Did the Tribe save its season by sweeping Detroit?
We are always a bit hesitant when people try to add extra significance to a particular win, thinking that one night of success will somehow fix all that ails a struggling team.
That is especially true in a sport like baseball, with its 162-game marathon of a season. For example, when the Cleveland Indians scored 15 runs last week in a win against Toronto, there was talk that game would finally wake up the anemic offense. That didn’t happen, of course, as the Tribe was embarrassed over the weekend by Oakland.
But the three-game sweep the Indians just handed Detroit may truly have saved the Tribe’s season.
The Indians entered the series against Detroit a hot mess, 10.5 games back in the A.L. Central and wondering about a starting rotation that posted an ERA of 13.89 while being swept by Oakland.
Another sweep at the hands of the Tigers and, at 13.5 games back, the Tribe would have been out of the division race before Memorial Day.
Instead, the Indians won a game on a Michael Brantley walk-off home run; hung five runs on Justin Verlander in beating the Tigers’ ace; scored seven runs off of Max Scherzer, who had allowed six runs total in his previous six starts; and came back three separate times on Wednesday to win the game in extra innings on a balk. According to ESPN, the walk-off balk is the first in the majors since July 4, 2011, and the first in the 13th inning or later since 2004.
“I don’t even know where to start with that game,” rightfielder David Murphy said of Wednesday’s craziness. “I don’t know if that was a baseball game or a marathon combined with a circus.”
Basically, the series went just the way Tribe manager Terry Francona drew it up.
The sweep means the Indians head off to Baltimore 7.5 games behind the Tigers; not great, but not an insurmountable number, either. They are also just three games back in the wild card standings.
The Tribe still has issues, most notably with the anyone in the starting rotation not named Corey Kluber. On Wednesday, Zach McCallister continued to struggle, giving up four earned runs in just two innings of work. In his past three starts, McCallister has worked a total of 6.2 innings while posting an ERA of 22.95.
Because Wednesday’s game went extra innings, Francona ended up using Josh Tomlin, Thursday’s starting pitcher, in relief, meaning the Tribe needs to make a move for the game against the Orioles.
But Michael Brantley is ripping the ball (he’s hitting .343 in May), as is Lonnie Chisenhall (.370 this month, although he needs to work on his base running) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.344 in May). The Indians are also expected to have Jason Kipnis back in the lineup early next week.
Even though we are past the quarter-mark of the season, there is still a lot of baseball left to be played.
If the Indians can turn the season around and make it back into the division race, we may all look back at this series as the turning point.
And who would have seen that coming at the start of the week?
(Photo courtesy of The Plain Dealer)