The Cleveland Indians completed a 3-game sweep of the Texas Rangers Sunday night and in so doing, have won 7 games in a row and have swept 3 out of their last 5 series, splitting 4 games with the Orioles and taking 2 of 3 from the Angels. This is a huge turnaround for a team that has been hurt by first, a lack of off-season acquisitions, early injuries to key players, and then trades of three key players eligible for free agency at the end of the season. This recent run of success has many Cleveland fans, as well as baseball fans in general scratching their heads wondering what enabled this team to play with such enthusiasm when they could have easily folded for the season. When Manager Eric Wedge was asked, he stated, “Every year we have a run like this.” Eric, this is not the time for humility. As a matter of fact, even though I hate to admit it, Wedge has actually had a hand in this “run” as he calls it. He has engineered a number of well executed come from behind/tie breaking rallies to keep this streak in tact. For example, last night, after the Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Indians faced Eddie Guardado in the top of the 9th. Ryan Garko led off the inning with a single. Wedge inserted Andy Gonzales to pinch run. As play by play man Matt Underwood noted, “The only way Garko scores from first on a hit is if it’s a home run!” Kelly Shoppach executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Gonzales to second. Gonzales then scored the eventual winning run on a single by Franklin Gutierrez. This combination of timely hitting with “small ball” has not been a big part of the Indians’ repertoire under Eric Wedge. The manager cannot execute a bunt or a timely hit, but he certainly can call a play and set expectations from his group of players based on their talent level. Earl Weaver was blessed with good to great pitching, built defensive strength up the middle of the field, and lived and flourished via the 3-run home run. Those Oriole teams never wanted for an explanation of expectations. What this Indians team has lacked is consistency for an entire season (post season included) during the Eric Wedge years. That consistency begins in expectations and lives and breathes through execution. A young Tampa Bay Rays team is experiencing untimely injuries but don’t expect them to fold. Expectations with accountability are extremely clear to this talented bunch.
I like this Indians team. They have the talent to play good baseball everyday. They certainly have some needs that must be addressed but you wouldn’t know it over the last 16 games, winning 13.
It is all about respectability now in finishing the 2008 season.