Something must certainly be wrong here. The Cleveland Indians, nearly a consensus pick to be among the worst teams in American League, have now won seven games in a row. Today's 6-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners pushed their record to 7-2, good for first in the AL Central. Stranger? This mark is good for a four-game advantage over both the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.
What the heck is going on with this Cleveland ball club? Well, by this writer's estimate, through the last seven games it has played like a club with nothing to lose, allowing the players to play loose, pressure-free baseball, and this has translated into some pretty big wins.
After looking just terrible the first two games of the season against the Chicago White Sox, they settled down and took the last game of the series...then three more against sexy World Series pick Boston Red Sox...then three more against the Seattle Mariners.
Admittedly, the Mariners are simply not that great of a team. Regardless, a sweep of a series in Major League Baseball isn't generally anything to sneeze at.
So what has gone right for the Wahoos thus far, enabling them to their best start in nine years?
Well, starting pitching for one. This seems serendipitous due to the fact we only had one bona-fide starter this season in Fausto Carmona. Working down the rotation:
Who is the biggest surprise thus far this season?
Carmona: After a rough start in Chicago, Carmona settled down immensely against the Red Sox, working seven innings of two-hit shutout ball. Though a no-decision, the Tribe won the game, 1-0.
Carlos Carrasco: The White Sox also ran roughshod on Carrasco. Like Carmona, he responded in kind against the Red Sox. In his second outing, he went six innings, only yielding one run and striking out six en route to his first win of the season.
Justin Masterson: Two great starts. Feels like two more than he had last season. Over 13.1 innings, Masterson is boasting a 1.35 ERA. In two winning efforts, he has only allowed two total runs and fanned nine. Opponents are hitting only .229 against the Jamaican hurler.
Josh Tomlin: Bested Erik Bedard today in Seattle. Seemed like Tomlin was lucky to even get a nod for a rotation spot this Spring Training, but he has turned in two quality starts, only surrendering four runs in over 13 innings of work.
Mitch Talbot: While he only pitched 4.1 innings in his debut this season, he struck out seven Red Sox. A good foundation for sure. He will take to the bump tomorrow when the Indians face the Angels in Anaheim.
Big question marks have been turned to exclamation points for the Erie Warriors thus far as well.
With Grady Sizemore out for the beginning of the season, Michael Brantley would have to step in and produce in the leadoff spot. He has indeed with a .303 batting average, including three doubles, five RBI and great defensive work out in center field.
Would Travis Hafner return to vintage form? Well, Manager Manny Acta has given "Pronk" two games off through the first nine, keeping him fresh to post a .375 batting average. This includes two home runs and six RBI, also walking three times ballooning his OBP to .433. This has been a great barometer for the slugger at this point in the season.
After missing much of last season, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has also been a huge lift for the Tribe. Treating him almost as a new acquisition, Cabrera is leading the team in home runs (three), RBI (nine), and is hitting at a solid .316 clip. A brilliant 3-for-5 performance including a home run and two RBI helped lead the Tribe to victory today.
Jack Hannawho? That would be Jack Hannahan belting his second home run of the season. The free agent signing with no fanfare surrounding him has played some of the best third base the Cleveland Indians have had the past couple years. His .286 average with seven RBI isn't too shabby, either.
All of this without the best player in the lineup, Shin-Soo Choo, nearly reaching his potential. Choo is starting to heat up (five hits against his former team Seattle); watch out when he begins to hit his stride again.
I must admit, the title of this article is slightly misleading. Through blind ignorance, or perhaps arrogance, I believe my Indians have the goods every season to take home some hardware, so I guess you can say I always do indeed "believe". After the first two White Sox games, there were almost no positives to take from them. The last seven have been a different story.
As stated before, the Indians are playing with zero expectations, and they know it, allowing them to just focus on baseball. In Boston, the sky is falling after a 1-7 start. In the Rock 'n Roll Capital of the World, the Indians are just playing great, fundamental baseball. This includes great starting pitching, timely hitting, and jumping on opponents early so they can't dig out. Yes this writer is believing...always has, and always will.