No one has any idea what to expect from Cliff Lee this year. I think we'll all take six-and-two-thirds innings, four hits, one walk, one unearned run, and four strikeouts in start number one. Lee outlasted Oakland's Joe Blanton just long enough to pick up his first victory of the season, and even the Indians' record at 3-3 on the year.
Yesterday, the one day they spent below .500 at 2-3 was more days then they spent below .500 in all of 2007, zero.
Neither team was on offensive juggernaut, as the Tribe managed seven hits to the A's four. Oakland only had one inning in which they had more than one base runner, the third. Kurt Suzuki singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Mark Sweeney singled Suzuki to third, and Travis Buck brought him home for a 1-0 lead.
The Indians looked like they might put up a goose egg as they were unable to get more than one runner on base until the seventh. Andy Marte and Kelly Shoppach generated a pair of one-out singles and were followed by a Grady Sizemore walk to load the bases.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a probable double-play ball to that ate up A's 1B Daric Barton, who could only manage the out at first, allowing pinch runner Jamey Carroll to score. For some reason, slumping Travis Hafner was intentionally walked to re-load the bases and Ryan Garko delivered with a walk of his own giving the Indians a 2-1 lead.
Lee might have lasted longer if not for a 12 pitch battle with Travis Buck to start the game and a nine-pitch duel with Jack Hannahan to end his night in the seventh. Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, and Joe Borowski came on to pitch two-and-one-third innings of shutout relief to close the door. Only an Iron Joe ninth-inning walk prevented a perfect bullpen outing. Cleveland rejoiced in the relative ease in which Borowski closed the door today.
In addition to Lee's strong outing, Grady Sizemore continues to impress. 1-3 with two walks this afternoon. He should of been 2-3, but was robbed in the bottom of the third by a diving Barton. Ryan Garko hit clean-up today, which seems to be a much better option than Travis Hafner, with Victor Martinez.
But the bottom line is that without Martinez and a "right" Travis Hafner, the Indians lineup doesn't look anywhere near as potent as it could be.
Some other causes of concern other than the lack of run production. Martinez's health and Hafner's head begin with Jhonny Peralta. After a monster spring, he is swinging at that breaking pitch low and away with regularity, and he has been bailed out by Garko on a number of his throws from shortstop.
C. C. Sabathia also had crappy start number two of 2008 on Saturday afternoon as he was uncharacteristically wild and seemed to be pressing. Is it due to the Cy Young Award or impending contract payday? Who knows, but the hefty lefty needs to get right, especially with the Indians offense struggling, if they want to have the type of season they are capable of.
The most glaring problem is the dreaded David Dellucci/Jason Michaels LF platoon. Dellucci is 0-7 with two strikeouts. Michaels is 1-13 (.077) with five strikeouts after a double into the LF corner today. So that's a whopping .050 average out of that spot so far. Yes, it's only six games, but not the kind of start you want from the position most under the microscope by the fans. It is Cleveland, so I am sure calls for Ben Francisco or a trade are already well underway.
The Indians finish off their West Coast swing with three at Anaheim before heading back East for a pair of two-game sets with AL powers Boston and Detroit. Let's win that Angles series before measuring up with the AL's elite.
It's Tribe Time Now. Believeland.