It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Detroit Tigers were supposed to run away with the AL Central Division. That's what everyone thought after they signed Prince Fielder to add to an already stacked lineup. But a funny thing happened on the way to October baseball: It's called the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians lengthened their lead over Detroit on Wednesday night to five games with a 4-2 victory. It was the Indians' second-straight win over the Tigers, who beat Cleveland 10 straight times to end the 2011 campaign.
Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano pitched out of his own self-induced no-out, bases-loaded situation without allowing a run in the top of the eighth and the score tied at 2-2.
Cleveland scored two runs in the bottom of the frame to win the contest before 22,000 fans.
Pennant fever is beginning to grip Cleveland, it would seem. Last night's crowd was about 7,000 more than the night before. This all comes on the heels of this past weekend, when Indians All-Star closer Chris Perez ripped Indians fans for not showing up at the ballpark.
It's beginning to feel like a magic year in Cleveland, where they haven't won a World Series since 1948, when Bob Feller was on the staff and the owner was Bill Veeck.
Here are five reasons why it's feeling like something special is brewing at Progressive Field:
Everyone thought this guy was washed up after last year. But he's been nasty and with a record of 6-2 and an ERA of 2.15, he is a Cy Young contender. As the season progresses, don't discount his experience. He pitched on the Red Sox staff that won the World Series in 2004.
Keystone combination of Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera
Second baseman Kipnis is fielding like an all-star and has also been productive at the plate, where he has provided both sock (six HRs) and speed (six SBs). Cabrera, who is coming off an All-Star year, is amongst the best-hitting shortstops in the game. He is hitting .308 with five HRs and 19 RBI, and is on pace to hit 50-plus doubles.
The Indians have some talent, but Acta is a strong bench presence. He's punched all the right buttons with his bullpen and has been able to maneuver players in and out to fill a giant hole in left field.
Santana is coming into his own as both a signal-caller and clutch player. He is batting .257 with six HR and 23 RBI. He has walked 30 times, which helps explains his high OBP of .374.
The Cleveland fans will take this team to its heart and support it. Look for loud crowds in the 40,000 range to create an atmosphere that is intimidating for the visitor and gives the Tribe a huge home-field advantage.
The late Gabe Paul, a front office executive from the 70s, called the Cleveland baseball fan market a "Sleeping Giant." They sold out 455 games when Jacobs Field opened.
The fans will fulfill that prophesy at the ticket gate this summer. It's a good thing because the Indians will need the extra money from ticket sales to try to lock up a much-needed right-hand bat at the trade deadline.