Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baby steps for the Tribe as they take the Royals series

It's not exactly a reason to kill the fatted calf, but the Indians have their first series victory of the season to hang their hats on today.

A three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth by Grady Sizemore gave the Tribe a 5-2 win today at Progressive Field and their first series victory - two games to one.

Given that it was a series within the Central Division, it kind of takes a little bit of the sting out of the fact that the Tribe split the series in New York, when they could have easily swept the first-ever series at the New Yankee Stadium.

The offense, until very recently, has been the only reason for optimism for the Tribe. They still have their nights of K's and LOB's, but for the most part they've done the job.

The big difference lately has been the Tribe's starters.

In the last eight games, starting with the final game in KC last week, the Tribe is 5-3. The ERA for the starting pitchers in those games is 2.92 and 5 of the 8 met the (admittedly weak) standard to be considered a "quality start." The stretch started with Aaron Laffey's first appearance of the year, in Kansas City, and runs through today's fine outing by Anthony Reyes.

In the stretch, Cliff Lee has gotten things righted, Fausto Carmona has shown he at least still has some concept of how to pitch, Laffey has had two good starts in two tries, Carl Pavano had his bullpen-ruined gem in New York on Sunday and Reyes has been solid.

The only thing missing now is some longevity.

Over the past 8 games, Tribe starters have gone 49 1/3 innings, or just over 6 innings per start. A far cry from the early blowouts in the first 8 games, but still leaving plenty of room for improvement.

In the last four games the starters have gone 27 innings, 1 shy of an even 7 per start - and one might argue (as I already have) that Carl Pavano should have been allowed to go that one more inning on Sunday.

So things are looking up in the starting pitching department, even to the point where it's not quite clear just where Scott Lewis will fit in when he comes off the DL.

Anybody have any thoughts on that?

Which brings us to the bullpen - which three weeks ago was being heralded as the strength of the club.

Let's start with the good.

How much fun is it watch Kerry Wood come in and just blow people away? One might say it's worth - oh - $10 million bucks.

No more walks, singles, 3-2 counts and gnawed-off finger nails in the 9th. For the first time in a decade.

True enough Wood provided some drama Tuesday, giving up a two-run homer with a three-run lead, but I'm giving him a pass on that one. The inning was prolonged by an infield hit and the dinger barely made it over the wall in right field. He dominated four of the five guys he faced, though one did manage to eke out that single.

The other slight ray of hope presented itself last night, with the arrival of Tony Sipp. The just-recalled rookie lefty made his debut with a perfect inning, which included a K. Sipp - from the few pitches he threw - seems to have a decent fastball with serious movement, and a big slow breaking ball. The movement on both pitches, and the drastic changes in speed made him look tough to hit. If he can hold down the fort against lefties until Raffie Perez gets it back together, or grab the reins himself in the late innings, the huge hole in the pen will seem just that much smaller.

Jensen Lewis slammed the door on a bullpen-induced rally by the Royals Monday night with his best outing so far this year. But, while he pitched two scoreless innings today that 8th inning was still pretty shaky. Still, his last two outings have been an improvement, so there's reason for hope there.

I suggested the Tribe try Joe Smith in a bigger role. My bad. Smith had difficulties Monday night and he and Masa Kobayashi nearly blew a 6-1 lead in the 8th. He needs to find a way to get lefties out or he will be limited to that rarest of roles - the righty specialist.

Let's not take the pen off the feeding tube just yet.

Still, after starting the season at 0-5, the Tribe is taking baby steps in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

if laffey continues to pitch well how can you send him back. But how can someone loose their job because of an injury. Tough decsion

maybe there is some hope as the division is so week

this is moose

Ron Vallo said...

you must have written this before tonight's game. so far this season, this team has been a horror show

Anonymous said...

moose said

is it time for the great carl pavano experiment to end

maybe the yankees would take him back - he is better than anything they have right now