Another Uphill Fight For Tribe

Some team’s World Series victory drought will come to an end this year.  Either the Chicago Cubs, who haven’t won since 1908, or the Cleveland Indians, whose lack of a title is a rather pedestrian 68 seasons, will put an end to their lack of baseball’s World Championship.

Make no mistake, the Cubs are very worthy of being here, having the best record in baseball with 103 wins.

They have the National League’s best offense that doesn’t play in hitting friendly Coors Field, and they have the league’s best ERA too.

They lead the NL in on base percentage and OPS, and rank 4th in the Senior Circuit in slugging.  They do not run much, as they were 4th last in the NL in stolen bases.

And they actually hit better away from the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field than they do at home.  In fact, the park on the north side of the Windy City, actually played as a pitcher’s park this season.

Joe Maddon, one of the game’s best skippers (along with Terry Francona), has the likely NL MVP in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom have OPS over 900.

Leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler has a .393 on base percentage, while Ben Zobrist and Wilson Contreras both are very good offensive threats.

The Cubs do have some swing and miss bats in their order though, they were 5th in the NL in that category.

Pitching wise, Game 1 starter Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and their closer, Aroldis Chapman all have ERAs under 2.00 at Wrigley Field.

Their other three starters (Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel) are all under 3.00, very formidable indeed.

However, on the road, both Lester and Arrieta, presumably the game two starter, are both over 3.00, and Lackey is over 4.00, although his start appears to be a home.

The former Angels and Red Sox hurler is 8-9 lifetime vs. Cleveland with an ERA approaching 4.

And then we have the American League’s best baserunning team, the Indians, vs. Lester, who has a known “phobia” about throwing to bases.

If the Tribe can get on against the southpaw, they need to run and run and run some more.  Take advantage of every little thing possible against one of the game’s better pitchers.

And last, we will hear plenty about Francona and his relationship with Cubs’ president Theo Epstein, and how they ended the “Curse of the Bambino” in Boston and repeated with another title in 2007.

This series features two of the best managers in the sport, two outstanding young executives, one (Chris Antonetti) looking to win for the first time, and two teams with a sordid past, although with three AL pennants in the last 21 years, the Indians are the franchise with more recent success.

There is no question the Cubs are very good.  Their run differential this year is the highest in the National League since 1906.

On the other hand, they played in the National League, the inferior league in our estimation.  Outside of the Twins, you can argue that the five worst teams in baseball played in the NL (Reds, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Brewers).

Can the Indians pull it off?  Of course, but the bats need to wake up.  You can’t expect the pitching staff to continue to perform as they have thus far in the playoffs.



Another Week, More Big Plays Killed The Browns

When the NFL season began this year, we talked about not judging the Cleveland Browns based on wins and losses, but rather, on the progress being shown weekly by the team.

One thing Hue Jackson’s crew is not improving on is giving up the big play on defense.  Three of Cincinnati’s four touchdowns today came via this method in a 31-17 loss in the Queen City to drop Cleveland to 0-7 on the season.

Last week, Tennessee had four plays of forty yards or more, today the Bengals scored on plays of 44, 48, and 74 yards.  If the Browns want to get in the win column at some point this season, Ray Horton’s defense has to prevent big plays.

To be fair, without Joe Haden out there (groin injury), there aren’t any solid experienced plays on that side of the ball.  We can’t believe there is no one better than Tramon Williams on the waiver wire.

At least on offense, Jackson has Joe Thomas, John Greco, and Gary Barnidge on the field to help the youngsters.

And yes, we know we said we go young after last season.

So, here are the positives, negatives, and officiating gaffes from this week’s game.

Positives.  The Browns have had problems the last two weeks running the ball, but they accumulated 180 yards on the ground today, led by an unlikely source.

Jackson must have found something in the Cincy defensive scheme showing they were susceptible to the read option, because the Browns unleashed reserve QB Kevin Hogan with it, and he ran for 104 yards on seven attempts, including a 28-yard touchdown run.

Isaiah Crowell also had a solid day with 63 yards on 12 carries.

Barnidge had a solid day as the outlet receiver, making 6 catches for 66 yards.

Before he left with a concussion, Cody Kessler played like we’ve come to expect him to play, hitting 9 of 11 throws for 82 yards.

On defense, Emmanuel Ogbah had his best game as a pro, recording two sacks.  Christian Kirksey and Carl Nassib combined for a third sack of Andy Dalton.

The Browns were also penalized just five times today.

Negatives. Giving up 559 yards in an NFL game may be the biggest negative you can come up with.  The defense gave up big play after big play.

Ibraheim Campbell took a horrific angle on Jeremy Hill’s 74 yard TD run, turning an 8 or 9 yard game into a touchdown.

And those two aren’t even the worst of it.

With 0:05 left on the clock in the first half, the Browns trailed 14-10 and were poised to get the second half kickoff.

That’s when Dalton hit A.J. Green for a 48 yard “Hail Mary” pass and suddenly the Browns were down 11.

There had to be five or six Browns around Green, yet no one could knock the pass down.  Green tipped it to himself for the score.

Officiating.   Ed Hochuli’s crew appeared to miss an offsides by Cincinnati with the play clock running down, calling a delay of game instead, when it appeared the Bengal defender was in the neutral zone when the play clock hit zero.

They also missed what appeared to be a helmet to helmet hit on Kessler on the play he suffered a concussion.

At least the schedule starts to see some home games for Jackson and his team, and it starts next week with a contest with the Jets, which should be a game the Browns can win.

But who will be the quarterback?  Can Kessler recover enough to play next week?  Or will it be Hogan in his first NFL start?  Or will veteran Josh McCown go back out there?

It’s always a QB question in Cleveland.


Tribe Goes To Series, Thankfully It Didn’t Take 41 Years Again.

For just the sixth time in franchise history, which spans 116 seasons, the Cleveland Indians are American League Champions!

For most of our life, at the beginning of baseball season, we would buy the Street and Smith’s Baseball Issue, and look at the composite World Series standings.

Every year, it would show Cleveland:  2 wins, 1 loss.

In those days, and we are talking the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, we wondered what it would be like to get to the Fall Classic and change those numbers.

Then came the 90’s and Jacobs Field, and the Tribe got to two Series in three seasons, but they couldn’t get it done.

The composite standings changed to Cleveland:  2 wins, 3 losses, and will have stayed that way until the end of this year’s World Series.

It been 19 years since the heart breaking loss to the Florida Marlins in the seventh game.  However, for fans of our generation, it is pretty damn cool that the Indians will be in their third Fall Classic in the last 21 years.

That may sound odd, but when you go 41 years between appearances in the Series, not having to go through another drought that long is great.

And although the players celebrated the six pennant in club history with gusto, to a man, and not surprisingly, they know they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

Terry Francona all but clinched a spot in the Hall of Fame as a manager, winning his third American League title, and doing it with two teams.

He did it losing two key pieces of his starting rotation, the strength of the team coming into the season, in September.  He lost another starter to a drone injury just prior to the first game of the League Championship Series.

Tito did it because he managed unconventionally, particularly with the use of his bullpen, although part of that is due to the unselfish nature of the LCS MVP Andrew Miller and the Tribe’s closer Cody Allen.

Both told the skipper to use them whenever he needed them, and that speaks to the ultimate trust the players have in their manager.

The Tribe doesn’t have the big names of the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the two teams they defeated to get to the Series, nor are they known nationally like many players on the Cubs and Dodgers, the two teams who are playing to face Cleveland next week.

It was fitting that Miller mentioned Francisco Lindor after game one, saying he deserves more notice nationally than he’s been getting.  The young Tribe shortstop is one of the up and coming stars in the sport.

And speaking of Miller, the best deadline trade acquisition we can think of in recent years, we wonder if the man who used to run the Indians, current Blue Jays’ president Mark Shapiro, would have pulled the trigger on getting the big lefty.

Our guess is he wouldn’t have, because he never had made a move that big.  Perhaps that’s due to the barren nature of the Cleveland farm system (which falls at Shapiro’s feet), but it doesn’t feel like Miller would be an Indian.

Which leads us to a tip of the hat to president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff.  Besides Miller, they went out and got Brandon Guyer (three hits in ALDS Game 2), and Coco Crisp, who has been all over the post-season, including homers in both clinch games and a great catch in game three of the LCS.

So, this team, which has overcome injuries to perhaps its best player coming into the year in Michael Brantley, their starting catcher in Yan Gomes, and the aforementioned two starters, needs to win four more games to break its own 68 year world title drought.

It will no doubt be difficult, but we wouldn’t bet again another title for the Cleveland area, just four months after the Cavs broke the 52 year span without one.


Francona’s Post-Season Experience Is Huge For Tribe

Is it possible for a manager to be named the MVP of the American League Championship Series?

There is no question Terry Francona has pushed the right button pretty much the entire month of October, and it was never more evident than last night when the Indians took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series with their bullpen pitching 8-1/3 innings.

As a result, the Tribe can clinch their sixth American League this evening in Toronto with a victory.

The Cleveland skipper is also a visionary in how to use your bullpen and your best relief pitcher the way he has utilized Andrew Miller throughout the playoffs.

We’ve seen the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon try similar things with their closers in the past two weeks, though without the same success as the Francona/Miller combination.

Of course, Francona is able to do this because of the deep Tribe bullpen.  It’s easy to use Miller in this way when you can bring in someone the quality of Cody Allen to pitch the ninth inning.

Imagine if Tito needed Miller to get the final three outs.

It would be a whole different situation.

Because Francona has managed two World Series winners, and been part of so many post-seasons over the years, he has a wealth of situations he can call on in handling things.

When the Yankees had their dominant run from 1996-2001, Joe Torre realized the importance of every playoff game.  At the time, that made him different than most managers who continued to pilot each contest like it was one out of 162.

Torre would use Mariano Rivera to get one or two extra outs per night, and would ask the same of set up men like Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton.

Sound familiar?

Tito is doing the same thing.  Maybe he’s doing it because Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar can’t start games.  But Josh Tomlin is giving him five good frames to date, and that’s all the skipper needs.

He knows his best pitchers are in the bullpen and Miller has morphed into the post-season’s best bullpen weapon since Rivera.

Watching him gives Indians’ fans the same feeling Yankee fans must have had knowing when Rivera, the best closer ever, entered the game, it was basically over.

And even though the relievers had to throw 8-1/3 innings last night, Francona still has Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson tonight if he needs length, and none of the pitchers used last night threw enough pitches to make them not be able to used in Game 4.

That said, we still wouldn’t use Corey Kluber on short rest today with a 3-0 lead, but we understand Tito wants him available in case he’s needed in a seventh game, should the series get that far.

We would use Ryan Merritt today, and then have a fully rested Kluber to go in Game 5.

Should Kluber lose today, the Blue Jays have to be salivating with a chance to go against a rookie tomorrow, and coming back to Cleveland down 3-2.

However, every button Francona has pushed this month has turned up a winner.  If we were going to Las Vegas this weekend, we would want to rub his head before we left.

No wonder the played believe in Terry Francona, he has put them in the right position in these two series and has them one game away from the American League Pennant.



Allowing The Big Play Kills Browns Today

It is very difficult to maintain optimism regarding an 0-6 NFL team.

Going into the season, we preached that the Cleveland Browns were not going to be good this season, in fact, we figured a 2-14 or 3-13 record would be about what the final record would be.

That doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch the games and see the young players make mistakes that cost the Browns every week.  Hue Jackson will tell us that it is his job to coach them up, but we all know he’s got to be shaking his head when watching the film.

Today, the final score wasn’t indicative of the closeness of the game.  The defense allowed too many big play, including the very first one, a 41-yard run by Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota.  But the young Browns kept fighting to the end, but still wound up on the short end of a 28-26 score.

Here are the positives, negatives, and officiating comments from today’s contest.

Positives.  Much was made of Tennessee’s ground game coming into the week, but outside of that first run by Mariota, the Browns controlled DeMarco Murray, who averaged just over 3 yards a carry.

After the initial play, Cleveland allowed just 96 rushing yards on 30 attempts.

Cody Kessler played well too, completing 26 of 41 passes for his first NFL 300 yard passing day (336 yards) and two touchdown throws, both to Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor was productive too, grabbing nine receptions for 75 yards.  Kessler has yet to hit him on a deep throw though.

And after being belittled on a pre-game show earlier in the day for no reason, Danny Shelton had his first NFL sack and five tackles.  The nose tackle’s play is a big reason for the success against the run for the Browns for most of this season.

Negatives.  If we were Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta, we would be scouring the waiver wire for cornerbacks.

Without Joe Haden today, Titans’ WR Kendall Wright blistered the secondary for eight catches and 133 yards.  All in all, Tennessee had three plays of over 40 yards.

The offensive line continues to struggle.  The Browns couldn’t run the ball (15 attempts, 40 yards) and Kessler was sacked six times.

Austin Pasztor is not a tackle, and should be playing guard, and Alvin Bailey shouldn’t be playing at all.  Perhaps Jackson should try newcomer Jonathan Cooper and rookie Shon Coleman starting next week, because the Browns need to run the football much better than they have the last two weeks.

Ricardo Louis had five grabs for 65 yards, but dropped at least two passes that we could count.  The rookie’s hands were questionable on draft day, and he needed to help out his QB by making some plays today.

Cleveland was just 3 for 14 on third down conversions and seemed to be equally bad on first down, shooting themselves in the foot with negative plays and/or penalties on first down, putting Kessler in a lot of bad positions.

That’s not helping the kid’s progress.

Officiating.  Nothing stands out here.  The worst call might have gone the Browns’ way as they flagged the Titans for pass interference on a long pass to Duke Johnson, where we though the contact was minimal.

Now the road show for the Browns take them to Cincinnati to play the struggling Bengals, the team Jackson was offensive coordinator for a year ago.

The points of emphasis this week should be the offensive line/running back and the secondary.  Those positions were the biggest disappointments we can take away from this week six loss.


Tribe & Jays Pretty Even Matchup

The American League Championship Series, which starts Friday night at Progressive Field figures to be pretty evenly matched.

The Blue Jays led the AL in ERA with the Indians ranking 2nd.  In runs scored, Cleveland was 2nd while Toronto was 5th.

And while Canada’s team did not hit for a high average, they led the league in walks, so they ranked 3rd in on base percentage, just ahead of the Tribe.

With Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar missing, the Jays seem to have the edge in the starting rotation, but the Indians look to have the superior bullpen coming into the series.

Based on run differential, both teams should have won 91 games this season.  That’s how even these two teams appear to be.

The Indians won the season series, four games to three, but keep in mind the first series in Toronto was skewed by the 19 inning victory which extended the Tribe’s winning streak to a club record 14 games.

Carrasco won the series opener with a 14 strikeout performance, and we all remember Trevor Bauer’s five scoreless innings on short rest in the aforementioned extra inning affair.

Terry Francona used Zack McAllister, who was struggling big time, to start the third game against Blue Jays’ game one starter Marco Estrada, and Cleveland led before the bullpen faltered late.

Corey Kluber had a rare horrible outing in the last game and Toronto dominated.

Keep in mind, the Indians did not see Jose Bautista all season.  He was hurt both times the two teams met.

The Blue Jays big bats (Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Bautista, and Troy Tulowitzki) all function much better at Rogers Centre, with the exception of Bautista.

Russell Martin and former Indian, Ezequiel Carrera are two hitters who benefit greatly from playing at home, where the ball seems to take off.  Martin’s OPS is almost 100 points higher at home, while Carrera’s is over 200 points higher.

The series in Cleveland was highlighted by late inning home runs for the Tribe.  They tied and won the Friday night game on dingers by Jose Ramirez and the inside the park walk off job by Tyler Naquin, while the finale was decided by a two run shot by Ramirez in the bottom of the eighth.

So, based on the regular season, the two teams are pretty evenly matched.  Is there anything the Tribe can take advantage of in the LCS?

The Blue Jays’ hitters strike out a lot.  They rank 4th in the AL in this category.  Besides the Carrasco game mentioned earlier, Bauer also had a start where he fanned more than 10 Toronto hitters.

So, the Indians’ pitchers need to get ahead in the count and expand the strike zone.  Toronto hitter will chase pitches out of the zone when behind in the count.

The Tribe hurlers must get the Justin Smoaks, Kevin Pillars, Melvin Uptons of the team out, so if the big boppers do something the damage will be minimized.

Also, the Jays don’t do a good job controlling the running game, and the Indians lead the AL in stolen bases.  It would not be a surprise to see Rajai Davis, Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Jason Kipnis trying to steal every time they get on base.

The Tribe has been aggressive on the basepaths all year, and now is not the time to change that.

Can the Indians win their sixth pennant in club history?  Of course.  But, as usual, it will not be easy.  It is funny that this is the first time Cleveland has had the home field advantage in the five ALCS they have been involved with.

It would help the cause if Francona continued his hot streak in the manager’s chair.





Tribe, Tito Exact Revenge

It was a tough series for sure, and last night’s game was a nail biter, but the Cleveland Indians swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series with a 4-3 victory and advanced to the AL Championship Series starting Friday night.

The Red Sox came into the series with all the hype and the whole David Ortiz is retiring thing, but it was the largely unknown Tribe that won the series.

That three of the principal heroes in the clincher were Josh Tomlin, Tyler Naquin, and Coco Crisp tells you a lot about this group of Indians, led by their manager Terry Francona.

Certainly, Cleveland got incredible pitching mostly from Corey Kluber in game two, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen (despite last night’s nervous performance) out of the bullpen, as they held down the highest scoring team in the American League to just seven runs in the three games.

But you can’t overlook the performances of Trevor Bauer and Tomlin, who put the bullpen in a situation to win the first and last games.

But look at the offensive heroes in each of the games.  Roberto Perez, the back up catcher going into the season, and a guy who missed two and a half months with a thumb injury was a star in the first game.

In game two, Lonnie Chisenhall, who normally wouldn’t have played against Red Sox lefty David Price because of the platoon advantage, had the game’s biggest hit, a three run homer in the second.

And don’t forget Brandon Guyer, acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline because of his ability to hit southpaws, chipped in with three hits in the middle game.

Last night, it was Naquin, who has struggled since September 1st, putting Cleveland in front with a two run single, and Crisp, picked up at the end of August, belting a two run homer over the Green Monster.

Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez made major impacts, but the Tribe overcame pedestrian performances from Carlos Santana, Frankie Lindor, and Mike Napoli to advance.

We hate to talk about perfection, because there were subtle things that could have been changed, but Francona pushed seemingly all of the right buttons in the series.  When his team got the lead, he managed as if it were the seventh game of the series.

And that’s the way it should be in the post-season.

Francona has to be secretly be smiling today, and that grin would be directed at the Red Sox’ ownership who dumped him in 2011 after a late season collapse.

If you listened to the press conferences for the ALDS, when Tito was asked about the good, young Boston players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, he mentioned it was a tribute to former Sox GM Ben Cherington, also fired by the ownership.

That was Francona getting a little dig in.

The skipper showed he can still motivate a team and push the correct buttons in a post-season series.

We also found it funny that the Boston media questioned the Cleveland manager at times like he was still managing the team that plays at Fenway Park.

So, in a day or two, there will be four teams remaining in Major League Baseball, and the Cleveland Indians are one of them.

To paraphrase Tom Hamilton, Cleveland’s “October to Remember” will continue.


Not Much Good To Take Away From Browns’ Beating Today.

What were you expecting?

The New England Patriots are one of the NFL’s best teams and their quarterback, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was just returning from a four game suspension that at best was questionable, and in reality was probably unjust.

As plucky as the young Browns have been this season, this didn’t appear to be a game they would be able to stay in throughout the contest.

They didn’t disappoint, as Hue Jackson’s squad was rolled by the Patriots, 33-13 at First Energy Stadium.

On the injury front, the news wasn’t much better as QB Cody Kessler suffered a rib/chest injury in the second quarter and his backup, Charlie Whitehurst, left with a knee problem in the fourth quarter.

So the question is, who will be behind center next Sunday against Tennessee?

Here are the positives, negatives, and officiating notes from this game.

Positives.  The only good thing that came from this game was the continuing good job the Cleveland defense did against the run.  New England gained just 98 yards on 35 carries, an average of 2.8 per attempt.

After last week’s game vs. Washington where the opponent had great success on the ground, it was good to see the Browns’ revert back to the way they’ve played the rest of the year.

Also, before he left the game, Kessler did hit 5 of 8 throws (one drop, one throw away) for 62 yards, and did get the offense in the end zone with an 11 yard TD toss to Andrew Hawkins.

Hopefully, he can go again next week.

Rookie TE Connor Hamlett caught his first NFL TD pass in the fourth quarter.

Negatives.  For all the success Ray Horton’s defense has had against the running game, they are getting killed through the air, particularly covering tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett combined for 11 receptions and 176 yards, and the latter caught three TD passes.

Jordan Reed had similar success against Cleveland a week ago.

Without any pressure being put on opposing quarterbacks, the secondary is going to have issues, and the Browns had just one sack again today.

After dominating the league during the first four weeks of the season running the ball, Isaiah Crowell couldn’t get anything going today.  He gained just 22 yards on 13 carries.

In total, the Browns had just 27 yards rushing on 22 attempts.

Whitehurst struggled until the fourth quarter, and if you thought Kessler never threw downfield, he looked like Daryle Lamonica (look it up) compared to Whitehurst’s dinking and dunking.

If he is going to play that way, is there any downside to playing Kevin Hogan if Kessler is unable to play next week?

The offensive line had a dreadful day.  The Browns couldn’t run and the passers ran for their lives all day.

Officiating.  Again, not much to complain about when you lose by 20 points, but the officials called forward progress on a play involving Julian Edelman in the first half when Joe Haden’s hit caused a fumble.

And there was a suspicious pass interference call on Christian Kirksey in the third quarter when he batted away a pass.  By the way, Kirksey had 16 tackles on the day.

So, it’s back on the road next Sunday, this time against Tennessee.

Who will play quarterback for the Browns?  Hopefully, Kessler is able to go, but if not, we are sure it will be debated ad nauseum this week on talk radio.


Tribe Facing A Much More Famous Foe

Tonight’s the night!

Post-season baseball returns to Cleveland for the first time since the 2013 wild card game against Tampa Bay, and the Indians are in the American League Division Series for the first time since 2007.

Even though the Tribe has home field advantage as a result of having a better record during the regular season than their opponents, the Boston Red Sox, they are a decided underdog, particularly on a national basis.

Part of that is the loss of 2/5ths of Terry Francona’s starting rotation, with Carlos Carrasco down with a broken hand and Danny Salazar has a strain in his forearm.  Neither will pitch in this series, and the hope is Salazar may be able to participate before the month ends.

The other part of this, is let’s face it, the Red Sox are jammed down the nation’s throat because it seems every matchup they have against the Yankees is televised across the universe.

Are you aware that David Ortiz is going to retire?  If you aren’t, you could possibly be the most sheltered person on earth.  Thank goodness, if the Indians can eliminate the Sox, we won’t have to hear about this anymore.

Of course, we are sure that one of the network’s covering post-season baseball will hire him as a “guest” analyst for the rest of the playoffs and World Series.

Even MLB Network has Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar working for them.  And it doesn’t take much for them to start reminiscing about 2004 and breaking “The Curse of the Bambino”.

That team was managed by the same guy who is in the home dugout tonight at Progressive Field.  His name is Francona.

For most people around the country, Terry Francona is the most recognizable name among the Cleveland Indians.  He’s put up four consecutive winning seasons and has made the playoffs twice with the Tribe, but his players don’t have the same “name” factor as the skipper.

We are sure much of the hype in the series will be about Tito coming back to Boston and that Mike Napoli will be playing against the same team he won a World Series with in 2013.

But this will be the network viewing audience’s first look at Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, and for that matter, Corey Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014.

Most of the nation’s baseball fans probably couldn’t pick these guys out of a lineup.

Besides Ortiz, Boston has former MVP Dustin Pedroia, and a bunch of young players who have been covered since arriving in the bigs:  Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. (JBJ for those not in the know), and Xander Bogaerts.

No wonder, most experts don’t give the Tribe much of a chance, although they cover this with the caveat that you can’t possibly pick Cleveland without Carrasco and Salazar.

We are happy that most national guys are seeing how good Andrew Miller is, with several baseball media people calling him, not the Orioles’ Zack Britton, the best reliever in the game.  Of course, Miller pitched in both New York and Boston, so he’s got that going for him.

Would we be shocked if the Tribe didn’t advance?  No, as we wrote the other day, they are facing an uphill climb.

But this is baseball.  Hopefully, the Cleveland Indians will give the national media some new baseball players to talk about…guys like “Frankie”, “Kip”, “Josey”, and the “Klubot”.


A Very Tough Match Up For Tribe

Without a doubt, it will not be easy.  That’s what happens when the strength of your team going into the season is ravaged by injuries.

That’s what the Cleveland Indians face in the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox starting on Thursday night.

This is because despite having the third best record in the AL, you can make a very strong case that the Red Sox are the best team in the Junior Circuit.

They lead the AL in run differential, scoring 1.1 more runs per game than their opponents.  As a result, they have the best expected record in the league at 98-64, compared to the Tribe’s figures of +0.6 runs/game and an expected record of 91-71.

The one area in which the Carmine didn’t excel this season was in one run games, with a 20-24 record, compared to Cleveland’s 28-21 mark.

Boston led the AL in runs scored, the Indians were second.  The Tribe had the league’s best ERA, the Red Sox were 3rd.

With all due respect to the Texas Rangers, who had the league’s best record (by a half game over the Tribe), these are probably the two best teams in the American League.

When Andrew Benintendi is playing LF, the Sox have eight players in their batting order with OPS over 800.  The Indians have five.

However, on the road, Boston has just three hitters with OPS over 800 away from Fenway Park:  David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, and catcher Sandy Leon, who may not play over concerns their management has over the Indians running wild on him.

Just another reason having the home field advantage is important.

On the other hand, the Indians have seven hitters with OPS over 800 at Progressive Field, while on the road, only Carlos Santana can make that claim.

So, this series may very well come down to which team can buck the trend of hitting well on the road.

Another problem with playing the Red Sox is the success their two best starting pitchers have had against the Tribe.  Opening game starter Rick Porcello is 10-4 against Cleveland lifetime and game two hurler David Price is 10-2 vs. the Tribe.

Porcello has an impressive 2.84 ERA at Progressive Field over 12 starts, while Price is 5-0 with a 2.27 ERA in seven starts on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

On the other hand, Price has an ERA over 5.00 in the post-season.

So, it doesn’t look good for the Tribe, does it?

That’s why they play the games, and they don’t award the series on statistics or paper.

The one thing we know about the 2016 edition of the Cleveland Indians is they will not go easy.  We also know they have an edge in the bullpen, where Terry Francona can go to Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen to cover four or even five innings in the post-season.

Remember, in 2007 the Tribe was 0-6 in the regular season vs. the Yankees, and then beat them 3-1 in the ALDS.

All of this stuff is rendered meaningless once the first pitch is thrown Thursday night.

The Indians also have an edge on the basepaths, with AL stolen base leader Rajai Davis, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Jason Kipnis all capable of stealing a bag or taking an extra base.

Can the Indians win this series?  Of course, that’s the nature of baseball.

We are just pointing out that it will not be easy.  That would just keep it in line with the rest of this season for the Cleveland Indians.