. He's the Anti-Grady Sizemore in that he really has been someone you can count on to be healthy on a year-to-year basis. Damon though has to re-adjust to the idea of playing in the outfield regularly again, as well get into prime shape after the time off.
"I probably need to get used to the grind of playing the outfield again and get used to the humidity again," he said. "Being in Arizona for the past couple of weeks, there's no humidity or sweating, that could have gotten the best of me."
Damon has been in and out, and the Indians were able to get him in at DH over the week. I'd expect them to utilize that DH spot in the double header as a way of getting Santana into both games, so I wouldn't expect Damon to be playing in both games on Monday.
You have one more day to vote for the Golden Fedora. Remember you can vote on the side of the blog or on the Facebook page.
The Tigers took two of three from the White Sox over the weekend. Now they are off to do the Oakland/Seattle west coast road trip all week. Oakland just took four out of six from two AL East teams in Boston and Tampa, while Seattle rebounded from a seven game losing streak to take a series from the lowly Twins.
Nino has a blog that he creates dumb nicknames, even for players not on the Indians. Give it a vist at The Tribe Daily.