There’s a saying for times like these and it goes something like this: “The baseball gods giveth, and the baseball gods taketh away.” Oh, they taketh away alright. In fact, it wasn’t so much taketh away as it was break into our houses in the middle of the night, rob us blind, and leave nothing but a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. The moral of the story is that peas are gross.
At any rate, after an outstanding home sweep against the highly touted Detroit Tigers, the Indians traveled to Chicago and took on a White Sox team that was just as hot and playing some really good baseball. The Tribe might have stood a chance if not for some bad pitching and a breakout of the injury bug that has the Center for Disease Control on high alert.
Going into Friday night’s game the Indians were without Travis Hafner who was dealing with knee inflammation. It wasn’t the biggest blow in the world, but a significant one none the less. By the time Friday’s game had ended, the Indians had also lost Asdrubal Cabrera to a hamstring tweak and Carlos Santana to concussion like symptoms. For those of you keeping score at home, in the span of 24 hours the Indians had lost their Nos. 3, 4, and 5 hitters. That’s a huge blow. You could take the heart of the order out of the 1927 Yankees lineup and even they would struggle.
By no means was the three game sweep at the hands of the White Sox simply attributable to the rash of injuries, the Tribe’s health woes make their struggles at least understandable. Are the Indians suddenly this bad and what we saw against the Tigers a fluke? Absolutely not, but it serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that things can change at the drop of a hat in baseball. Now the Indians will need to find a way to get by until the get the core of their lineup back and come to terms with the fact that they turned a 3.5 game lead into just a half-game advantage in less than 48 hours.
Thankfully, they catch a much needed break as they welcome the Kansas City Royals to town for a three game series. Of course, “catching a break” really depends on how you view the Royals. They currently find themselves sitting in fourth place in the AL Central, 6.5 games back of the Indians, and have won only four out of their last 10 games. Their pitching staff has struggled mightily at times this year by giving up huge innings and coughing up leads late in games. And this is a Royals team that Cleveland has had success against so far this season, so they may serve as the perfect remedy to what’s ailing them.
That’s not to say things will come easy for the Tribe. For starters, the Royals’ lineup has shown a tremendous amount of improvement since the last time we saw them. Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler are both red-hot right now at the plate, batting .311 and .303, respectively. Jeff Francoeur has also began to heat up after a horrendous start to his 2012 campaign. Third baseman Mike Moustakas has also been solid for the Royals this season. Although he’s hitting just .264, he’s shown a knack for coming up with timely hits as well as flashing some fancy leather.
Then there are the two question marks for the Royals in their lineup: Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer. They’re supposed to be the studs of the organization, the players this team will be built around for the next decade. So far, not-so good in 2012. Gordon has been so up and down that even the most loyal of Royals fans is beginning to get seasick. He gets red hot for two solid weeks and then falls off the face of the Earth for the rest of the month. As for Hosmer, he’s struggled pretty much all season long, as his .201 batting average can attest. His lack of success is partly responsible for why they’ve been so bad. Hosmer was pegged to be the clean-up hitter in the Royals’ lineup and now he’s batting in the bottom third of the order.
So can the Indians take advantage of a favorable match-up against the Royals? Hopefully they can. If Hafner and Cabrera can make a comeback in the next day or so, the Indians stand a significantly better chance of taking at least two of three from the Royals. If not, they’ll have to rely on the pitching staff to come up big, something they were unable to do over the weekend in Chicago.