I coached cross country and track and field for ten years. One of the sayings that used to guide my coaching was “it’s never as good as it seems, it’s never as bad as it seems”, meaning that throughout the season there are going to be highs and lows and you can’t let those ups and downs affect your perspective too much. You have to look at the overall picture and have a realistic view of the team you have. In no sport is that true than Major League Baseball. In a season that is 162 games long, you really can’t have a true picture of the kind of team you have until Memorial Day at earliest, and even then things could change quickly. The Cleveland Indians are proof of that. Fresh off a winless six-game road trip out west, the Tribe has won two in a row at home against the Chicago White Sox, including today’s 2-0 victory.
As the score indicates, there wasn’t much offense in today’s game. The Indians scored their first run in the bottom of the second. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled, moved to third on an Asdrubal Cabrera flyout, and then scored on an error by White Sox third baseman Marcus Semien. The Tribe scored again in the fifth when Jose Ramirez started the inning with a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Michael Bourn then moved Ramirez to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Nick Swisher drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.
The White Sox threatened several times throughout the game, but the Indians were able to work their way out of several jams. Nick Swisher, much maligned for his defense at first base the last few weeks end the top of the fifth and sixth innings with great plays that ended threats. His play in the top of the fifth was particularly impressive as the White Sox had the bases loaded with one out. Swisher snared a hard liner and then stepped on the first base bag for an unassisted double play.
Justin Masterson had arguably his best start of the season tonight. Masterson pitched seven and one-third scoreless inning while giving up four hits, one walk, and striking out six. Cody Allen recorded the last two outs of the eighth inning, and John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth for his American League leading ninth save of the season. So far Axford has been everything Indians fans could have possibly hoped for when he was signed to be the Tribe’s new closer.
The Indians are now 13-17, five games behind the Detroit Tigers in the Central Division. They’re also still in last place in the Central, but are just two games behind the second place Kansas City Royals. While this is not at all where Tribe fans wanted their team to be at this point in the season, it’s also not the end of the world. The Indians are certainly not out of anything, and many of the players on this team, particularly the hitters are performing well below their career norms. Simple regression (or would it be progression?) to the mean will cause many of these players to improve and the team’s record should improve along with them. Remember, it’s never as good as it seem, and it’s never as bad as it seems.