The Cleveland Indians wrapped up a series victory on Sunday evening in Houston edging the Astros 5-4 in the series-finale at Minute Maid Park. The Tribe won two-straight Saturday and Sunday after falling 3-2 in the series lid lifter on Friday in the first meeting of the season between the two clubs.
On Sunday the Indians battled back from a 2-0 deficit to power past the lowly Astros, however the finish was not for the faint of heart as two-time All-Star closer Chris Perez loaded the bases before finally slamming the door and earning his second save of the season ensuring a series victory.
Here are five things I pondered during the Indians recent three-game series in Houston:
1. “Mega Mark”: Is it too early to sign Mark Reynolds to a multi-year deal? This time I’m not being sarcastic. Many different players contributed to the Indians series win in Houston, but nobody more than the Tribe’s new right-handed slugger. Reynolds belted two home runs in the series to bring his season total to seven on the season to go along with 18 RBIs and a .298 batting average. Some Tribe fans had no idea who Reynolds was when the club signed him over the off-season, I doubt that is the case anymore. The slugger has shown early on he is much more valuable than just a power-hitting DH. Besides bringing a relaxing clubhouse presence, Reynolds can also flash the leather. His diving stop at third base (his first game there this season) on Sunday afternoon saved the game for the Indians and Perez was the first person to praise him for that following the victory. I’m not sure what his nickname will be whether it’s “Mega Mark”, “Renegade Reynolds” or the “Sheriff of Swattingham”…whatever he ends up going by, his first 17 games with Cleveland have been very impressive. Let’s not forget, this is the same guy who hit 44 home runs and drove in 102 RBIs in 2009 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mark Reynolds is off to a great start in his first season with the Indians hitting .298 with 7 HRs and 18 RBIs. He's also shown impressive glove work at 1B and 3B. AP Photo
2. Starting pitching concerns: The concerns I had regarding the Indians starting pitching still remain after 17 games…actually they’ve probably been elevated even more. Besides Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister, it feels like a crapshoot when anybody else takes the mound to start a game for the Wahoos. Over the weekend not one starting pitcher went past five innings for Cleveland and that is a major concern for manager Terry Francona who always insists on preserving his bullpen. Brett Myers landed on the 15-day DL after inflammation in his right forearm, he only pitched five innings in Friday’s loss. Left-hander Scott Kazmir could not even get through the fourth inning as a starter. While Ubaldo Jimenez was better on Sunday than his previous two outings, even he could not get past the fifth inning. The blue print for Indians victories is simple: starting pitchers go six innings, let the trio of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez take over for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. So far through 17 games, that has rarely been the case due to inconsistent outings from the starting staff.
3. Dealing with offensive inconsistencies: I have come to the conclusion that we better just get used to an inconsistent offense which features the potential for a lot of “swing & miss”, but also a lot of home runs. Heck, over their past three games alone the Indians have hammered a combined eight home runs! Quite a difference from a year ago. But take a look at the Indians run total over their first 17 games; this is a game-by-game look at the amount of runs they have scored since Opening Night in Toronto: 4, 3, 8, 0, 0, 13, 6, 1, 1, 9, 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 19 and 5. That offensive output screams inconsistency, that is something Tribe fans could live with if the starting pitching rotation was going out and putting up zeroes consistently, however that is obviously not the case. The offense is certainly much improved from a year ago, but through 17 games it has been way to inconsistent…at least to gauge whether they can consistently provide enough runs for a shaky pitching rotation.
Brett Myers was 0-3 to start the season and now he's on the DL after receiving an MRI on his right forearm. AP Photo
4. Keeping one’s perspective: It was comical to hear talk radio in Cleveland for several days during the Indians five-game losing streak. I’m not sure if I blame callers/fans or the hosts. I am probably part of the problem too, but let’s take a deep breath for one second here. Following the Indians five-game losing streak they had played 14 games into the 2013 season….that’s 8% of the baseball season. A 162-game baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint and over the course of a 162-game six month baseball season, “the cream eventually rises to the top.” Two years ago the Indians started the 2011 season 30-15. How did that season finish up? A year ago the Tribe was in first place after 2 ½ months. Any idea how that went? My point is: while the Indians certainly have their fair share of question marks and uncertainties, no one should be panicking after 14 games. The problem with fans nowadays is that everybody wants to know the answer right away! Many fans want to know, “Is this team good?” The beauty of baseball is that you probably will not have your answer for another four or five months. Have some patience, let’s enjoy this 2013 season one game at a time.
5. Finally getting to the trio: I’ll keep this short and sweet before we wrap this up. I have talked about it since Opening Night in Toronto on April 2. The blue print to Cleveland Indians victories during this 2013 season is: the starting pitching gives the club six solid innings followed by the 7-8-9 innings combination of Smith, Pestano and Perez. The trio was dominant a year ago winning over 90% of the games they appeared in and if the offense can plate some runs early on and the starting pitcher can give the team six, that should be a recipe for a slew of Tribe victories. Smith and Perez were a little shaky on Sunday afternoon during the Indians 5-4 win over the Astros, but they eventually pulled it together to slam the door. If starters can give Cleveland six strong innings, I’d bet on the “made men” of the “Bullpen Mafia” finishing the job the final three innings of work.
Final thought: When this season started I projected the Indians to go 81-81. Through 17 games my prediction appears to be right on the money, however I should be clear; I hope I am wrong. My concerns about the starting pitching rotation still remain, however this offense has a ton of pop and the bullpen might just be the best group we have seen in Cleveland. The thing I like about this club is how it is constructed. It seems to have the perfect mix of young players, guys in their prime and a few grizzled veterans…that concoction of players could mean more than anyone will ever give it credit for.
- Nick Camino