Opening Day, Part II
Today is the home opener, and finally the Indians are back in Cleveland. The road trip was, shall we say, frustrating and maddening. The Indians starters have the best ERA in the American League, the offense has been productive, scoring an average of just over 5 runs a game, certainly better than last year. But the bullpen has just plained sucked. The Indians are 2-3 when leading after 6 innings. Unfortunately, there's no one person to pin the blame on. All four of the Indians' setup men (Riske, Stewart, Betancourt, and Jimenez) have lost or directly contributed to a loss. David Riske has blown both of his save opportunities, giving up leads of 3 and 2 runs, respectively.
So what happens now? First of all, hope that a couple guys get back on track, specifically Stewart and Riske. The Indians don't really have another left-handed reliever that they could call up, and Riske is the team's best reliever. There's a couple of right-handed guys in Buffalo that could be called up (Luther Hackman, David Lee) for a quick fix, but no one in the bullpen have any options. So unless someone gets hurt, the Indians are stuck with the current guys.
What's especially maddening is the fact that both Minnesota and Kansas City were very beatable. The Indians banged around both Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Anderson, probably the Royals' best pitchers, and got to both Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse. Unfortunately, they were only 2-2 during those games. For a team who won't be able to slug past their mistakes, losing these games are completely unacceptable.
Now for positives. The starting rotation has been as good as it possibly could have. Jeff D'Amico turned back the clock four years, Jason Davis has shown a lot of improvement, and CC Sabathia has pitched like an ace. Heck, Jason Stanford kept the team in the ballgame on Friday night, allowing 0 runs in 5 innings. The offense has been solid, with virtually everyone in the lineup contributing. And beyond the numbers, I've noticed a drastic change in approach from several players; Eddie Murray looks to finally been able to get to a lot of the young players, and it's showed.
Also, Brandon Phillips looks like a new hitter, at least in his first few games this year:
14 AB, .429/.500/.714, 1 HR, 1 2B
No, this line is not going to hold up over the course of the year, but the fact that he's taking walks shows that he's at least willing to listen to his coaches. The return of Phillips as a bonefied prospect would be a huge boost to the Indians. Jhonny Peralta has also started the season hot, batting .357 over 14 ABs.