No one knows what the rest of this baseball season will bring, but the first five weeks have been a great deal of fun if you follow the Cleveland Indians.
The Tribe still sits atop the AL Central Division with a 22-11 record, 4-1/2 games ahead of another surprising team, the Kansas City Royals. At this point, none of the other teams in the division are over the .500 mark.
Last week’s west coast trip, in which the Tribe faced two of the top pitching staffs in the league in Oakland and Los Angeles, gave more indications that this team is, indeed, for real.
And it’s not as though the Indians are beating up on the dregs of the AL either. They are only 4-4 against the three teams who currently have the worst records in the league: Baltimore (3-0), Minnesota (0-2), and the White Sox (1-2).
They’ve also played more games on the road, where they have a .500 record, than at home. That’s another good sign.
Starting tomorrow is a challenge for Manny Acta’s squad, as they played 17 straight days, and there are more good teams on the slate.
Tampa Bay has rebounded from a horrible start (0-6) to be tied with the Yankees for first in the AL East, and they have the best road record (11-4) in the league.
Seattle looked like perhaps the worst team in baseball when the Indians swept them in April, but they are now 16-19, and playing much better for ex-Tribe skipper Eric Wedge.
Those two series are at Progressive Field, and Cleveland then hits the road for a couple of two game sets against division foes Kansas City and Chicago, before the defending NL Central champs, the Cincinnati Reds invade the north coast.
That’s followed by a three game series at home against the team picked by most to go the World Series, the Red Sox.
The young Indians will be tested during this stretch without a day off.
If you examine the standings right now, there really aren’t any soft touches in the AL, now that Seattle is playing well. The Orioles have struggled after a good start, but we know that the Twins and ChiSox are pretty good, and Toronto (15-19) can flat-out hit.
The concern is how much pressure this schedule puts on the pitching staff, especially the bullpen, which has been taxed because of both close games and extra inning contests over the last week or so.
Two relievers, Chris Perez and Tony Sipp, have appeared in 16 of the team’s 33 games, and two others, Rafael Perez and Vinnie Pestano, have been in 15 games.
That’s four relief pitchers who are on pace for around 80 appearances by the end of the year.
Acta has done a great job in limiting those guys to short stints, they all average less than one frame per outing, but that’s an awful lot of pitching.
And keep in mind, the starting pitchers have been great in eating innings as well. It’s not as though the starters have been doing a lot of “five and fly” starts.
A few “blow out” wins would be nice, so Acta can give the relievers who have had a lighter work load, Chad Durbin and Justin Germano some work, and give the other guys some time off.
It also would not be surprising if a roster move could be imminent to get some bullpen help. The Indians could juggle the rotation to skip Jeanmar Gomez’ turn until Saturday, at which time Carlos Carrasco can be ready.
They could send out Gomez before tomorrow and bring up someone (Frank Herrmann?) for the next four games.
Isn’t being positive about this team fun? That’s the way it should be for Tribe fans.