Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Should we be worried about the Tribe?

The Indians have been rather ugly and disappointing of late on the field, losing four of their last five games.

During the losing streak, the Tribe has only scored eight runs, has a .213 batting average, is just 2-of-20 with runners in scoring position and have posted an ERA of 6.27.

The skid hit rock bottom (we hope) Monday night against Toronto when the Indians couldn’t figure out how to get to Blue Jay starter Jo-Jo Reyes, who came into the game with an 0-4 record, a 4.70 earned-run average and a losing streak (28 starts) that stretched to 2008.

Told you it has been ugly.

So should we be worried?

Probably not.

On May 1, the Indians were 19-8, a winning percentage of .704, which they obviously were not going to sustain for an entire season.

Heading into last night’s game with Toronto, the Tribe was 31-20, which means they have played .500 ball for the month of May.

But (and there is always a but) the Indians have increased their division lead during the month, from 4.5 games over second-place Kansas City on May 1 to to 5 games over second-place Detroit heading into last night’s game.

So they have made it through a month of mediocre play and still sit comfortably in first place.

But (there it is again) the past week has put the team’s shortcomings in the spotlight.

The team has been trying to hold down the fort while waiting for Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner to return from injuries. Their absence definitely thinned out the lineup. Sizemore is back and hopefully Hafner will return sooner rather than later so the bench players, like Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck, can go back to the bench.

So the lack of offense may correct itself.

Then there is the defense.

After being solid for the first month-and-a-half of the season, the Tribe defense has fallen off a cliff. In the last six games, the Indians have committed six errors. The one game they didn’t commit an error? Saturday’s 7-3 win against Tampa.

In the first 40 games of the season, the Tribe committed 16 errors; in the past 11 games the number is 12 errors.

The Indians have to have solid defense to have a chance to win, especially with the offense slumping the way it is. This team just can’t afford to give away outs.

Luckily defense is something that should be easily fixed (or at least we hope so).

So that leaves the starting pitching.

After being so good, the starters have struggled – a lot – recently.

From Mitch Talbot (3 innings pitched, 12 hits, eight earned runs vs. Boston), to Justin Masterson (5 IP, eight hits, seven earned runs) to Fausto Carmona’s stinkfest against Toronto (4 IP, nine hits, seven earned runs), the pitching staff is slumping just as bad as the offense.

The pitching staff has given up seven or more runs five times in the last 11 games – the same number they put up in the first 40 games of the season.

And that right there probably gives us the answer we are looking for.

With the offense, the pitching and the defense all struggling at the same time, any team is going to look bad. The Tribe is most likely not as good as they looked when they started 19-8, but neither are the as bad as they have been during the 12-12 stretch of the past month.

As we write this, the Indians are in the process of building a 3-0 lead in the third inning against Toronto. So maybe the past week – and month – are just a normal part of the ebb-and-flow of a long baseball season.

After all, the only number that counts is the one that says the Tribe is in first place by five games.

***

Lots to like as the alma mater participates in post-season play.

The Kent State golf team posted a team score of 304 (16-0ver) during the first of three stroke play rounds on Tuesday at the 2011 NCAA Championship at Oklahoma State.

The Golden Flashes finished the day in ninth place among 15 teams.

After winning its third consecutive MAC championship over the weekend, the baseball team drew a No. 3 regional seed in the 2011 NCAA Championship tournament.

Ranked No. 24 in the nation, the Golden Flashes will play in the Austin Regional this weekend, opening on Friday against the No. 2 seed, Texas State.

***

TV ratings for Saturday’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United were up 64 percent from last year.

***

Finally, Peyton Hillis’ Madden cover has been released.

Would it have killed them to show him steamrolling a Steeler?

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