The Cleveland Indians have now lost ten of their last 12 games, botching two potential wins in the last three games against the 1st place Chicago White Sox in stomach-churning fashion. As the offense seemed to start to show some signs of life, scoring three, eight and five runs in the series, the once steady Tribe bullpen decided to flame out when they could least afford it.
Newly promoted Scott Elarton looked horrendous in handing the Sox the game on Memorial Day in the 12th inning. Honestly, I thought it was early season, injured Joe Borowski pitching. Elarton basically threw late night batting practice in the 12th inning of that game.
Wednesday's game was handed to the Sox by Rafael Betancourt immediately after the Indians had put up a three-spot to take a two run lead. Just when the Indians late inning relief looked to be back in order after the return of Borowski they served up a couple of stink pickles for the Progressive Field faithful.
Despite finally scoring some runs in the series, the Tribe continued to fail in situations where they had multiple chances to succeed. Two men in, two men on, no one out in the bottom of the 1st Wednesday? Dellucci, Peralta, Aubrey. Strike out, line out, strike out. Instead of breaking the game open, a meager 2-0 lead for the Erie Warriors.
Trailing 6-5, the first two men get on in the bottom of the 9th. A perfect bunt by Jamey Carroll to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Ben Francisco and Victor Martinez due up. Two weak pop ups. On absolutely horrible approaches at the plate. Ballgame over.
It is not coincidence that the only game the Indians won in the series on Tuesday saw them capitalize on these opportunities. They had an opportunity to get ahead early and did. When they had an opportunity to extend the lead they did. When the White Sox threatened late in the game, the bullpen came in and shut the door.
The fact that the Indians had all three of those things happen in the same game in amazing considering for them to do JUST ONE of those things in any one ball game is difficult for them.
Right now, quite frankly, the Indians don't pass the eye test. They just don't look like a contender or winner let alone a good baseball team. To quote the movie Major League, "These Guys Ain't Too (bleeping) good." Other than the starting pitching they do nothing great or even fairly well.
They sit at 24-29, 5 1/2 games behind the AL Central Division leading White Sox. After 53 games last year they were 34-19 with a 4 1/2 game lead in the AL Central. Last year the Indians went into a post All Star Weekend funk, but even through that time they looked like a team that was just working through a rough patch. This year the Tribe just look like a bad baseball team.
Worse than that, a soft baseball team. One unable to handle expectations, adversity or pressure. In fact, to quote Tribe skipper Eric Wedge after the game, "You look at that team over there, they're a little bit tougher than we are right now."
I wish I could say I disagree, but I can not. After an off day tomorrow it's an 11 game road trip for the Wahoos. With an 8-13 record away from home, and they way they are playing right now, it's a very dangerous task for the Tribe right now.
They need to toughen up if they want to raise the spirits of the Cleveland Faithful because they are like the housing market right now. At an all-time low with no sight of making a comeback.