Saturday, September 8, 2007

Back to the pennant race

Suddenly it's starting to feel like early August all over again.

I don't know what it's like where you are, but outside my door its hot, hazy and humid. Just like early August.

No matter where you are, if you watched the Tribe the past two nights - or at least read about it when you got up in the morning - you saw them score a grand total of five runs in the past two games.

You also saw the Tribe lose two games off their lead over the Tigers, who with two last-at-bat wins over the White Sox, seem like they might be ready to rip off a string of victories. They sure seemed to be a different club against Seattle last night. And Gary Sheffield - for now anyway - is back in the lineup and Kenny Rogers is back on the mound.

As Indians fans it's a very natural to start getting that queasy feeling after just two small steps backward over the last two nights, but I don't think we should panic just yet.

There are a few differences between where the Tribe is now and where they were during that awful post All-Star period, when they (and the Tigers as well) couldn't get out of their own way.

Most importantly, they still have a five-game lead over the Tigers, which would have looked pretty sweet in early August.

Just as importantly, the Indians of early September have another advantage the Tribe of a month ago did not have. The finish line is in sight. They're no longer working to get, and then expand, a lead over the Tigers. With just three weeks left, all they have to do is play tit-for-tat with the Tigers, if not even a little bit below that level.

Two things make me believe they will be able to do at least that much over the final three weeks.

They continue to pitch extremely well and may have even found that extra arm they need in the bullpen in Jensen Lewis. If they continue to pitch as they have, they will should be able to play at a .500 clip at the minimum, which is all they really need to do to run out the clock on the Tigers.

In addition, unlike the early-August Indians, the Tribe last night made some adjustments at the plate against a very tough pitcher and did manage to put up some hits, if not many runs. After one trip through the order they began to collectively realize that if they took John Lackey the other way they'd have a better shot against him. The early-August Indians - in a panic about their slump at the plate - would have continued to flail away against Lackey, hoping to put every pitch into the seats.

With a bit of a cushion in the standings, I think the Tribe will be able to relax a bit more at the plate and - if they are heading into a batting slump - shake their offensive woes more quickly this time around.

This four-game trip to California has had me worried from the start. But, as I said in an earlier post, a 5-5 trip to Minnesota, California and Chicago would be acceptable and good enough to keep the Tribe in the the driver's seat in the A.L. Central.

Despite a little bit of rumbling in my stomach, I still feel that way this morning.


moose said...

a BIG win from the BIG man

Anonymous said...

so a five game lead with 20 to play - looks like seattle is done with the wildcard race

Ron Vallo said...

Talk about a your swan dives.

Seems Seattle not only took one but they took the dive into an empty pool.

Let's hope they remain in a funk for the rest of the year, particularly when they play four against the Tribe late this month.

Of course it would be better if those games turn out to not mean anything.