Tonight was beach night at the Jake, and the Indians kicked sand in the face of Arizona pitchers all night.
The offense started with...what else?...patience at the plate. The Indians made starter Brad Halsey go deep into counts, with Travis Hafner's at-bat in the third inning a great example of what can happen when you make a pitcher throw a pitch in your zone. If Hafner had tried to pull Halsey's fastball, he probably pops it up, but he went with the pitch, lined it into the left field gap, and the run parade commenced. Casey Blake, while he's now just above the Mendoza Line, hasn't lost his power; he hit his 9th of the season tonight, surpassing Ronnie Belliard for the team lead.
The team's two youngest players - Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta - hit back-to-back home runs in that third inning. Peralta, who has done nothing but hit when he's played, now is slugging .526, which would place him second only to Miguel Tejada among AL shortstops if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Sizemore is now hitting .308/.349/.483, and his OPS is second only to Johnny Damon among AL center fielders. The infusion of young talent is vital to the continued success of a team like the Indians for obvious reasons; they can give the Indians a huge advantage over other clubs who can't develop/acquire these players themselves. The Indians can't go out on the market to sign a shortstop with power or a 4-tool center fielder, so they have to develop them in-house.
Cliff Lee wasn't that great, but he stuck around five innings to get his 8th win of the season. Although the bullpen was used again, only two pitchers (Riske and Miller) were required to finish the game, so Wickman, Rhodes and Howry all should be able to go on Saturday and Sunday if need be.
Unfortunately for the Indians, every team ahead of them in the divisional and wild card races won. On a related note, have you noticed the AL's record against the NL this season? Only two AL clubs (Tampa Bay and Oakland) have losing records against the National League. The AL Central is collectively 38-22 against the NL.
While no Cleveland Indian has 10 home runs thus far, SIX Buffalo Bisons have 10 or more home runs in three more games played. Included among the six are Brandon Phillips, Ryan Garko, and Jake Gautreau, all of which are still considered prospects. But the best hitter on the team has been minor-league vet Ernie Young, who is hitting .306/.404/.568 for the year. And for those interested, the Bisons' home park is rated a pitchers' park by Baseball America.
The Indians face Brandon Webb, one of the game's best young pitchers tomorrow. Webb has baseball's highest GB/FB ratio at 4.21; Jake Westbrook is second. What Webb does that Westbrook doesn't do is strike batters out as well; he combines that high ground ball ratio with a fine 7.18 K/9. That's a great combination to have, especially if you pitch in a hitters' park like Webb does.