Some weeks just work out strangely. Perhaps Tuesday night’s game against the Indians was a harbinger of odd things to come. We arrived in Cleveland after splitting an eight game homestand followed by a day off on Monday. In the past month or so, the reigning AL champion Indians had regained their mojo and taken over the lead from the surprising Minnesota Twins and somewhat disappointing KC Royals.
In the midst of a four game winning streak that would reach nine by week’s end, the Indians, behind a strong pitching staff and a confident manager who has achieved much success while gaining enormous respect, were rolling when we arrived. Just a few years back, Cleveland was scorned and was derisively referred to as the Mistake on the Lake. However, since the emergence of LeBron and the Cavaliers, the city that lies on the shore of Lake Erie is now known as Believeland or simply, the Land. The Tribe has known more than its share of problems since last winning the World Series in 1948 behind the incomparable Bob Feller, Al Rosen, player/manager Lou Boudreau (the inventor of “the shift” which he employed against left-handed Ted Williams), and the first African American ballplayer in the AL, the beloved, Larry Doby. Last year, as the Cubs reversed their curse, the Indians came within a whisker of the World Championship. Many believe that this year will be the year of the Tribe. Judging how they handled the Angels in sweeping a three game set, those people may have a point.
In the midst of beating up on Jesee Chavez with a crooked number 7 in the second inning, Angels fans Across America had to be wondering if Mike Scioscia would turn to pitching coach and ex-Indian hurler, Charles Nagy, to come out of retirement. Given the decimation suffered by the staff as a result of every possible form of injury to their starters, middle relievers, set up men, and closers, Nagy should be considered a genius as coach. Unfortunately, what he can do with his brains, he no longer can do with his arm. Thanks in part though to home runs by Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena, the Angels knotted the score within the next four innings and were alive and well as the game headed into the bottom of the eleventh, knotted at 7. Unfortunately, without getting an out, closer Bud Norris surrendered a grand slam walkoff home run to Edwin Encarnation. The next night, Ricky Nolasco pitched well enough to win and the game was tied 2-2 headed into the bottom of the seventh when the Indians pulled ahead with a lone run. Still to come though was a disastrous 8th inning by Cam Bedrosian which led to second seven spot in as many days for Cleveland. Maybe the name Believeland has something to it? In any case, the Indians won for the third night in a row on Thursday, in a 2-1 pitchers duel. It was the first sweep against the Angels since April when they lost 3 in a row to the Royals. Stuff happens!
The Indians sweep was nearly reversed on the other side of Lake Erie as the Halos grabbed the first two games against the Jays…a 7-2 drubbing and a 6-5 come from behind exciting win that saw the Angels pull ahead with three runs in the top of the ninth on a single, an HBP, a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. Poised to win their third straight, and leading 10-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, the unthinkable happened causing me to consider jumping out the window as I witnessed yet a third seven spot against us. Seven runs crossed the plate for the Jays in the bottom of the ninth and we were walked off!. Luckily, I arrived back in NY on Saturday and my Mom eased the pain of the loss with a great Italian dinner. It’s good to be (a few thousand miles from) home!