Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Travis Hafner”

Holding out for a hero

Another day, another hero, another win for the never-say-die Cleveland Indians.

They left it late, but the Tribe came through against the Blue Jays on Travis Hafner’s walk-off grand slam.

Hafner’s heroics were made possible, once again, by the Tribe bullpen, which combined for five innings of one-run ball while everyone waited for the offense to do something.

“We had the right guy up there, but it started with the guys at the bottom of our lineup,” Indians manager Manny Acta said in published reports. “After the first two guys got on — I didn’t think about a walk-off — but I thought we had a pretty good chance with our lineup rolling over.

“Everybody needs to have hope. Every day of your life, you have to think you’re going to do it.”

What a week its been for the Indians.

Taking two out of three from the Yankees, thanks to Austin Kearns’ improbable home run on Monday, and Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson shoving it up the Yankees’ asses in the two wins (a combined 15 innings pitched, six hits, two earned runs, 11 strikeouts and only three walks) to last night’s comeback, the Tribe seems to have emerged from June’s slump.

And they are doing it with key players still struggling and what seems like almost an injury-a-day policy.

But, through it all, they keep plugging along, never giving in or giving up.

One example of never giving up comes from the always informative DiaTribe, which points out that the right-field platoon of Travis Buck, Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan have combined to hit .307 with a .844 OPS on 43 plate appearances since Shin-Soo Choo went down with an injury.

It may not be pretty, and it may not feel like it at times, but there’s no questioning this team is finding ways to win – and that is one of the reasons they are so much fun to root for.

And through it all – the injuries, the slumps, guys coming up and going down to Columbus, the only having three-fifths of a reliable starting rotation – the Tribe is in first place, 1.5 games ahead of Detroit and 5.5. up on the White Sox. In fact, over the past 10 games the Indians have picked up three games on Detroit and two games on the ChiSox.

And with Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco scheduled to take the hill this weekend, there is everyone reason to believe the team will head into next week’s All-Star break on a high note.

Get ready Cleveland, it’s shaping up to be one heck of a second half of the season.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

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Magic number is 50 for the Tribe

The Indians were never going to win every game the rest of the season.

So while it’s disappointing they lost both games to the White Sox this week, the bigger picture says they are still OK.

On May 1 the Tribe lead second-place Kansas City by 4.5 games. Now, almost three weeks later, they lead second-place Detroit by five games heading into a weekend series with Cincinnati.

While Fausto Carmona’s outing was ugly, he’s been fine as long as he doesn’t face the White Sox. On the season, Carmona has a 2.56 ERA against teams not from the south side of Chicago (56.1 innings pitched, 16 earned runs, four home runs allowed). In two starts against the White Sox, his ERA is 20.25 (18 earned runs and three home runs in just eight innings of work).

Carmona went 6-0 against the White Sox from 2008 to 2010. This year? It’s just one of those things that make sports weird and interesting. But his history against Chicago gives us confidence he’ll be OK the next time he faces the White Sox.

Justin Masterson was more than solid in his start against Chicago. Even though he took the loss Wednesday night, Masterson threw a five-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in his first complete game of the season.

Injuries are starting to creep up on the team, however. Grady Sizemore is on the disabled list, Travis Hafner joined him Friday because of an abdominal injury, and Travis Buck has turf toe.

So while the offense may struggle for a bit until everyone gets healthy again, the pitching and defense are still there and the Tribe has reached the quarter mark of the season in first place.

More importantly, they are closing in the 50-game mark, which is when the contenders are separated from the pretenders.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, much of the drama of the baseball season is pretty much over by June 1. By then, about one-third of the teams are out of it; another half dozen will join them if they don’t get hot quickly.

The article found that, since 1996, just 9 percent of teams with a losing record on June 1 wound up with 90 wins, the number teams usually shoot for to make the playoffs, according to data crunched by The Wall Street Journal and Ben Alamar, founder of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. During that early season period, the average correlation between a team’s win percentage on June 1 and its final winning percentage is 0.76. Statisticians consider that to be a very high correlation.

The best explanation for why 50-games is all it takes to sort out the winners from the losers has to do with a combination of mathematics, psychology and the secrets of winning baseball games. While any bad team can have a good week or month, excelling for a 50-game stretch without very good players is virtually impossible.

Hang in there Tribe fans, another couple of weeks and we should have an even better read on the team.

And no matter what, it’s shaping up to be a fun summer.

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Now that he’s taken care of Bin Laden, President Obama probably has some time on his hands. Maybe he should take a crack at ending this ridiculous NFL lockout.

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The Brew Kettle in Strongsville won eight awards its their beers, including Best in Show, at the recent International Beer Fest at the I-X Center.

We’ll drink to that.

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