When the city of Cleveland last saw the Indians in person they had just finished off slaying Justin Verlander taken two of three from the Tigers, and pulled themselves to within a couple games of first place. Those were better times, fun times even. Now…well, let’s just say things could be going better, because it’s safe to assume they couldn’t possibly get worse.
Over the course of nine games in ten days the Indians saw their hopes and dreams for the 2012 season wiped away. They embarked on their nine-game road trip with 50 wins and somehow, someway, they return to Progressive Field with 50 wins and a nine-game losing streak that looks alive and well, even if the Indians aren’t. In a strange twist of fate that only the baseball gods and scheduling gurus in Major League Baseball could find funny, the Indians will get a chance to end this streak against the very team that started it, the Minnesota Twins.
Let’s just be open and honest with ourselves here for a minute: The Indians’ season is all but over at this point. They’re 9.5 games out of first place with both the White Sox and Tigers trending upwards. To make matters worse, they’ve begun calling up players from Triple-A and designating players who were supposed to be key pieces for assignment. Oh, and then there’s the fact that they’re playing absolutely awful baseball right now. They can’t hit, they can’t pitch, and even when they do get in a position to win, like Sunday afternoon, they find a new and more impressive way to lose. It would take a miracle above all miracles for them to turn this around and make the playoffs.
So how can they fix this over the next three days versus the Twins? It all starts with the starters. They have to be better. Giving up 4, 5, 6, even 8 runs before the fifth inning can’t happen. While the offense has been absent throughout the course of the past nine games, the starters have done them no favors. Coming back from 8 runs down is the last thing they need to deal with when they already struggle at times. On top of that, handing out big leads early allows the opposing pitcher to relax and settle into the game without any added pressure.
The other point of emphasis should be on Manny Acta and his handling of the team over the past nine games. Has he done anything at all other than swap Jason Kipnis and Shin-Soo Choo, a move that still doesn’t make much sense? People questioned whether or not Acta was the right guy when the Indians originally hired him; in his defense, the results combined with the upward direction of the team helped ease some of those worries. But now? With the expectations of this season and the situation the Indians currently find themselves it makes you wonder whether or not Acta really is the right guy to handle this mess.
Meanwhile, the Twins are playing great baseball right now. They’ve won seven of their past 10 games and have clawed their way out of the AL Central cellar. Their pitching, abysmal for most of the year, seems to have turned a corner and the offense has been clicking on all cylinders, which the Indians encountered first hand. No longer does it seem like the Twins are a team that can be taken lightly. This isn’t the same group of players that got off to an atrocious start and buried themselves early on.