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In Cleveland, hope dies last

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So what else is happening in Cleveland?

Woke up this morning from a three-day NFL Draft stupor and realized there are other things going on in Cleveland sports.

Like the first place Cleveland Indians, who took two-out-three from the Angels this weekend.

Sunday it was Derek Lowe, who threw 7.2 shutout innings to run his record to 4-1 on the season. His sinker was sharp – he retired 12 Angles on ground balls – and Lowe has pitched at least six innings in all four of his wins.

“Lowe was outstanding,” manager Manny Acta said after the game. “He had command of that sinker and also a good slider. Any time you can take two of three from that pitching staff is great. Our pitchers matched up great against them.”

The starting pitching was dynamite all weekend, as Justin Masterson went 8.1 innings on Friday night, giving up four hits and two runs, while Jeanmar Gomez scattered five hits and just two runs over six innings of work Saturday night.

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Manny being Manny

We really didn’t think much when Manny Ramirez announced he was retiring rather than face a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

But then we read Sheldon Ocker’s column in The Beacon Journal remembering the playful Manny that was in Cleveland from 1993 to 2000. That’s the Manny that we will always remember.

We’ve always been pretty ambivalent about baseball’s steroid era. The commissioner didn’t care, the owners didn’t care and the players association didn’t care, so why should we?

And, over the years, it has become obvious that, since no one was being tested, it’s impossible to know who was – and more importantly was not – using something.

While it’s easy enough to see the physical changes and improved performance from players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte taught us players used banned substances to recover from injuries and Jason Grimsley showed us not everyone turned into the Incredible Hulk when they used PEDs.

So unless someone has a time machine and can go back to test everyone who played in the 1990s, there’s really no way to be certain – its all speculation. So you either assume everyone was clean or you assume everyone was on something.

It may not be fair to paint everyone with the steroid brush, but it is also probably naive to think that just because someone’s head didn’t grow to the size of an overripe melon that they were clean.

It’s also unrealistic to think that baseball players weren’t using steroids before the 1990s. The San Diego Chargers were using steroids in 1963 and the Steelers probably owe much of their Super Bowl success in the 1970s to steroid use.

Does anyone really believe word of that didn’t spread to major league baseball teams?

It’s unfortunate that Ramirez had to leave the game this way. But he willingly broke the rules and there are consequences for that.

But we’ll always remember him for what he did on the field, rather than for the choices he made off the field.

***

Fausto Carmona picked up his first win of the season, Grady Sizemore homered in his first game action since last May and your first-place Indians swept Baltimore on Sunday for their 11th win in the past 13 games.

Carmona extended a streak of unbelievable starting pitching for the Tribe, going seven innings and giving up just one earned run.

Indians starters have thrown 87 innings over the past 13 games, giving up just 18 runs, good for a 1.86 ERA, and posting a 9-1 record. They have not allowed a run in the first inning of the past 13 games, and opponents are hitting just .095 (4 for 42) in their first at-bat.

It almost goes without saying that Tony Sipp and Chris Perez each notched another scoreless inning of work.

We hate to say the Tribe’s pitching is unprecedented, but really how else to describe it?

And then there was Sizemore, who homered in his second at bat and added a double in his third.

“I just wanted to go up there, have good at-bats, help the team and get a win,” Sizemore said in published reports. “I was definitely nervous.”

There’s no way of knowing yet how much of the old Sizemore the Indians will see this summer. But anything he can bring to the plate and the field will only be a bonus.

The Indians now head to Kansas City for a four-game showdown for first place.

We could really get used to this.

***

Hats off to the Kent State gymnastics team, as the Golden Flashes finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally, the highest ranking in the program’s history.

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