I have to give the Indians credit on one thing – they like to find new and creative ways to lose to the Detroit Tigers. They’ve been blown out, they’ve lost it in the bottom of the ninth and in extra innings…it must get tough to find ways to keep it fresh. Tonight, they went with a script that included an anemic offense and one terrible, awful, no-good inning by Justin Masterson. On the infuriating scale, I have to say it’s not as bad as watching your closer completely unraveling while up 2-0, but it wasn’t enough of a blow out that you completely gave up hope. I’ve been to a handful of Indians-Tigers games at Progressive Field this season (including tonight) and the Indians haven’t won any of them. I still rank the worst one as July 8 – even though I managed to get the Omar Vizquel bobblehead, I watched the Indians fall apart and lose in extra innings while getting soaked in the rain. (Seriously, my clothes weren’t even dry the next morning). So since I’m dry and warm enough tonight, at least this game did not earn the dubious distinction of being the worst game I’ve attended this year.
Before I get to Masterson’s bad inning, let’s talk about the offense (or lack thereof). Sure, Masterson could have come out and given another one of his dynamic shutout performances, but how many times can we ask him to do this? You’re not going to beat many teams (especially one with a potent offense like Detroit) when you score one run on four hits. Last night? Two runs on five hits (one more hit and one more run!) Even though they were better in the hit department on Sunday, they still only managed to score two runs against Miami. Let’s face it, this team doesn’t have a true cleanup hitter, especially when Mark Reynolds has apparently forgotten how to hit. I still just am not much of a fan of the recent lineup configuration. I know that he had one of the four measly hits tonight, but Asdrubal Cabrera just isn’t a cleanup hitter as far as I’m concerned. I know that Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander, and he seemed much more like his old self tonight, but the Indians have hit him well this year (and throughout his career). I’d hope that they’d be able to scratch together a few more than just four hits against him.
As for Masterson, you remove that fifth inning from this game and the Indians win 1-0. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball insists that you count the runs that are scored in all of the innings, not just eight of the nine innings. (It’s not like a class, where you can choose to throw out your lowest test score). Masterson had some command issues, and managed to dance his way out of trouble in the second inning when the Tigers had the bases loaded with nobody out. You can’t expect to continue to dodge bullets like that all night. You can expect the Tigers offense to continue to miss prime opportunities (even though it was Don Kelly that burned them, and not one of the superstars like Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder). Matt Albers and Mark Rzepczynski (sighhhhh, spelling lookup #2) each pitched perfect innings after Masterson. Mr. Scrabble hasn’t allowed a run to score since he was traded to the Indians, so perhaps their one meager deal at the deadline could end up being a decent one. (Or at least not completely disastrous).
Let’s face it – the Indians have trouble beating Detroit, and they may even be inside their heads at this point. The good news is that they’re almost done with them for the year. After tonight, the Indians have 49 games left this season and just five of them are against the Tigers. I still maintain that with the 2013 Indians, you just never know – it’s one of the reasons I’ve maintained a rare amount of optimism this season. It’s a streaky team, that always seems to bounce back and surprise you just when you’ve given up on them. Unfortunately, it works the opposite way as well – just when you have a bit of faith in them, they make you regret ever believing in them in the first place. One of the reasons that I love baseball, and that I watch it, is because it gives me a chance to escape my “real-world” life. If things are stressing me out, or things are going bad at the time, you can watch baseball and let it take your cares away. When the baseball is actually causing you more stress than the life things you’re trying to escape, it’s never a good situation. I think it’s why I’ve decided to have such a zen approach to the Indians this year. Maintain a bit of optimism, shake off the bad losses, and look forward to tomorrow instead. With the 2012 Indians, when things started to slide out of control, it very quickly became an avalanche. However, I’ve watched this 2013 team play like a Double-A team, and the next night come out and give the performance of their lives. So I’m going to continue to maintain optimism and I’m not going to let this bring me down.
I will end with a bit of a palate cleanser – a picture of my dog, sitting beside her toy mountain, in her tiny Indians jersey. I managed to get this picture before she ran into hiding under the couch, still wearing the jersey. I can only guess that she’s embarrassed to be seen in it right now. I’m going to go coax her out with treats, and try to give her a pep talk. They may look absolutely dreadful against Detroit, but there are still 49 games left. They could continue to free fall and end up behind Kansas City, or they could bounce back after this and still contend. Since I have no actual control over what happens, I can only cheer for them and hope for the best at this point. And be thankful that the Tigers are just about in the rear view window.