So much for getting back on the right track against the Royals. Instead of rallying together and pushing through what looked like a pre-June swoon, the Indians fell apart in two of the three games, fell out of first place in the AL Central, and are starting to induce more questions than they have found answers in a number of different places.
Thankfully, the Indians get another chance to get themselves back on track this weekend as they welcome arguably the worst team in baseball to Progressive Field. If you remember, this is the same Twins team the Indians swept in a short two-game series a little over two weeks ago. Of course the Indians are nowhere near the same team that went into Target Field and dominated a Minnesota club struggling to find its way in 2012.
The Indians come into this series having lost five of their last six games and looking to find any kind of solution to the plethora of injuries that have ravaged the roster. A once potent-lineup that featured the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, and the ever-reliable Jack Hannahan has been forced to reshuffle itself. Cabrera is back in a limited capacity, but the Tribe has still been forced to use unfamiliar names such as Juan Diaz and Luke Carlin as well as give enhanced roles to struggling players such as Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, and Shelley Duncan.
So what do the Indians do? How do they go about making up for a lack of potency in their lineup until Santana returns? Who fills the void left by Travis Hafner for the next 4-to-6 weeks? There doesn’t appear to be a knight in shining armor walking out of the dugout anytime soon and the one possible solution, Matt LaPorta, has apparently been sentenced to a life time ban in Triple-A Columbus.
Honestly, the answer lies in what we saw from the Indians during the first two innings of the game on Wednesday. When they got runners on base, they were aggressive—stealing bases, starting runners to create holes in the infield, and making a conscious effort to take an extra base when the opportunity presented itself. If the Indians are going to pull themselves out of this rut they’ve found themselves in, that’s how they’re going to do it. They can’t afford to sit around and wait for the three run home run that’s never going to come. They need to create runs, plain and simple.
It all has to start this weekend against the Twins. These are home games against a lesser opponent. If the Indians want to win this division these are the types of series they have to win. They need to send a message that says the past week was a fluke, not the new norm. If they can stay patient at the plate, have quality at bats and stay aggressive on the base paths they have an excellent chance of stopping the bleeding before they head out to Detroit for a three game slugfest.
They also need to get some quality innings out of their starting rotation. Speaking of which…
Series Trivia: Before injuries began to effect his performance, Joe Mauer won three batting titles and is the only catcher to accomplish that feat. He’s also never struck out more than 64 times in a season. How many times did he strike out in high school? (answer at the end)