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In Cleveland, hope dies last

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You have to laugh …

… to keep from crying.

It probably should come as no surprise that the Indians were no-hit on Wednesday by Ervin Santana. The offense has been in such a prolonged slump that it feels almost inevitable that they be on the wrong end of a no-hitter.

Oh, and did we mention that Santana came into the game 0-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 10 career starts against the Indians?

And that left-handed batters entered the game hitting almost 20 points higher than right-handers? Naturally, the Indians lineup featured seven lefties who combined to go 0-for-22 with six strikeouts.

“Lots of guys get to five, six innings, but that’s when things get a little complicated,” Santana said after the game.

Not against this Indians lineup, they don’t.

The way things are currently going, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine it happening again this season.

In the three-game series against the Angels, Tribe starters David Huff, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona threw 19.2 innings and gave up just three earned runs – a 1.37 ERA – but the Indians found a way to lose two-of-three.

Tuesday night it was failing to score with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth; Wednesday it was the first no-hitter in the 17-year history of the Tribe’s home park.

Over the past nine games, the Indians have gone 3-6 despite receiving the kind of starting pitching that would make most teams green with envy:

  • Huff has a 0.71 ERA over 12.2 innings of work, but is only 1-1
  • Tomlin has a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings of work, but is 0-1 with a no decision
  • Fausto Carmona has a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings of work, but is 1-0 with a no decision
  • Justin Masterson has a 0.61 ERA over 14.2 innings of work, but is 0-1 with a no decision
  • Carlos Carrasco has a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 innings of work (but that was the result of a single bad pitch against the White Sox) and is 0-1

How is that even possible?

And no trade before Sunday’s non-waiver deadline is going to make much of a difference. Unless the Tribe is getting Manny Ramirez or Jim Thome in their prime, no one they acquire is going to be able to get this offense turned around.

No, the Tribe lineup is going to have to do it itself, starting this weekend against Kansas City. The Royals are scheduled to start Jeff Francis (3-11, 4.65 ERA), Felipe Paulino (1-8, 4.54 ERA) and Kyle Davies (1-9, 6.75 ERA).

If the Indians can’t get it going offensively against that trio, they may never get it together.

And with training camp opening this weekend for the Browns, the Tribe picked the worst possible time to go into a funk.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

How are they doing it?

How did the Indians go from 0-2 horror show to the hottest team in the majors with an eight-game winning streak?

The old-fashioned way: pitching and defense.

It was Mitch Talbot’s turn Monday night and he came through, going eight scoreless innings while allowing only five hits.

“My biggest thing was locating my fastball down in the zone,” Talbot said in published reports. “It had a little bit of sink, a little bit of run, and I was getting ground balls. Most hitters are going to try to run your pitch count up, and maybe take a pitch here or there, so it always helps to get ahead. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to stick around that long in the game.”

“The pitching,” Indians manager Manny Acta told The Plain Dealer. “Other than Opening Day, our starters have all been able to go deep into the game. It gives us a chance to keep the guys rested in the bullpen so we can match up with them.

During the winning streak, the starters are 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA.

The starters have also concentrated on throwing first-pitch strikes.

”They’ve been successful, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop telling them,” Acta told The Beacon Journal. ”It’s easier said than done, but they understand. And having success, they see that it does work. The success Masterson has had so far is due to that. Not that this is rocket science. The numbers are there to show it. You can’t pitch from behind.”

As good as the starters have been, the key members of the bullpen have been even better:

  • Tony Sipp has thrown five scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out four
  • Chris Perez has thrown five scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out three
  • Rafael Perez has thrown four scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out four
  • Vinnie Pestano has worked three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out four.

With that kind of pitching, it’s no wonder the Tribe is on a roll.

As for the defense, the Indians have made only four errors – second-fewest in the AL – and have allowed only one unearned run. Two of those errors have been made by the infield, which made 72 errors last season.

The fast start by the Tribe is important on a lot of levels. With the NFL Draft still a few weeks away and the Cavs out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005, the Indians have NE Ohio’s undivided attention. If they were 2-8 instead of 8-2, many fans would have already checked out on the season.

Plus every game they win now makes it less damaging when they inevitably go on a three- or four-game losing streak. Think about it: if the Indians play .500 ball the rest of the way they will finish with 84 wins – a 15-game improvement over last season.

And hey, there ain’t no shame in that.

Your first place Cleveland Indians!

After Thursday’s 1-0 win completed the Tribe’s sweep of Boston, the Indians are not only the second-hottest team in baseball (only Texas’ 6-game win streak tops the Tribe) but are in first place in the Central Division.

It’s the first time the Indians have been in first place at the end of the day since May 17, 2008.

And they did it in front of the largest crowd since Opening Day (according to Rick Manning).

Fausto Carmona bounced back from a horrific Opening Day start, where he gave up 10 runs and 11 hits in three innings of work, to shut down the Red Sox. Carmona held Boston to just two hits in seven innings of work.

The Tribe’s pitching the past few days has been absolutely phenomenal. Since the third inning of Saturday’s game, Cleveland pitchers have worked 43 innings and only given up nine runs – a 1.88 ERA.

The Indians needed that pitching today, especially with a lineup that included Austin Kearns (.000 batting average), Travis Buck (.143) and the struggling Shin-Soo Choo (.083). In fact, the Indians only had three hits on the day.

But one night after playing longball – with home runs from Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt LaPorta and Choo – manager Manny Acta showed the Tribe can also play little ball.

Adam Everett led off the bottom of the eighth with a walk and then stole second. Orlando Cabrerea sacrificed Everett to third and then Asdrubal Cabrera’s suicide-squeeze bunt put the Indians ahead in their fourth straight win.

“We did beat a very good ballclub – regardless if they’re struggling or not,” Acta said in published reports. “We won and it was a very well-played series. It wasn’t like they were sloppy and we got lucky. We played good baseball.”

Can’t argue with that. And we wouldn’t expect anything less from the longest-tenured coach in town.

We know it’s only been six games, and anything can happen when the Tribe goes out west for series with Seattle and Anaheim, but it’s sure been a fun first week of the season.

Most importantly, we’re ready to see more from this team.


Kent State made it official Thursday, promoting Rob Senderoff to the head coach position for the men’s basketball team.

Senderoff’s hiring is in line of KSU’s practice of promoting from within to the school’s flagship program.

The move should be popular with the players, more than half of which were recruited by Senderoff. That’s important as the team is only losing one player off this year’s 25-win team.

“It was good news to my ears,” guard Randal Holt told The Plain Dealer.

Leading scorer Justin Greene said the news was a relief, but also signaled some changes.

“Now it seems normal again,” the 6-8 junior said. “All the players feel comfortable, because we were all brought in by him. With the team we have coming back, we expect there will be some high expectations. But (Senderoff’s) best attribute is he will be tougher on us, held more accountable, than we have been in the past.”

The part about being more accountable is interesting. Plus the fact that the players don’t seem that upset that Geno Ford left.

Hopefully Senderoff is the right man to continue the team’s tradition of solid play. We’d hate to see the basketball team take a step back just because the school wants to emphasize football.

Some good reads on this from The Beacon Journal here and here.

How about that Tribe pitching?

Just the other day we were saying that Justin Masterson’s seven innings and one earned run on Sunday wouldn’t be the norm for the Tribe’s starting pitching, and then Josh Tomlin goes out Tuesday night and repeats Masterson’s performance.

“Josh used his change-up to keep the lefties off balance,” Indians manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “When they were looking for the change, he sneaked his fastball and cutter in there. He doesn’t throw in the mid-90s, but when his off-speed pitches are working, his fastball is effective.”

After a rough start, the pitching staff has clearly found a groove. In their last 25 innings of work (going back to the third inning of Saturday’s game against the White Sox), Tribe pitchers have given up just five runs. That’s a 1.80 ERA if you are scoring at home.

Included in those 25 innings are five scoreless innings, collectively, from Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and Chris Perez out of the bullpen. Sipp was so efficient Tuesday night, needing only seven pitches to put the Red Sox down in the eight inning, that we missed his entire night while quickly stepping out of the room.

The pressure is now on Mitch Talbot to keep the positive trend going tonight.

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