Indians Look to Right the Ship in Boston Against Red Sox
Well, that sucked.
After running off their hottest stretch of the season by winning nine of ten games, the Indians turned in two of their biggest clunker performances of the season against the lowly Kansas City Royals. Looking to continue their recent winning ways, the Indians defensive issues came to light in a big way. In fact, I actually laid that out as a possibility, stating that familiarity and a tendency to play shaky defense could be the Indians’ undoing against the Royals.
I hate being right.
Now the Indians have to try to turn things around in a place that has been a house of horrors for them over the years, Fenway Park. So despite the Red Sox feeble record so far in 2014, 29-36 and fourth place in the AL East, this is a team that could still give the Indians real problems. Of course, it’s not just the fact that they are playing in Fenway Park. The Indians have been one of the worst road teams in all of baseball this season. Whatever it is, bed sheets, living out of a suitcase, hotel food, the Indians just do not respond well to playing away from Progressive Field.
For the Red Sox, 2014 has been a frustrating year on a number of levels. They’ve struggled with injuries, inconsistent play from veteran players, and failed to have young players step up in larger roles. Basically, everything thing that could go wrong is going wrong for them so far. Of course, being the Red Sox, they’re probably on the verge of another ten game winning streak that will see the entire team clicking on all cylinders. Having just lost seven out of their last nine games, let’s hope that this hot streak can wait for more days until the Indians are out of town.
If the Indians want to have a successful stay in Boston, it’s going to come down to the same things it always does. Limit the amount of damage that can be done by Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, be patient and force a struggling Red Sox rotation into some difficult situations early and often, and don’t give away outs. If it’s one thing we have seen time and time again with the Red Sox throughout history, regardless of who is wearing the uniform, it’s that they take advantage of opportunities when they get them. Of course, that’s easier said than done for this Indians team, who ranks last or dead last in most defensive categories.
The Indians will also have to contend with the fact that their three game sweep of the Red Sox in Cleveland is still a relatively fresh memory. Like all good teams with a lot of pride, these are the defending world champs after all, they are going to want to dish out some much deserved payback for the embarrassing way in which they left Cleveland at the beginning of June. With the way their starting rotation is lining up, they will have an excellent chance to do just that.
Starting tonight, the Indians will face Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy, all right in a row. That’s no easy task. All three pitchers have the arsenal of pitches required to shut an explosive offense down. When they’re on, it’s almost impossible to score on them, particularly Lester. Closing out the series for the Red Sox will be Brandon Workman. Despite the abilities of the Red Sox starters, though, you have to like the Indians chances of putting runs on the board. THis team has really come into its own offensively of late. Of course, the return of Jason Kipnis and emergence of Lonnie Chisenhall along with the steady production of Michael Brantley has helped create a solid middle part of the order.
Now if only they could get Carlos Santana‘s bat going. It’s shown signs of life over the past week or so, but he has yet to really explode the way we know he is capable of doing. His offensive struggles have been so extreme that they are more likely than not an aberration, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch. In time though, when grouped with the three already mentioned, the Indians have the makings of an elite level offense.
Meanwhile, the Indians will counter with Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson, T.J. House, and Corey Kluber. That’s no walk through the park either. Josh Tomlin has been nearly perfect in his return to the big leagues earlier this season. Justin Masterson has the potential to be a true ace and more times than not he demonstrates that ability. Going against the team that raised him, he’s sure to be motivated to do well. T.J. House was shaky in his most recent appearance, but for the most part he has been reliable filling in for Zach McAllister. While he hasn’t blown teams away, he has done a decent job of getting through five or six innings and setting up the bullpen. As for Corey Kluber, he had a rough go of it in his most recent start, but look fr him to bounce back. That’s just what he does.
So with that said, what can we realistically expect out of the Indians over the next four days? Given their struggles on the road, a sweep seems unlikely, as does taking three of four. If they can play solid and split the series two games apiece, then this will be a success. The Red Sox are a tough team and Fenway is a difficult place to play so there is no disgrace in walking away two up and two down. Of course, there is the possibility that a tail spin is looming. After losing two winnable games to the Royals, the Indians need to right the ship or risk wasting all of the good work they have put in of late. Here’s hoping things go well.