The Indians have fought back and regained first place by beating the Tigers by a score of 7-4 tonight. The game was a nail-biter as the Indians jumped to a lead in the first inning and continued to build that lead through nine innings, while the Tigers kept clawing back into the game. The Indians accomplished this with an unusual twist to their line-up. Practically each night since Andy Marte has returned from the disabled list, they have found a way to start him at 3rd base. This meant sitting the number 10 hitter in the league, Ryan Garko who also bats right handed as does Marte. With Byrd pitching and using Kelly Shoppach as his catcher exclusively, Martinez was moved to 1st base. Casey Blake took over in right field. All of this presents a problem, but a very good problem. How do you work all of the hot hitters into a potent line-up?
Marte is batting .180 this season with 4 errors and he had a poor spring training. He went 1 for 4 tonight and failed to produce with a runner on third and less than 2 outs. He did have a couple of nice plays at 3rd. The night before, he went 0 for 5 with a ground out and 4 pop-outs. He owns a poor strikeout to walk ratio.
The Indians are in first place despite not having a set infield and outfield. Marte obviously represents untapped talent but can we continue to be successful playing the league leaders (Detroit and Boston over the next 9 games) while experimenting? Michaels, Blake, and Garko are on fire. All bat right handed as does Marte. The question becomes, is Marte getting playing time based on his talent, is he being showcased for a trade for a reliever, or is he out of options?
Here is the scouting report on Marte from 2006:
Scouting Report: Blue chip third base prospect with all star potential. Excellent power (40 HR potential), drives the ball well to all fields. Above average fielder. Great plate discipline. Below average speed on the basepaths.
(We saw that below average speed tonight.)
At any rate, Wedge may have his hands tied somewhat in selecting his lineup.
It is up to Marte to produce to the level that he is capable of.
It is up to Wedge to get the most out of his lineup.
It is up to Shapiro to provide Wedge with the best talent available.
It continues to be a great season and grows more interesting minute by minute!