Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Road warriors return to Cleveland

What a road trip for the Cleveland Indians, as the Tribe went 7-2 on a nine-game swing through Kansas City, Seattle and Oakland.

It was the first time since 1988 that the Tribe won three consecutive series to start a season. And the last time they won seven games on a road trip was in September 2007 – and we all know how that season ended up.

The Tribe comes back home trailing the “unbeatable” Detroit Tigers by just one game in the standings. The Indians have actually outscored the supposedly dominant Tiger lineup so far, 74-70.

The Indians are giving up more runs, however, (72-65) which puts the teams almost even in run differential – +2 for the Indians, +5 for the Tigers.

And that is what has us wondering if the Tribe can keep pace with the Tigers.

As much as we like to poke fun at Detroit, barring injury the Tigers shouldn’t have any trouble scoring runs this year. But can the Indians continue scoring 5.3 runs a game?

There is little chance that Travis Hafner (.357) and Jack Hannahan (.341) will continue to hit at their current pace; but it doesn’t seem hard to envision Michael Brantley (.196) and Casey Kotchman (.157) remaining at their current level (OK, maybe not that bad but neither one is going to go on an offensive tear any time soon).

The one thing the Tribe can hopefully count on is the Tigers’ starting pitching will continue (in the case of Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer) or start (Drew Smyly) to struggle.

Smyly has somehow compiled a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings of work over three starts. At the other end, Porcello has a 6.32 ERA in 15.2 innings of work, while Scherzer is at a 7.98 ERA in 14.2 innings of work. Outside of Justin Verlander, the Indians shouldn’t be worried about Detroit’s starters.

That’s why it is so important for the Tribe to keep their starting pitching on track. We’ve pretty much accepted that Ubaldo Jimenez is going to be a crap shoot every time he takes the mound, but Derek Lowe has been surprisingly solid in his first three starts, Jeanmar Gomez looked good Saturday night, and Josh Tomlin threw eight innings of one run ball in his start last week against Seattle.

The biggest question mark is turning out to be Justin Masterson, who has given up 15 earned runs, 21 hits and 11 walks in his last three starts, covering just 13 innings.

“The ball is moving,” Masterson said. “The ball is moving a lot and we’re really close. We’re not trying to pick the corners, but we seem to be right there and just missing. We’re just really close. It’s nothing way out — nothing crazy. It’s just something that’s happened.”

“I’m very happy with the way we played on the road,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It was a very good road trip. Winning three series, that’s something that you don’t see very often. We came out and played well after starting shaky at home, so I’m happy about that.

“Now we have to go back, enjoy the day off, get the long johns out and play ball at home.”

The Tribe is back home on Tuesday to start a six-game homestand, just in time for game time temperatures to hover around 40.

Hopefully the offense can heat things up against the Royals and the Angles.

***

Are the Browns considering adding a Muscle Hamster to the roster?

Boise State running back Doug Martin is a player the team may be interested in if they pass on Alabama running back Trent Richardson in the first round of this weekend’s NFL Draft.

Martin finished his college career with 3,430 rushing yards in the Broncos’ pass-first offense.

“(Marting) can run inside the tackles, he can take a pounding, he can make a guy miss tackles,” Boise State running backs coach Keith Bhonapha told The Plain Dealer. “He’s a lot faster than what a 40-yard [time] will show you. I think Doug has more of a game speed. He’s a guy who will be running the same speed in the fourth quarter as he was in the first quarter.”

Sounds like a player who might look really good in Orange and Brown.

***

Finally, we’ll never complain again (or at least complain less) when our computer doesn’t work right.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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