Created on Friday, 23 August 2013 Written by Jim Ingraham JIngraham@News-Herald.com @jitribeinsider, writer
They are like a piece of fly paper you can't shake off your hand. The Indians won't fold, won't fade, and won't go away.
Just when you think they are getting ready to punch out, wash up, and go home, they go 6-3 on the trip that ended Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif.
They lost the first game of the trip that took the Indians to Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim, but then won six of the last eight games on the season-resuscitating trip. This came immediately after a demoralizing 1-6 homestand in which they lost four games in the standings to division-leading Detroit, and three games in the wild-card standings.
Then what? Then they played nine consecutive games on the road and shaved a game and a half off Detroit's lead, and they picked up a game and a half and leap frogged Baltimore for third place in the wildcard race.
One of the games on the trip was a preposterous 4-1 win in 14 innings over the Angels, a game in which the Indians scored one run in the first 13 innings, but won because their pitchers, from the first through the 14th innings, faced 59 consecutive batters without allowing a run.
In the bottom of the 10th inning of that game, with the score tied at 1, the Angels had the bases loaded with nobody out — but the Indians still won the game.
The Indians hit .160 in the game (8-for-50), but they still won. From the eighth through the 13th innings, the Indians hit .053 (1-for-19) but they still won the game.
The Indians won that game with their two best hitters — Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley — going a combined 0-for-12. In the game, the Indians were held hitless in nine innings, and scoreless in 12 innings — but still won.
The Indians used nine pitchers in the game, but only one of them gave up a run, and he only gave up one run.
It felt like a watershed win, unless you don't believe watershed wins can occur at 3:30 in the morning.
The Indians then completed the three-game sweep by winning a day game the next day, a game that had mail-it-in-possibilities written all over it, given that it was the last game of a long trip, it was a day game after a night game and they had played a 14-inning game the previous day.
Still, the Indians grinded out a 3-1 win, and came home 6-3 on the trip.
There are 35 games left in the regular season, which for the Indians has been an irregular regular season. Lots of streaks, lots of reasons to think Detroit, or a wild-card spot were unattainable, lots of crushing moments or demoralizing series that could have morphed into reasons to wait until next year.
After most of them, however, the Indians have played harder and better. They have not folded, faded or gone away.
They are the ultimate hang-around team, and when a team hangs around long enough, in a given game or a given season, you never know what might happen at the end.
Until the 2013 Indians reach theirs, however, a fair question worth raising would be to ask whether this is Terry Francona's best managing job yet? Better even than his two World Series championship teams in Boston?
Consider this: His 2004 world champion Red Sox were coming off a 95-win season in 2003. His 2007 world champion Red Sox won 86, 95, 98 and 93 games in the four seasons prior to that year, and then won 95 games in each of the two years after it.
Those were not exactly chopped liver teams Francona was managing.
Last year, the Indians last year were chopped liver.
They lost 94 games. In August of last year, the Indians played 29 games and lost all of them but five. They were 24-53 (.312) after the All-Star break. For the season, they gave up 178 more runs than they scored.
Granted, the Indians did choose to make some major upgrades to the roster this year, but you must grant this, also: Asdrubal Cabrera and Vinnie Pestano are having the worst years of their careers, Nick Swisher is having his worst season in the last eight years, and the 2013 starting rotation had a combined record last year of 28-45 —and that's including Scott Kazmir, who wasn't even in the major leagues last year.
The Indians, who finished 26 games under .500 last year, are 11 games over .500 this year.
They have already exceeded their win total from last year, and it's still August.
Somebody is doing something right.
Team Tito, indeed.