The Rangers really didn’t have a good weekend here in Cleveland, when you think about it. They arrived on Thursday, and right away there were stories that relief pitcher Tanner Scheppers was sucker punched downtown by some random strangers while going to get dinner. The story then changed a bit, and now it looks like he was in a bar fight while out with a couple of other players at 2:30 a.m. on W. 6th St. Then they got swept by the Indians, losing in extra innings on Friday, and getting shut out on both Saturday and Sunday. From the Indians’ perspective, it was a pretty good series. The bullpen struggled on Friday, but they scored plenty of runs (which they needed with the bullpen mishaps). The offense was shut down by Yu Darvish on Saturday, but Justin Masterson was even better. Ubaldo Jimenez followed Masterson’s great outing with a dynamic performance on Sunday, and the offense was able to get to Alexi Ogando and the Texas bullpen.
When the Indians managed to squeak out one run against Ogando, I thought we may be in store for another 1-0 game today. Texas has a fairly strong bullpen, so I was not overly optimistic about the Indians getting more runs off of them. However, they knocked Robbie Ross and Ross Wolf around in the sixth and eighth innings, to set up a comfortable cushion against a team that’s often an offensive force. I know the Texas offense has struggled at times recently, but you can never really count them out of a game. Take Friday night for example – they just keep coming back and the bullpen threw some gasoline on that fire. Plus, you have to consider that prior to this year, the Indians have had some trouble with the Rangers. For Masterson and Jimenez to completely shut them down over the past two days is quite impressive to me. I also liked that Jimenez was able to get deeper into the game today than he has in his past couple of outings. There are a lot of times this season that Jimenez has pitched well enough, but struggled at times and just threw a lot of pitches. This translated into an early exit for him – sometimes as early as the fifth or sixth inning. He made it through the eighth today, only allowed two hits and three walks, and struck out six.
Ogando shut down the offense early in the game, but several players still managed multi-hit performances, including Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Yan Gomes. Michael Bourn got a hit and two more RBI today; since the All Star break, he’s batting .296 with 2 home runs and10 RBI. Prior to the All Star break, Bourn had only hit 2 home runs and 19 RBI; he’s almost matched those totals in just a little over a week. During his scoreboard interview postgame last night, they asked Bourn about his approach – he said he just tries to see the ball and hit the ball. He is seeing and hitting the ball quite well right now.
Today was also the annual season ticket holder party, which always seems to end up being really good or really bad (from my experience), but really good for the most part. The really bad – what I refer to as “The Great Shin Soo Choo Riot of 2009″ back when the party was still held at the zoo. All of the players are available for autographs, but they obviously cap the line since the players won’t be there for the entire night. After I waited in line for a Choo autograph for about 45 minutes, they walked up and capped the line…in front of people that had been standing there for the better part of an hour thinking the line was still open. Everyone, predictably, went absolutely berserk. Because they waited in that line, they missed autographs elsewhere, there was lots of yelling, and I actually got a bit scared because everyone was freaking out.
When it goes well (which is actually most years) it’s a lot of fun. You just have to be realistic about the autographs you’re going to acquire, since players only sign for an hour. You can pick one of the bigger names, like Nick Swisher or Jason Kipnis, and not get many other autographs. Or you could go for quantity, and get a fair amount of the less popular players. It’s always important to come up with a game plan and stick to it, and the whole evening goes much better. We decided to go for Scott Kazmir and Jason Giambi, since there’s a good chance they won’t be around next year. We also ended up with Corey Kluber and first base coach Mike Sarbaugh (sharing a table), Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw (sharing a table), Michael Bourn, Justin Masterson, and Chris Perez and bullpen catcher Armando Camacaro (sharing a table). This was far better than I anticipated, so I was pretty pleased.
They also had some news about changes to season tickets, although we missed some of it by leaving to get in line for autographs. Basically, they’re pushing people to go to paperless tickets, and will have an early renewal period that already starts next week. They’re also eliminating a lot of the plans in the upper deck and forcing those people to move to other parts of the park. There will also be price increases, by how much dependent on how early you renew. Since my prices have actually fallen over the past several years (they reduced them as the team played badly and people ran away in droves) I can understand an increase. I’m not a fan of the paperless tickets though, I guess that’s one thing I stubbornly don’t really want to modernize.
After a frustrating road trip, this weekend was just what the doctor ordered. The Indians have been strong against the AL West this year, but this was still the first time they swept Texas at home since August of 1980. Anytime you can sweep a strong contender like Texas, it’s a good series; shutting them out in two of the three games is just icing on the cake. Their 14th shutout now leads all of baseball.