The Agony of Defeat
The two losses on Monday and Tuesday were pretty tough to swallow. In many ways they parallel the back-to-back extra-inning losses last season in Pittsburgh. But however painful the losses, the starts by CC Sabathia and Jason Davis were very much encouraging. Sabathia pitched as well as I’ve ever seen an Indian starter pitch in a long time, and Davis showed marked improvement over last season. Along with Jody Gerut, Travis Hafner, and Ben Broussard, they make up half of my 10 player list that will make or break the 2004 Indians. All 5 have played well. Broussard however sprained his ankle in Monday’s game, and will miss a week, which really hurts the offense.
Who needs to step up? David Riske, Scott Stewart, and Jose Jimenez. The back end of the bullpen lost both games, contests that the Indians for all purposes should have won. Wasting great starts is not an option for this team; they just aren’t capable of outhitting suspect pitching, and least of all suspect relief pitching. The more I look at this bullpen, I’d really like to see Eric Wedge use Jimenez as a matchup righty given his splits, and promote Rafael Betancourt into a more prominant role. Scott Stewart can get both righties and lefties out, so he could be used as an 8th inning guy as well, and not just to get one left-hander out.
This month especially, the Indians are going to have to be able to hit left-handed pitching. The AL Central has the most starting southpaws in the league, and that’s who the Indians will be facing all month. Ron Belliard, Alex Escobar, and Casey Blake will need to step up especially.
But from the two games I’ve seen, this team is much more balanced this year. Belliard, Vizquel, and Lawton have helped to add depth to the lineup, and hopefully those three can stay healthy and help take some of the pressure off the young hitters. Tonight Cliff Lee goes tonight, and hopefully his efforts will be rightly rewarded with a win.